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Since 1948, PUMA has continued to push sports culture forward by creating products for the world's best athletes and partnering with the best-known celebrities. The third-largest sportswear company in the world, PUMA is involved in the design, manufacture, and retail of athletic and casual footwear, fashion, and accessories.
But sneaker culture and trends aren’t the only evolutions that impact the business. Keeping up with ongoing changes in technology and consumer tastes affecting how and where people shop are also important drivers behind PUMA’s stellar business success.
With the rapid rise of eCommerce and growing hype over the Metaverse, NFTs, and digital art, 3D is a natural next step for an innovative company like PUMA. In this case study, we explore how PUMA is using digital assets to improve product decision-making, paving the way for a wider, global 3D strategy.
The German sports and fashion brand is no stranger to 3D. In fact, PUMA has been creating digital assets for quite a while. A few years back, the brand launched an augmented reality (AR) app to help bring its new limited-edition LQD Cell Origin Air sneaker to life. Although that move was aimed at generating buzz among younger consumers, its latest foray into 3D has a different goal: using 3D to make better design decisions leading to better products.
As the rise in social media and eCommerce continues to gain momentum, new opportunities coming from the metaverse and NFTs have also fallen under PUMA’s radar. To capitalize on these trends, the company recognized the need for more 3D across its operations and identified various use cases where their journey should begin.
One of the most fascinating aspects of designing sneakers in a large international company like PUMA is how product decisions get made. As a truly global company with multiple departments and teams, decision-making is complex and takes time.
The Sportstyle Footwear department is a great example. Before experimenting with 3D, PUMA’s design and product development teams had to send physical prototype shoes back and forth between their factory and design center in Europe, sometimes going through several rounds of changes before getting to the final design. Of course, this was not only expensive but time-consuming.
Looking for ways to improve and speed up the process, PUMA identified 3D as a high-potential solution. With 3D, the brand avoids the need to send physical samples back and forth, saving on critical design and logistics time and cost.
After a couple of initial projects with smaller-scale 3D freelancers, PUMA decided it was time to explore a more scalable solution, partnering with ARsenal by CGTrader.
A single freelancer is really good for one or two shoes, but as we were looking to scale-up our projects and create more digital assets, this can only be done with a scalable organization like CGTrader. Josef Trojan, 3D Designer Sportstyle Footwear, PUMA
At the moment, the Sportstyle department is using ARsenal by CGTrader for 2 key use cases:
Everything starts from ideas and drawings, which are hard to manufacture but prime candidates for 3D modeling. The product development and design teams work with factories to bring their ideas to life, which is made simpler and quicker with 3D.
Ideas aren’t put through the classical process of assessing the value or development costs. Since the main goal is to make better design and product decisions, the focus is instead on design, construction, materials, proportions, and even color iterations, which will eventually be brought to market if selected.
Each successful design is exhibited internally for evaluation by the go-to-market teams, accounts, and other internal customers to determine which products will hit the stores. People come from all over the world to walk through the shoe rooms and decide which ones will fit into their ranges and place their orders.
At a single meeting, the design team might present as many as 2500 SKUs. Here, 3D is seen as critical for elevating the visual to sell the product in a realistic way to secure buy-in.
Shoes get dropped, some get pushed forward, and other additions are made. And for this, PUMA also creates digital samples and animations to put emphasis on certain styles to help persuade internal buyers.
PUMA is also evaluating the possibility of a third use case: to use the same 3D models in design for eCommerce.
On the marketing and advertising side, PUMA works hard to remain relevant across its many global locations. Often requiring local tweaks to products for a better market fit, which could be facilitated with 3D. Especially as eCommerce and advertising become a lot more competitive, 3D and AR are key to staying relevant and keeping the consumer engaged.
Eventually, the idea is to have one model that follows the shoe from the very beginning to the very end. A digital twin that exists even before there is a physical shoe. That then coexists alongside the physical shoe and is used across sales and marketing. Josef Trojan, 3D Designer Sportstyle Footwear, PUMA
Speaking about how 3D could be used in this stage, David McKenzie, Head of Design Sportstyle Footwear at PUMA explains, “the great thing about 3D content is that you can pick a world cultural event, be it music or sport, and react in time.”
“Because if you rely on physical photoshoots that probably happen 6 months earlier, they can quickly become out of date as world events change. I think that’s a great advantage of 3D content. That you can react to cultural moments in a meaningful way.”
According to PUMA, the biggest benefit they see from their partnership with ARsenal is time. But for the first two use cases described, measuring results is not as simple as measuring an increase in online conversions. 3D enables PUMA to improve the product because it buys more time to design in detail and research materials.
When a typical product lifecycle from briefing to stores lasts around 18 months, the goal is not to shorten that amount of time, but rather to maximize it. For example, a designer might wait 4-6 weeks to see a final physical product. Whereas now with 3D, they can see it even quicker and adjust the decision-making faster.
PUMA reports that where they have seen the biggest win on time is for completely new styles that the customer team has never seen before - since that usually means more problems to solve when developing a totally new product.
At this stage, it can be difficult to communicate the business potential of a physical sample. But now with 3D, David McKenzie explains, “we can stand in front of the business and say look, this is the physical product, and these are all the changes we are going to make, and here’s the 3D that shows that. Then you have a lot more time internally to make those changes because you don't have to rush to change the pack, putting pressure on the supplier, flying via expensive airfreight to get to the right meetings, and so on.”
Another critical benefit is cost savings. Brands must pay for every single angle of a product photo, which we found to be on average 6x more expensive than 3D. And that’s not including the cost of shipping. For PUMA, 3D not only saves time and helps create better products, but it also helps build that critical trust between business units that is crucial in getting there.
The cost is a no-brainer. If you take the unit cost of 3D and amortize it from the initial vision through sampling, shipping, and finally, eCommerce, it’s a huge cost saving. So the return on investment is very easy to justify. David McKenzie, Head of Design Sportstyle Footwear, PUMA
3D enables PUMA’s design team to better share their vision and make it a reality within the organization - and your next pair of sneakers!
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