I have always been a Nike enthusiast. Growing up as an athlete, I loved everything about the "Just Do It" messaging and living in athletic clothes and sneakers that were cool. In high school I even submitted a photo to be considered for a marketing campaign contest (see below - I do not claim to be talented in graphic design). So after visiting Nike's House of Innovation yesterday, I was excited to add another reason for my love of the brand - what a well done retail experience.
It is easy to claim that the digital native brands are winning in retail, but the reality is that many of those brands are strangers to it and have delivered very generic store experiences. Take Outdoor Voices for example - I admire and love the brand, product and its overall mission. But their store on Melrose in LA is underwhelming. I was surprised to find nothing experiential or interesting about the space, especially for a brand that centers around “doing things”. While recognizing their financial resources are different, the two experiences were incomparable.
First and foremost the Nike sales associates were exceptional – they were enthusiastic and could read people’s energy. They knew when to approach you and when to just let you shop. And they were highly knowledgeable – they articulated the purpose of each floor and layout, the various tech features that added convenience, and fun facts (e.g. did you know the shoe floor is made of all recycled sneakers!). They used technology and personalization in a way that was seamless and helpful not gimmicky. For example, now you can scan a shoe, request a size and be alerted when it is sitting on the counter for you. They’ve also perfected the layout for different shopping purposes. Just browsing? Check out floors 2-4. Want something quick? The “speed shop” on -1 carries their top 12 items in a way that is manageable and easy to find.
With all the talk of retail needing to provide an experience, it seems many brands have relied on technology as a crutch. Whether its VR, voice activated devices or smart mirrors, technology can only go so far as the people selling it and the product itself. Sales associates who are knowledgeable and relatable, who are memorable and add to the experience, are often overlooked. In essence, providing positive human interactions that online cannot provide. I’m excited to see more brands, big or small, deliver true retail experiences that are helpful and fun. As we alluded to in our third annual New Davids report – The Davids are truly a force to be reckoned with, but they can still learn a thing or two about retail from the Goliaths…
Left to Right: Nike entrance floor, their awesome staff, Speed Shop entrance, my high school entry for a Nike marketing contest