Nike's New Flagship Store is a Powerhouse of Experience-Driven Retail

With billions of dollars’ worth of global revenue pouring in year after year, sustained and solid growth, a squad of celebrity endorsements, Olympic partnerships and sponsorship deals – Nike, surely, has the sportswear retail game sewn up.

A truly global, powerhouse brand, whose famous swoosh is as firmly planted in collective consciousness as the McDonald’s golden arches, the bite from Apple’s forbidden fruit, or Google’s technicolored typography – with iconicity this strong, is there any need to innovate at all?

You bet there is. Retail is, and always will be, as competitive as the NBA finals – only here, calling timeout is not an option.

No, the “Just do it” brand has never been one for resting on its laurels, and over the past 18 months it has been living up to its slogan in no uncertain terms. Seizing opportunity after opportunity to bring some of the latest and greatest in retail and sports technology to its in-store customers, Nike has been busy opening up a number of flagship stores around the globe – and its new venue in SoHo NYC is one of the very best.

Elevating Potential

Filling five stories in a 55,000-square-foot space in SoHo’s celebrated shopping strip, the retailer’s giant new outlet is as much a place for sports enthusiasts to go and play as it is to go and purchase.

Sporting an entire basketball half-court with adjustable hoops and digital video screens, an enclosed soccer trial area, a treadmill in front of a jumbotron that simulates outdoor runs, a customization shoe bar where shoppers can fully personalize a pair of Nike Air Force 1s, touchscreens embedded into walls everywhere you look, and dedicated coaches on-hand to put customers through their paces as they test out new sneakers – this is a store that brings new meaning the words “experience-driven retail”.

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As Heidi O’Neill, Nike’s President of Global Direct to Consumer, puts it: “We’re leading the transformation of sport retail — offering the best of Nike products, services and experiences under one roof. With Nike Soho we can realize the promise of personalized performance. Powered by immersive digital trials and in-store experts, this store is about elevating every athlete’s potential.”

Completely Connected

Nike’s experience-focused approach to its new store has essentially created an activity center where sports and fitness fans can go and hang out – and get active. Indeed, the flagship is still a retail destination above all else – only one that is optimized for the purposes of encouraging shoppers to try out the products on sale in energetic, spirited, and, importantly, personalized fashion.

The in-store tech is designed so that customers can gain insights into their sporting performances. Around the basketball court, cameras are set up to record the action from multiple angles, and the hoop is equipped with Kinect sensors that capture body movements and display them on the massive screen in front of players. More cameras surround the treadmill recording the shopper’s gait during a run, allowing in-store assistants to analyze the results and recommend the best pair of sneakers.

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But, more than that, the store is completely connected and intends to bridge the gap between digital and bricks-and-mortar experiences. For instance, customers can later access all footage recorded of them through their online Nike accounts or Nike app – and even share it on social media if they wish. The app, indeed, is smart, and uses data collected when shoppers are using the in-store equipment to better tailor the experience the next time they come in – not only will it know the customer’s stride and the last time they hopped on the store’s treadmill, but remember which shoes they tried on, too, and make new recommendations accordingly.

A Personal Sport Experience

So much has been written and said about how retail is dead in an age where ecommerce supposedly reigns supreme. Whilst there is no doubt that the landscape has shifted considerably over recent years, Nike’s new flagship program is showing that it’s not so much that retail is dead and buried, but rather that it’s towards energizing the in-store experience that retailers should turn their focus if they want to keep shoppers coming through the front doors.

Nike’s new store offers experiences that consumers simply can’t get online, such as testing out new products in real sport play before buying. But, importantly, the store also serves to bolster Nike’s digital strategy. Fully connected and integrated with the Nike app, even if customers walk out without making a purchase, their data is stored and accessible, and the path to future purchases – be they made at the same store, a different one, via the app or on the website – has been decidedly lubricated.

Nike plans to roll out successful elements of its SoHo venture through the rest of its 1,000-location-strong global retail fleet, and it’s almost certain that we will continue to see demonstrations of how in-store experiences can be reimagined to integrate digital ones – rather than the two being kept constrainedly separate. The last word goes to Heidi O’Neill. “Whether you’re training for a marathon, shooting hoops or doing drills on our in-store court, or if you love sneakers, Nike Soho will help you raise your game. Because it’s more than a store — it’s a personal sport experience.”

Make sure to also download the Future Stores agenda to check out all of the great activities, speakers, & sessions planned for this year.

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