In this interview, PSFK speaks to Dave Cobban, General Manager of kids subscription sneaker service the Nike Adventure Club. Cobban draws from his experience spanning over a decade with the brand to shed light on designing an insights-backed subscription service that solves parents' top problems around youth footwear retail, adding value through a service that goes beyond the product to enhance customers' lifestyles.
PSFK: You have been with Nike for nearly a decade, and previously worked on EasyKicks. Can you share any learnings over this period with us, as well as how they've informed the Nike Adventure Club (NAC)?
Dave Cobban: Prior to working on EasyKicks and Nike Adventure Club, I worked within Nike’s community impact and sustainability teams. Having community and sustainability embedded into Nike Adventure Club for parents and kids is really important to us, and we know from member feedback it’s super important to our customers as well. As we like to say at Nike Adventure Club: “Everything we do makes an impact, and our young members are looking for us to leave this world—their world—better than we found it.”
Developing Nike Adventure Club is part of our commitment to test and learn in service of athletes—in this case young athletes and their parents. Although many of the team members are parents and had hunches about the problems families face, we wanted to be rigorous in testing solutions to make sure we were truly solving meaningful problems. With EasyKicks, we identified and validated that there are two main pain points that parents want support with:
“Help me solve the hassle of shopping for kids’ shoes. My kids grow fast and wreck their shoes, so I have to address that problem often.”
“When my kids get bored, they automatically reach for the phone. I wish they went out and played with their friends.”
That identified, we then weren’t quite sure of the right business model and payment structure. One of the most common misconceptions is that subscriptions are all the same. In fact, there is huge diversity. We were able to test and validate all of these things with EasyKicks to bring into NAC.
What spurred the final move from EasyKicks to NAC?
Interestingly, the original genesis of NAC was a problem we wanted to solve for runners. The idea was a regular shoe delivery service after they have run 300 miles—the average number of miles after which runners should consider changing shoes. However, as we were interviewing runners about, this they commented on how brilliant the same idea would be for their kids and how painful the problem of keeping growing kids in shoes is. Thus, the idea for a kids shoe subscription service was born.
What makes NAC distinct from the other services out there in the burgeoning subscription space?
Most apparel services currently in the market are not subscription—defined as a regular monthly payment. The most popular services are transaction boxes: They send a curated box, you buy the items you like and send back ones you don’t. It’s simply another distribution model.
Nike Adventure Club is the world’s first and only footwear subscription service. You choose a monthly payment plan in exchange for new shoes delivered on a schedule. One of the main driving value proposition is convenience. Parents no longer have to worry about keeping their fast-growing kids in top quality shoes in the right size and style. We have that covered.
Everything that Nike does is in service of the athlete and we define an athlete as “anyone with a body.” We also obsess about removing friction for consumers and Nike Adventure Club hits both of those points. NAC wants to get kids adventuring and moving while solving the problems parents and kids face around shoe shopping.
Beyond the subscription box service, The Adventure Club also provides kids with games and outdoor adventure guides. Tell us more about why having these complementary digital tools is an important part of Nike’s strategy.
When we spoke to parents about how we could serve them, we asked how we could add value to the experience. Quickly it became clear that parents worry about their kids turning to screens and devices versus other activities. Science shows that kids who move regularly are happier and healthier. We tested a small adventure guide when we were still EasyKicks and the reaction was visceral: Parents and kids loved receiving the challenges and recording their experiences. In fact, 70% of parents indicated they would be willing to pay an additional fee to receive the guides. This signal that the guides were very well received helped us understand how we could add value and serve our mission to get kids active.
Who are the main customers currently using the service?
We have two main segments: the Convenience Parent and the Proud Parent. Both segments love the service because it is convenient, affordable and aspirational, but for Convenience Parent, making life easier and giving back more time for family is the primary driver. For Proud Parent, the selection of top-quality Nike and Converse kicks is the main driver.
What’s next for Nike? Would the brand consider launching more types of subscription services?
For the future, we will focus on listening to the voice of athletes, paying attention to signals that our consumers give us and constantly innovating in retail. Currently one of our most popular apps, Nike Training Club, has a premium subscription option for elevated programs for our members, so we’re already expanding this model to different communities.
We’re so excited to have you speak at our upcoming Future Of Retail 2020 conference! Tell us a bit about what you hope to share on stage.
The role subscriptions play in solving meaningful consumer problems with examples and solutions in the retail market. Also the incubation process, from idea to pilot to transition. How to innovate in retail with reduced risk and increased chance of success.