Nike's Top 3 Priorities for the Digital Customer Experience



Kindra Cooper
10/11/2019

Nike customer experience

Not every household-name brand has a cult following, but Nike, valued at over $32 billion, certainly does. Its die-hard fans, AKA “sneakerheads” are “passionate consumers who will wait outside at 5am for three hours to get a pair of $200 shoes,” according to Larry Rodgers, Nike’s senior director of retail concepts. 

The iconic Nike Swoosh and ‘Just Do It’ are associated in consumer’s minds not with shoes or athleisure wear, but pushing the boundaries and being bold -- which is what takes Nike from just a sports apparel label to an athletics and lifestyle brand. 

As Nike and other retailers explore ways to blend ecommerce and physical retail, Rodgers discussed the top three priorities for Nike’s digital customer experience at CCW Austin

1. Building relationships with customers through mobile apps 

At the core of Nike’s retail strategy is extending the customer life cycle through value-creating mobile apps that become a part of their everyday lives. For instance, the Jordan Breakfast Club serves users with daily reminders each morning for 30 days with personalized workout regimes designed by former pro-athlete and world-class trainer Alex Molden.

Meanwhile SNKR, favored by “sneakerheads,” gives exclusive access to limited releases and special products. The app’s Nike Fit feature uses augmented reality and AI to help consumers accurately measure their feet to find shoes at the right size. Nike claims that, according to industry research, over 60 percent of people wear the wrong-sized shoes. 

Nike SNKRS app

(Image credit: Nike)

However, when the Nike chatbot first rolled out, the technology was incapable of handling any customer request that was even slightly off-script, resulting in dead ends for users.

Nike brand“Our number-one principle when we laid out our design principle was: no dead ends,” said Rogers. “[Now], there’s a way to get a live agent if you need one. It can do everything that most of our contact drivers are – where’s my order, returns, exchanges, et cetera.” 

The team realized they also needed to make sure the technology could understand customer intent. This turned out to be more important than providing 24/7 service; peak engagement was concentrated in the mornings and afternoons. No matter how robust the technology or how large your budget, chatbots entail a process of trial-and-error because no two use cases are the same. 

2. Ensuring career progression for agents, AKA "athletes"

From the get-go, Nike’s retail store and customer support agents are affectionately called “athletes,” and they’re given numerous opportunities for career progression. For instance, customer support athletes can work towards certifications that enable them to level up through training. 

“Every single athlete started as an L1 and then had the opportunity to get certified in certain things,” said Rodgers. Those who wish to stay in the company’s customer support division can qualify for L2 and L3 certifications.

Read more: Corporate Greenwashing is an Even Worse Problem Given Climate Change 

L3s live on campus at the company’s headquarters rather than at the contact center, and they’re the last point of escalation in the customer support function. Alternatively, L1s can go down the Expert certification path to move to other parts of the organization in a non-CS role. 

Nike campus

Nike's WHQ campus in Oregon (Image credit: Nike)

“Experts have different hours and a very specific skillset. A lot of the reason why we have athletes come and join is because they love the brand and they want to continue to be a part of the brand in different ways.” 

Experts might go on to work with the social media team, which is still part of consumer services, or become a category expert, brand marketer or product lifestyle manager (PLM). PLMs are responsible for the manufacturing and marketing of a good as it moves through the typical stages of product life cycle, from development and introduction to maturity and decline. 

3. Implementing retail innovations guided by the Voice of the Customer

Hailed by commentators as exemplifying the future of retail, the Nike Live retail concept is a members-only store with a focus on mobile and a two-week merchandise rotation. The experiential store is exclusive to members of the Nike Plus loyalty program and features products catered the local tastes of its location. 

Nike Live

(Image credit: Nike)

Similar to the concept of Amazon Go’s cashierless stores, the items Nike stocks are determined not by product lines but consumer data such as purchasing patterns and mobile app engagement to provide a hyper-localized feel.

Also, the retailer’s mobile app is at the center of the concept, facilitating everything from reserving products to loyalty points and product information. Twenty-five percent of the inventory rotates every two weeks. 

Nike opened its first Nike Live store on Melrose in Los Angeles, with a second iteration planned for Tokyo and more to come. 

Nike Live

(Image credit: Nike)

Much of its retail concept is underpinned by consumer research, which stems partly from the company’s voice of customer program started two years ago, explained Rodgers. 

“If you have a digital ecosystem and you have physical stores, how do those two things go together? But the real question is: how do consumers want to use those two channels in different ways?” 

Read more: 4 Quirky Retail Concepts That Show a Glimpse of the Future

The company’s VoC operation is a collaboration between several teams, including customer support, digital operations, digital product and tech support. The teams use voice and text analytics tools to glean insights from emails, texts, chats and more to help set organizational priorities. 

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