NEW YORK — It’s a refrain throughout retail’s executive ranks that omnichannel shoppers are more valuable than single-channel ones. At Nike in particular, omnichannel shoppers are “at least twice” as valuable as purely online shoppers, according to Daniel Heaf, vice president of Nike Direct.
And that’s coming from a retailer that has invested heavily in digital, both through its website and a variety of apps. Over the past two years alone, the retailer’s digital business has more than doubled, Heaf said in a presentation Wednesday on the retailer’s direct strategy. While much of that was driven by the pandemic, Heaf noted that Nike has sustained that growth where others have not.
“I think that’s because we’re not focused on growth by any means necessary,” Heaf said. “We’re focused on serving, certainly, areas where we believe we have a need to drive outsized growth.”
That includes areas like women’s fitness and apparel, Jordan brand apparel and performance products, and running.
“So we’re really building some of our most unique experiences with elevated … imagery, comments, UGC — the full nine yards — to ensure that it’s not just a transactional experience in the Nike app. It’s an emotive experience,” Heaf said.
The digital strategy at Nike works in tandem with in-person events and physical stores. Nike has pushed for years to integrate its digital and physical channels, thanks to tech-heavy store concepts like Nike Live and House of Innovation. But lately, despite Nike’s direct-to-consumer push, the retailer has looked beyond its own doors to see how it can engage loyalty members at some of its key wholesale partners as well.
The retailer started the experiment with Dick’s Sporting Goods in 2021 when the two connected their loyalty programs, so that shoppers could link their rewards accounts at both retailers and receive joint benefits. In addition to offering an expanded assortment and hosting joint events, shoppers can buy on the Nike app, for example, and have their order delivered to a Dick’s store.
“We don’t really mind where our consumers choose to engage or interact with us,” Heaf noted. Rather, the retailer is aiming to give customers “the fullest possible experience” by bringing the Nike ecosystem to more of its wholesale partners.
“People always ask me: Are you a direct business or a wholesale business? And the truth is we’ve chosen both,” Heaf said. “We’ve chosen both because it allows us to serve every single athlete with distinction and uniquely across the entire marketplace.”
Through wholesale, Nike has 30,000 points of distribution, compared to 8,000 of its own stores.
The retailer has also gone for a shared physical and digital approach to sneaker sales. Alongside its SNKRS app, which was launched eight years ago, Nike works with a number of wholesale partners and local sneaker stores to coordinate physical product drops. Its SNKRS Pass feature lets shoppers reserve desirable sneaker launches for pickup in stores as well.
The online sneaker experience is far from perfected, though, and represents an area for improvement for the retail giant.
“We know we can be better,” Lucy Rouse, vice president and general manager of SNKRS and NBHD, said. “With any highly coveted marketplace at the moment we’re seeing it: It’s just bad actors, it’s bots … it’s a very brutal reality.”
Rouse noted that on any highly sought after sneaker launch Nike executes, up to 50% of purchase entries can be bots.
“It's a journey. We're on a constant learning journey here because all of these instances are unique,” Rouse said. “But what our team are really passionate about is how we learn from what's happened, and not make the same mistake again.”