Personalization Leads Nike’s Retail Game Plan for 2016
The sportswear giant announces product and retail experiences tailored to each consumer
Nike, a brand with international recognition and strong financial performance—not to mention celebrity endorsements and Olympic partnerships—could have easily chosen to rest on its laurels in 2016. Instead, Nike has seized the year as an opportunity to unite its sports and retail technology around a central mission: personalization. Announced at its Innovation for EveryBody event, Nike is evolving its software, footwear and apparel to adapt to the strengths and needs of each user—empowering all athletes to “Just do it” with products and services designed specifically for them.
The ‘+’ Stands for Personal
The central focus of Nike’s 2016 customer engagement strategy is the revamped Nike+ app, consolidating retail, fitness and customer service processes into one digital tool. In an effort to optimize customers’ ownership of Nike products and deliver delight around its brand experiences, Nike+ is designed as a VIP retail and training experience. Pulled from its press release, the company says:
“Connecting Nike’s wealth of sport knowledge with its footwear and apparel offerings, Nike+ translates the “plus” to “personal,” providing members with customized guidance, support and a host of tailored resources that unlock the best of Nike.”
In contrast to most overblown industry claims of personalization, Nike is able to deliver custom utility in retail, product design and training through its tool upgrade. The app opens with a personalized “newsfeed” of products, announcements and training tips, paired with a digital storefront that displays custom product recommendations based on a user’s workouts and preferences. At any point, users can talk to a Nike+ expert or schedule a 1-on-1 consultation at a Nike Store, blurring the lines between employee associate, customer support provider and coach.
Nike extends its personalization message all the way to its core product division—footwear. The aptly-named HyperAdapt 1.0 is a sneaker that uses internal mechanics to automatically adjust to a user’s foot. When an athlete steps into their shoe, a heel sensor recognizes entry and triggers the laces to tighten; users can control the mechanics by pushing +/- buttons on the sneaker’s exterior. The shoes last about two weeks before recharging.
Nike released similar concept technology in its Air Mag sneaker earlier this year, as a limited-edition homage to the the Back to the Future film series. HyperAdapt, however, is a long-term Nike investment: at the unveiling, Nike executives confirmed that the sneaker is just the beginning of a design evolution where the products change as their wearers change—adapting around circumstances such as swollen feet midway through a marathon.
“Sensors are becoming smarter. The motors and the materials are working together better,” says Nike designer Tinker Hatfield, “You’ll start to see adaptive ideas popping up in sports apparel and, I suspect, outside sport as well.”
An Olympic Advantage
At its innovation event, Nike also unveiled the uniform designs for the American, Kenyan and Brazilian Summer Olympic teams, among other countries. The message of personalization, which has existed in the celebrity athlete sphere longer than in the mass market, continued to dominate: athletes such as track star Allyson Felix showcased footwear, jerseys and apparel designed specifically for their performance.
This year’s advances, which include custom textiles and AeroBlades aerodynamic ventilation, suggest that apparel designs may soon reach the level in which they provide a significant—and potentially unequal—competitive advantage in the realm of international sports competitions.
The Final 100 Meters
Nike’s personalization is certainly a momentous step toward improving the retail and fitness experiences for customers of all sports levels, and validates the growing market of activity tracking accessories and apparel, as well as corresponding coaching platforms. However, the final 100-meter dash for personalized fitness requires brands to clear the hurdles of tethering (battery packs, charging cords), mass market scale, and low-cost, accurate sensors.
Which sportswear team will prevail? Though we can’t predict, Nike may have a head start.
Photos Courtesy of Nike