Nike: a media empire or shoe retailer?

Explore the amazing strategy Nike has taken in its connected media approach

Nike, that company everyone adores for their shoes. Plastered across buildings, on courts, around the field, on tv, newspapers, 50% of the shoes in the US, and now boasting 7 mobile apps on the Google Play store. So, when did this shoe company become a global media brand worth over $100 billion? As it turns out, this has all come down to the experience a customer has with the Nike brand. The Nike brand has made an extraordinary effort to make their brand seamless with the customer’s life as an athletic individual. In our last write-up on Nike, we explored their unbelievably smooth in-store omnichannel experience. This was written nearly a year ago after my buddy and I wandered in to grab some new shoes on Newbury street in Boston. It’s their attention to technology, a deep understanding of consumer preferences, and a clear culture of athletics which makes Nike a truly distinguished brand. To uncover this a bit more, I wanted to discover what the drove Nike now, and as I was surfing the app store when I realized Nike’s remarkable selection of apps. I thought, there must be something behind this. This explores my journey through their various apps to understand just how deep the rabbit hole goes with their willingness to adapt and strive toward meeting the consumer’s needs.

The hope here anyway is that by looking at some of the best, you might get a few clues you can utilize in your own retail platforms. Whether that be through a new immersive app experience or delivering personalized fitness consultations in your store figure out what it is you might try, then ‘Just Do It.’

An Immersive Culture

It doesn’t take a whole lot of time playing or watching any sport to realize Nike is the king of athletic wear and shoes. They have taken this position with customers and athletes alike because we have come to realize the larger picture Nike is involved in. Their mantra ‘Just Do It’ backed by the swoosh presents a go-getter type of attitude, very much the same way their brand endorsements come from some of the most accomplished athletes of all time. This commitment to their image has certainly trickled down into the way people marvel at their new shoe releases, store displays, use of technology in their products, and now even more so in the Nike world of people. Nike people share the common goal of fitness, achievement, health, and a more fulfilling life. The culture they have inspired through the products they offer is something unlike any other in the world. With their approach, as I have only barely touched the surface, it is as much about the ways in which one can integrate Nike with their athletic life as it is the products they are using to make it happen. Within each of their channels whether their website, app, stores or events, they are referencing new ways to get involved with groups around the world all taking part in the same “be healthy” goal. One look at the Nike+ app on Android it was clear they will make it easy to connect with others, learn, and share the central culture Nike is embracing. I may be biased as I have purchased many sets of Nike’s but after viewing their effort to put together a unique experience which can captivate someone no matter where they interact with the brand, it’s certainly impressive, to say the least. Nike not only has a multitude of online groups through their app and website, but they hold live events for training, live online events and training tutorials with professional athletes, and will even provide free fitness advice personalized to your needs. Take a look below, you will notice they have gone through the effort of personalizing their app and delivering content based on the lifestyle of their culture.


We’ve seen it a lot in the case of Nike that they like to provide as personalized of a brand experience. I believe this is a way to play into humans desire for ownership, and by giving a personalized feeling, each interaction becomes that much more important. Look no further than Nike ID, a way for anyone to customize the look and style of the shoe they want.

The idea of personalization extends throughout the Nike brand, with events catered to runners, basketball players or skateboarders if that’s your thing. Each experience is meant to connect with one specific type of customer. What’s impressive about personalization is the almost unnoticed soft sell approach being taken here. By making each experience unique to the consumer, you are embracing another aspect of human psychology which is to have our own sense of identity. In other words, we know people like Nike, but we don’t want the same pair of Nikes as someone else might have. This has helped to shape a culture which embraces the uniqueness of each person and delivers on that through each aspect of their media channels. Just take a look at the mobile app onboarding process, which makes a concerted effort to find out who you are, and what you might like out of what Nike can do for you.

Now, if you are still one to believe that personalization and “forecasting” user preferences are creepy, time to open up your eyes. A lot of things are becoming personalized in our lives. All our social media networks are personalized, all our smartphones are personalized with our apps, all our clothing is personalized, the news we read, and many other things, so why not the products we show customers? In Nike’s case, they deliver personalized results after you’ve told them a few key details such as gender and shoe size. The products which show for me are very different depending on preferences than for you, and it appears as after your personalized your account.

How does this make customers feel? Well, according to one study by two-thirds of website users prefer privacy control, 58% prefer to personalize based on the factors they choose to provide, and in another group, 38% said they would like to specify their preferences so a site can personalize content. If personalization is the key to a customers heart, make it happen with logic and AI. If personalization is key, and Nike has unlocked it with their Nike+ app, why do they need all those apps?

Why Do They Need 7 Apps?

In Nike’s case, their other applications become an integral part of their media exposure, brand sponsorships, events, and products being built. After viewing the multitude of apps supported by Nike, it became somewhat clear to me that while it is to help consumers become a part of the Nike culture and does help to deliver all things, Nike, it is at the base, a way to gather a whole lot of information about their customers. Nike has set up their media in a way that all accounts are managed as one. This is important but is somewhat standard. What does this do? Well, for one it lets us consumers access any Nike app with one profile, it creates one data layer for Nike to utilize in delivering personalized recommendations, and it helps embrace the large variety of customers needs who are accessing Nike media.

Nike operates 7 apps, here are their titles and a description to get an idea for what they achieve within the Nike atmosphere:

  • Nike+, 500,000+ downloads- An app designed to showcase the creative products Nike offers, customized to you. Also offering events nearby, stores nearby, experts you can connect with, and a feed of trending products (social proof) which can be clicked on and purchased. There is no “product catalog” to shop, only personalized product collections.
  • Nike+ Run Club, 10,000,000 downloads- A true community app which tracks users runs, calculates distance, time, milestones, speed etc. This app also provides a curated feed of products and other runners to interact and connect with. Provides a “club” tab with a leaderboard, events, and community for several ways to meet, chat, or set new goals for yourself. Not about selling products, more about community.
  • SNKRS, 500,000+ downloads- An app designed for the true Nike collector. Offers customers a curated selection of iconic classics to latest releases, the latest drops and the stories behind all the favorite shoes. Designed with understanding the stories and community behind the most iconic Nike shoes.
  • Nike+ Training Club, 5,000,000+ downloads- Similar to the Run Club but for Gym rats. Offers lots of workout plans for download, personal tracking of workouts, and a club to join other event’s nearby and join communities of like-minded fitness people.
  • Nike Soccer, 1,000,000 downloads- An app to connect soccer lovers everywhere with training material for enhancing your own game, nearby events and games taking place, an in-app game to sharpen your shooting skills, and a selection of new high-end soccer cleats.
  • Nike+ Fuel Band, 100,000 downloads- Of course, this one connects with Nike’s fuel band to display your metrics such as steps, calories, miles run, sleep patterns, etc. It also tracks certain milestones and enables context relevant achievements. In addition, this app leverages personal competition to invite your friends and view their stats for the day, keeping others achieving fitness goals together.
  • Jordan Keyboard, 100,000 downloads- Incorporates a variety of Nike themed emojis which can be used in a text. More about keeping the loyalists happy and buying more shoes through a top of mind awareness.

As you can see the apps produced by Nike run the gamut, and all are providing a certain segment of their customers the right fit for their needs. This unique approach has earned Nike more than 16,000,000 app downloads, all personalized for each group of core customers. This is a genius way of discovering who their customers are, why they use Nike, and how Nike might be able to serve them better. Notice, the entire reason for providing an app is to deliver an experience and make that experience an integral part of your life. This is so crucial to understanding as it’s not about the product as it is about the emotion a person might feel in the experience they have. This app also curates a variety of Nike “stuff” making it something new to go into almost every time you enter the app, which, connects you to more events, products, and people. Amazing, really.

To personalize your customer’s journey, check out a new way of commerce powered by logic and AI across all channels.

Connecting the Online and Offline Consumers

One thing Nike has done particularly well with their media approach to sales is combining the stores, events, and merchandise available with their large assortment of online capabilities. This bridge is perhaps one of the keys to their success in that they are leveraging both sides of the value matrix. This keeps potential customers coming back for more no matter where they prefer to enjoy Nike products, events, training or what-have-you. We’ve already taken a look at Nike’s complete omnichannel presence but it is even more impressive when you consider the amount of work involved in coordinating so many apps, events, media shoots, brand sponsors and the like. The coordinated effort to deliver across multiple platforms and through multiple media channels really ends up doing one thing. That thing is many times left out from a retailer’s strategy as it’s the time period between when a customer purchases an item and when they purchase the next item.

This period of idle time for Nike is filled with all their media channels and methods of connecting with the consumer through in-person or online communication. It is this period which is so often forgotten and so important. If you think about the millions of people engaging with Nike through their channels and becoming customers, if only once a year this person made a purchase, it would make for a very large figure. This has to be the same method of thinking for many retailers and brands now. Not only are you just trying to sell this customer on a product, but you want them to come back over and over through various channels, to always have your top of mind. Nike has utilized a personalized approach to retail, which is very similar to what we’ve done through a logic and AI-powered commerce system. Nike has fully utilized all their channel to accomplish this whether, through one of their inspiring and colorful stores, their live events for runners, bikers, golfers etc, or through an app which connects to the Nike fuel band, it’s all meant to keep you engaged and coming back.

What’s In It for Nike?

I think it’s logical to say there’s a clear reason Nike is doing this all. Yet, the greatest thing about it, you’d never even know because it feels all natural. So that you can combine their ingredients with your own to make something unique, here is my perspective on how Nike is benefitting from all this.

  • Apps for groups of different people engage that specific audience, making it easier to track this individual group, present more relevant products, and to understand this person’s athletic preferences for further targeting.
  • Curated feeds present unique products, related to the type of person you are. These posts also involve a community board to make people feel included while providing social proof to help “tip” buyer to buy
  • Events put a real person in front of Nike staff to further a connection and to understand the needs of this buyer, then presenting the right product or program to keep this person interacting with Nike. If Nike was smart they would start gathering this first-hand data to make inferences from
  • Utilizing the Nike stores as event hubs or starting lines undoubtedly increase store traffic and store sales as a result. Genius use of events to drive store sales.
  • Apps which are all connected with one Nike account provide Nike with rich information across multiple channels, IoT devices and interests to complete a rounded profile which should all communicate and provide recommendations based on the preferences from one app
  • Brand sponsors Nike takes on help to make the crowd aware, keep top of mind awareness, and to utilize influential words to get a segment of this person followers to either sign up for an app, event, training etc. or to directly affect the sales of a particular item with their familiarity in marketing that product.

For the most part, it’s all about the eyeballs. Look at Facebook, it’s even what many would call “cluttered” and a bit chaotic now, but they have so many people advertisers and brands alike are flocking to the site to get a piece of the eyeballs.

What Can You Take Away?

The hope here is that simply by observing many of the actions Nike has taken, will empower the change you desire to see in your own stores or brand. Nike has certainly invested a lot of time, money, and infrastructure into developing their channels of communication between customers, but it is not out of the question for you any brand to start small. you can start building a new business channel in minutes. For instance, follow this tutorial to sell on any social network in 5 minutes or less.

Another key takeaway is to leverage the physical presence with the digital presence. This has certainly been echoed with research and in our own findings. With smaller companies than Nike, it doesn’t have to be a crazy large event, simply start with a paint and sip night if you’re a craft store, a fashion show for a fashion brand, an open coffee discussion if you’re an office supplier. Whatever that event might be, leverage it.

Take mobile seriously. Almost everything Nike has done with their mobile apps is about making a link between the customer’s life, Nike, and the people who also support Nike. They have done it in a way that feels natural, but really it’s utilizing technology to provide an interface between all the possibilities then weaving in the right products for the right occasion.

Product-technology fit is something I’ll attempt to define since I’ve just made it up. I view this as the right mix of your actual product being incorporated through some sort of digital interface in such a way that customers are able to interact with you no matter what the channel. This does not have to be an internet of things device, it can simply be something that leverages the product in a technical environment. A shirt customizer, build your perfect drink, plan a room, etc. just have that digital connection to keep customers engaged.

If you’re still on the cusp, just consider this stuff takes time, but it can be started quite small. First, you’ll want to get the right technology in place which will keep all products, locations, branding, scale-ability, and automation coordinated. From there, creating immersive app experiences, delivering locally relevant event’s and more becomes a whole lot easier. Nike has done a great job of this, and it shows in the brand they have become. If you’ve got a tip or have a comment leave it below. Otherwise, reach out to a if you’ve got an interest in making this happen for your brand.

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