Nike customizes shoes for ‘sneakerheads’ in under an hour

Discussion
Photo: Nike
Sep 14, 2017
Matthew Stern

Sneaker customization is a growing trend, one that appeals both to the fashion sense and the collector-mindedness of those shoe fanatics sometimes known as “sneakerheads.” Now Nike is offering a limited number of enthusiasts the chance to try out a new, fast form of customization technology.

Nike’s limited-time, invite-only event, called the Makers’ Experience, is taking place in the Nike By You Studio in New York, according to Engadget. Visitors choose from four possible packs of graphics and a few different color schemes to customize the upper portion of the shoe. They can also input custom text. The design is then projected onto a blank pair of sneakers the customer is wearing to demonstrate how the design will look. Once the final design is chosen, it takes an hour or less to create the final product.

Nike intends to eventually bring this experience to its retail stores. Initially, only “Nike friends and family and select Nike+ members” were invited to participate, according to the Nike website.

Nike is not the only shoe brand piloting next-gen shoe design and manufacturing technology.

Adidas, for instance, after piloting its first automated Speedfactory in 2015 in Germany, began opening the automated production facilities throughout the U.S. Speedfactories, staffed mostly by robots, are capable of producing around 50,000 shoes per year, and are able to quickly shift gears to create shoes made out of custom materials and react to new design trends.

And Under Armour has been innovating in the area of design customization with its UA Icon platform. UA Icon allows site visitors to choose the style of different shoe parts, as well as upload custom images to be printed as a shoe’s graphic. The platform is a customer-facing adaptation of the one Under Armour has long used to let B2B customers, like colleges, design team uniforms.

Although the technology on demo at the Makers’ Experience event is currently limited to one style of shoe (the Presto X), additional features and customization options could make for a significant shift in shoe shopping if and when the tech hits stores.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will Nike change customer expectations about the shoe shopping experience by introducing customization in its stores? How likely is in-store customization to become a common element in retailing? In what product categories will the tech be most applicable?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Customization is an expectation of technology."
"The Maker Movement will likely launch new companies into the customization space."
"The true question is whether this niche customization will be profitable, or whether it comes at a cost which is lost on such a unique market."

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10 Comments on "Nike customizes shoes for ‘sneakerheads’ in under an hour"


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Tom Dougherty
Guest

Customization is not a breakthrough. It is a given in today’s world. Automation and the digital revolution has increased consumer expectations. Aside from ease of use, customization is an expectation of technology. This is news only because of scarcity right now. In a year or two it will be a table stake.

Art Suriano
Guest

There is no doubt that customization is appealing to many customers. And the fact that it is now becoming possible to have customized shoes is exciting. Eventually, I see customers having all their clothes including shoes custom made because with technology that will one day be possible. Everything we buy will fit better, and retailers will not have to be concerned about inventory and stocking shelves and aisles. However, the point to remember is we are not there yet and won’t be for some time to come. So whereas it is wise to look at these opportunities, in the meantime retailers still need to keep up with current needs like better-trained store people offering the best customer service and that is not happening in most retail chains. So is providing customized shoes exciting? Yes. Will it be successful? Yes. But how long until it’s the new norm because of the fully perfected technology? No one knows, but I would think many years from now.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

First, let us not forget that this is a limited test. To bring the completion of a customized sneaker/shoe in under one hour to scale (not just a select few), is going to require expensive equipment in-store, or expensive labor, and the sneaker will cost a lot. Maybe a lot more than most consumers would want to pay. The concept has plenty of “cool” in it, I question how much runway it has.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

There is a group of customers who love this level of interaction and engagement with their favorite retailers. Nike has the brand name. Now they can create a personalized shoe. How cool is that?! This is exactly the type of personalized experience that creates loyalty and word-of-mouth marketing referrals.

Retailers selling clothes can let customers combine fabrics, colors, etc. to create custom clothing and a personalized experience.

Make-up companies can let customers combine colors for their personal shades of lipstick and other merchandise.

As customization becomes easier to provide, it creates a great opportunity for retailers who can take advantage of it.

Lee Kent
Guest

For retailers with cult-like followers like “sneakerheads,” this seems like a must. But keep in mind the athletes who just like to buy Nike running shoes may have little or no interest in customization. In other words, it’s not for everyone. It’s all about providing the right experience and differentiation for the customer and this type of customization is right for some. Retailers should be looking hard to see who their “sneakerheads” are. For my 2 cents.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust
Doug Garnett
President, Protonik
3 years 1 month ago

Given Nike’s current round of lay-offs, this is a concerning announcement. Yes, I believe there’s a corner of retail that will build with customization. It’s likely a minority of importance — 5%?

So why concern? Nike’s layoffs indicate serious problems that require serious answers looking at their total business. This announcement looks like gimmick PR hastily pulled together to distract the world from the negative news. Probably good PR. But if it’s a serious look at their corporate strategy (focusing too much on sci-fi futures) then it’s a bad sign.

Retailers need to pay attention to interesting things that can be done with on-site customization. And retailers need to keep it in perspective — only important to a minority of shoppers.

Kai Clarke
BrainTrust

Yes, allowing for customization ensures that Nike can differentiate its products to broaden their appeal to specific target markets. This should enhance their position in these niche markets, but these come at a cost. The true question is whether this niche customization will be profitable, or whether it comes at a cost which is lost on such a unique market.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

Customization is a sensible way of adding both differentiation and experience to retail. As automation and small-batch production become more prevalent, it is likely to become more common. Customization can be personal (adapting this to personal tastes and preferences) or more functional (adapting sizes and fits). If executed correctly, both can be part of a winning strategy.

Sterling Hawkins
BrainTrust

Design customization is the first step. 3D printing totally custom sneakers is already in R&D for store-level with at least two of the major brands. Customers will pay for customization that adds measurable value and as technology advances we’ll be seeing more and more of it.

Cynthia Holcomb
BrainTrust

Fun, cool, a real experience for shoppers who love their sneakers. While customization is not new by any means, the idea of a consumer playing creator is a new riff on customization. Looks like Nike is investing to enable quick execution, which will be the litmus test to teens “designing” their own shoe. The Maker Movement will likely launch new companies into the customization space.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Customization is an expectation of technology."
"The Maker Movement will likely launch new companies into the customization space."
"The true question is whether this niche customization will be profitable, or whether it comes at a cost which is lost on such a unique market."

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