Coronavirus and retail

Did Nike already have the tools for socially distanced shopping?

As retailers across the world try to figure out how to make socially distanced shopping work, many are turning to tech to help tackle the challenges of Covid-19.

One retailer though may have already had the tools needed to thrive in this new shopping world.

For years, Nike has walked the walk when it come to innovation in everything from its digital offering to physical stores. Now that forward thinking may well pay off.

Two years ago, Nike opened its first Nike Live store concept in LA. The space was locally focused in terms of its product assortment and services, but it also served as a test space for combining digital features with physical space.

That digital capability has just become super relevant as retailers explore how to offer their normal services in a low-touch, distanced way.

Ability to scan a barcode with a smartphone app to learn more about a product and see what options are in stock? Check

Ability to scan QR codes on mannequins to request products to be sent to a fitting room? Check

Curbside services for picking up orders, returning items or exchanging them? Check

App-based reservation offering that lets customers reserve items online, scan their app and pick up them up from a locker? Check


Image credit – Nike


What’s interesting is that Nike didn’t develop these services for socially distanced shopping. It created them to provide a better experience to customers. It just so happens that applies in both ‘normal’ times and the ‘new normal’.

That’s what is so important about what Nike has put in place. It’s adaptable and flexible. The brand didn’t innovate for the sake of innovating but thought about the functionality and services that would genuinely benefit shoppers.

Plus, because it created and tested these services through initiatives like Nike Live, Nike is in a position where it can roll them out to all of its stores as needed. That’s pretty useful right now as very quickly all of its physical stores can be armed with the tools for enhancing social distancing.

By making its app the centre of its ecosystem, Nike has given itself a leg-up over most over retailers. It can easily incorporate new features as needed – either driven by external circumstances like Covid-19, or internal drivers like improving the customer experience.

For example, it’s not hard to imagine Nike easily incorporating a proximity function that helps customers keep their distance in store. Or a virtual queuing feature. It has already added a self-checkout option to the app so that shoppers can complete their entire transaction without having to interact with anyone else.

It’s fairly safe to say that no retailer had planned for something like Covid-19. But in Nike’s case it didn’t have to plan for it. It had already given itself the tools for success simply by embracing an innovative mindset.

Can other retail businesses say the same?


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