Since the last customer highlight was so popular and since Nike’s newest online community went live yesterday, I thought I’d share some of the kick-butt things that they’re doing. They are an unbelievably creative company that spends a huge amount of time engaging with their customers. Loic had already interviewed Michael Tchao (first video). I got a chance to do the same with Roberto Tagliabue (who also provided videos about how Nike puts on events for their community’s “super users” as well as a commercial they made highlighting their top community member).
You guys sell apparel, what does an online community have to do with that?
For Nike, you are no longer just buying a sneaker. You are joining the largest global running club. We offer you shoes and apparel that helps you run longer and faster. This is our “hardware.” We now offer you cool “software”: ways to track your progress, tools to find people to challenge. We want to keep you active and motivated.
You started this road by focusing on one product–Nike+ Running. Why that product and what have you learned so far?
We noticed that something interesting was happening in the world of running: more and more people were running with music and a good majority were running with an iPod. We thought that we could add a little extra that could enrich the experience of running. So we made a sensor that tucks into the shoe. We worked with Apple to have the sensor talk to your iPod and reveal your running data while you are listening to music. The big learning? Enrich an existing behavior and make it simpler: press a button and start running. We will do the rest. Do not disrupt something very basic and liberating like going for a run with tons of complex features.
Video: Nike’s event with their online community “super users”
But lots of folks wonder what the tangible business value is, what’s Nike’s experience so far?
As of February, 2008, Nike+ members have run over 50,000,000 miles, logged over 14,000,000 runs and issued over 450,000 challenges. We created the world’s largest running club at nikeplus.com. 40% of community members who didn’t own Nike+ ended up buying. That is pretty tangible.
What happened that you didn’t expect?
The desire of runners to find other runners happened very fast and was unexpected. Since day one, runners were using ‘creatively’ different functionalities of the site to accomplish this. Like the Mapit application. It allows you to trace your runs and to visualize your progress. A lot of runners took it in a different way. They were looking at public runs posted in their neighborhood in order to meet other runners and run together. Same happened online. It was meant to be a place for people to talk and to help each other solve technical problems with their nikeplus products or with their iPods. We found that the most active section was and still is the one about organizing runs and challenges: Men vs Women, College X vs College Y, etc.
Commercial featuring Nike’s top community member
What have you learned about your customers you didn’t know before?
We are there listening continuously to our users and keeping the “party” alive. As in real life people tend to aggregate where there is a fun party going on with a lot of people and energy. NikePlus is a fun party with tons of people, but there is more. Now the users can ask to have more or change things when they are bored and we (Nike) can answer right away. It is an everyday learning when you have a product/service that allows you to communicate in both directions.
We just launched a cool new product for all the people that don’t like or don’t want to run with music: Nike+ SportBand. It tracks your distance, calories burned and other performance information and it is your key to access the NikePlus application and community. It is an even simpler concept… Just run. We do all the rest like calculating your distance, calories and time.
How has this changed your conversations internally at Nike?
NikePlus made us learn a lot and change a lot. The overall direction in digital shifted. It is less about Nike and more about you, the athlete. Now the user is at the center and Nike is there to serve experiences to better them. We simply enabled what was not possible or very difficult before. Now you have the tools to challenge a friend and to see who is really the fastest. Now you can connect with other runners like you and see how they run, how long and how fast.
How might you imagine influencing internal collaboration now that you’ve created powerful external communities?
We are using a similar tool to enable our digital producer around the world to publish, comment and share content faster before they go live.