Designing The Solution For Sneaker Checkout.

TrueCart

by @tylerevanshaw

Let’s talk sneakers for a second, shall we?

Anyone paying the slightest bit of attention over the past few years has noticed the transition of sneaker culture into the mainstream market. The concept of a limited edition or player/celebrity endorsed sneaker is far from new (remember this?), but as this industry continues to boom, the current shoe craze has created endless brand collaborations, lifestyle blogs, accompanying products, you name it — all driving customers to select apps and e-commerce sites to make purchases on release day.

As interest in the culture at large grows, it becomes harder and harder to get your hands on a particular shoe without getting taxed by your local sneaker hustler. This problem is very real, and oftentimes the blame falls on the companies for not building out an experience that allows customers to experience a process that is fair. Because I’ve taken the proverbial “L” a handful of times myself, I’ve come up with a concept for how sneaker releases could and quite possibly should be released in the future.

A customer uses the Nike SNKRS app to browse the latest releases.

According to SportsOneSource, the international sneaker market has grown by more than 40% since 2004, to an estimated $55 billion. In 2015, the athletic footwear industry in the US grew by 8%, generating $17.2 billion in sales, with unit sales growing by 3% and the average selling price growing by 5%, to $61.15, according to The NPD Group.

Basically, saying shoes are hot right now is an understatement. And don’t think that it’s just the big corporations making money. According to Forbes, the sneaker resale market is at close to a billion dollars. We’re not talking pocket change sales either. Get this - back in 2012 when Kanye was still with Nike, his Air Yeezy II priced at $245 resold at $90K. Bruh.

So why and how has this subculture skyrocketed through the mainstream? The reason is debatable; perhaps the accessibility of social media allows subcultures to be found and tapped into much quicker than previous generations, maybe its the prominence of brands like Nike, adidas, and PUMA cultivating the “new athlete” (entertainers) which is bringing forward a whole new consumer segment, or maybe this whole “full-grown-adults-camping-outside-for-days-at-a-time-with-no-other-apparent-obligations” is just another example of how far out of hand consumerism has gotten. (No shade though, do your thing bro.)

Release day is always the culmination of all the hype. If you’re looking to get a particular pair, you typically either know a guy, you live close to a store or boutique you’re willing to camp outside of, or you’re just staring at your screen for a few hours hoping for the chance to add the shoes to your cart. Within 1-10 seconds most shoes are completely sold out. In some cases you can actually get through to making sizing selections, adding to your cart, checkout, and then still lose your purchase because of some internal error. So even though you technically “won”, you lose on behalf of system errors, which ultimately brings up three points.

(1) It says to a consumer that a company can’t or doesn’t care to figure out how to solve the issue.

(2) It erodes customers belief in a fair system (they’re in my cart, I ordered, and it fails? How Sway?)

(3) How can a company of this magnitude that emphasizes the importance of creativity not have come up with a more intriguing, captivating release method?

It gets complex, but I think there are (3) general categories of people who pay attention to these releases.

A) The fan. He’s the guy buying to wear or to add to his collection. He knows the brand and is savvy about the product.

B) Resellers/Bot-Users. These are the people making a hustle out of the hype.

C) Hypebeasts. They want the product simply because it’s hot and everyone else wants it; i.e. the hype.

In a statement issued by Nike they said, “Bots have been compromising the experience around specific products. We’re working hard to make sure real consumers are the ones getting access.” Bots are essentially a browser plugin designed to give the user an unfair advantage. In a single click you can skip the digital “line”, heading towards checkout far before anyone has the chance to even enter their information, grabbing those Yeezy’s you don’t really like to resell for a $1500 profit to the guy who actually wants them. It’s a hustle man, no question.

So let’s dive into this solution. Here’s the problem restated simply:

Customer checkout for the latest shoe releases has been an ongoing issue many companies and e-commerce sites have not taken steps to fix, often resulting in disappointment for loyal customers and sites/apps that crash within seconds of releases. Due to the current process, many customers are only left with the option to purchase products at exorbitantly marked up prices.

Getting the shoe in the hands of the right consumer is what I believe I’ve been able to begin to solve, or at least build a better framework for how it can be done.

Enter TrueCart.

TrueCart is a concept designed by Park+Jungle to effectively even out the playing field for limited shoe releases. The app would be presented to the consumer at the beginning of checkout, taking that individual through a curated list of questions about the shoe they wish to purchase. Answering (X) amount of questions correct allows the user to proceed to checkout, providing validity to a fair process for the customer, and preventing bot-users from exceeding the checkout limit of (1) pair per customer.

We’ve all seen these things before. It’s called a CAPTCHA and is defined as a program or system intended to distinguish human from machine input, typically as a way of thwarting spam and automated extraction of data from websites. Although sometimes they appear useless or annoying, the base concept of having a sort of “human verifier” is powerful and was the building block of the TrueCart concept.

“Bots have been compromising the experience around specific products. We’re working hard to make sure real consumers are the ones getting access.”- Nike.
You’re a fan of Kanye’s Yeezy brand? Prove it.

Anyone who knows a sneakerhead knows that they pride themselves on their vast shoe knowledge, so it makes sense to allow them to put it to the test. As consumers continually grow more savvy, it becomes increasingly important for companies to inform them about the thought and effort that went into bringing that product to life, which effectively increases the value proposition of the offering, especially within a culture that puts a premium on quality and details.

Truth be told, Nike is already educating its consumers through the SNKRS app. Each shoe released through the app typically has some form of marketing campaign aimed at either the history or future of the product about to be released. All I’m saying is the money is already being spent creating the content. Why not test to see who’s been paying attention?

TrueCart creates a system where the customer can be rewarded based on their sneaker/brand/influencer knowledge. So essentially, instead of the current randomized process causing all of this commotion, users must go through a series of questions related to the product they are trying to purchase. The idea to weed out bots remains one of the underlying goals, it’s just that the overarching system is designed to feel more like a knowledge-based game. This will be intuitive for the guys who know their stuff.

In this scenario, 20 questions were generated. Users would have to answer 17 right to proceed to checkout. If they score lower, they are prompted with a page that reads “MAYBE NEXT TIME. You may want to brush up on your sneaker knowledge. You’ve got two (2) more chances. We’d hurry, there may not be many pairs left.”

There’s definitely some AB testing to be done to figure out how many questions are the right amount and what constitutes a “fair” question, but what is clear is that there should be a “Final Score” that allows you to either proceed to checkout or have a few more tries before your attempt to purchase is disabled.

Let’s be real, any process may create its own accusations of unfairness, but as long as the questions remain balanced, the customers that are indeed fans will continue to be rewarded. There are HUGE benefits and opportunities for implementing a system like this with respect to both consumer and brand, going far beyond the scope of the initial app.

Photography/Creative Direction and Promotional poster for True Cart

BENEFITS

For The Brand

  • By using specific questions about the brand or product, a company can potentially expose customers to information that produces brand loyalty and insights that increase perception of value.
  • Test results can provide data on how well consumers know and understand the brand, allowing the brand to adapt its marketing strategies towards areas they see important to the overall development of their brand story.
  • Consistently high scoring customers can be rewarded in the form of discounts or event access, becoming local “influencers” for the brand. This brings in a potential discussion for the buildout of a social presence on these apps.
  • Rewarding the consumer based on a game-like engagement provides a new experience and has the ability to cause consumers to become greater advocates of the products.
  • Bot-use is diminished greatly, re-establishing trust between brand and consumer.

For The Consumers

  • You’re no longer sitting in front of your screen for hours at a time waiting to be randomly selected to cart and then still lose.
  • You’re not worried about spending $350 on that bot that really has no proof of cooking anything, even though you really want this release.
  • If you’re really a fan, you have a good chance of winning just based off of what you already know.
  • You can gain new insight about the brands and kicks you respect based on the questions they ask, increasing your KIQ™ (kick+IQ…get it? get it?). This goes back to the whole influencer/social presence idea — higher kick IQ=brand perks?

I’ll say this in closing. I like the Nike SNKRS/ adidas Confirmed apps. Their aesthetics are good, the usability is pretty nice, but overall there’s still some issues that need addressed. I’d definitely love to talk more about how the concept for TrueCart could translate into the current market.

For more information about this project you can contact me at tylerevanshaw@gmail.com. To see more of my work head over to parkandjungle.com.

TrueCart by Park+Jungle Labs. Concept, Design, Name, and all other assets are the property of Tyler Shaw. All Rights Reserved.

The culture is talking. Your move.