Today, Nike unveiled a new style of retail experience that suggests that both virtual and real worlds are colliding and that the boundaries between consumers and designers are blurring fast. On the fifth floor at Niketown in New York this morning, the first full public NIKEiD Studio/boutique opened ?yes, the same concept found on www.NIKEiD.com since 1999. It’s a place where anyone can custom-design Nike shoes. Nike previously had physical versions of the studios open mainly to professional athletes and other celebrities (and trend influencers), where they would design limited-edition shoes with the guidance of Nike staff designers.
According to the company, the NIKEiD online business has more than tripled since 2004 with more than 3 million unique visitors going to www.NIKEiD.com every month.
Sure, Reebok and Adidas also allow anyone to create and buy virtual customized shoes within Second Life. But Nike’s move is a timely real-world tactic. It confirms that the trend of customization is still going strong, and that consumers are interested in acting as designers as well as mere customers of their favorite brands both virtually and in person.
And the public studio itself isn’t the only cool new aspect of the NIKEiD franchise. Echoing Ralph Lauren’s use of a Minority Report-style touch screen in a store’s outdoor front window to prompt passersby to interact with the brand, Niketown now features a monitor where consumers can custom design a shoe by selecting features on the screen. (The Ralph Lauren windows, temporarily in New York and Chicago, were mainly for instant e-commerce and didn’t offer any design-it-yourself capabilities.)
Customer/designers can then email their creations to themselves or to buddies, or buy the new design inside Niketown.
And Nike will choose consumer designs and produce them in limited editions, to be sold at Niketown. If any customers are afraid to take the design plunge alone, so-called Nike Design Consultants are on hand to help guide them through a 45-minute design process. Shoes arrive in about two weeks (although Nike very precisely states that about 90% will receive the shoes in two weeks – a very transparent and trust-building admission that while the large majority will get the shoes in a short amount of time, a small minority may not for various reasons.)
So far, the company has opened pilot versions of open-to-all NIKEiD Studios in Paris and Osaka, Japan. But New York’s Niketown is home to the first permanent, full-fledged public NIKEid Studio. The company will open the next one in London next month.
With NIKEiD Studios, Nike is proving to be a company that's one step ahead of the trends, applying fresh new retail tactics to the company's established marketing strategies.