I have about 45 pairs of Nike sneakers. Not kidding. 45. Some friends make fun of this; others find it to be a cool collection. One of my favorite elements of buying Nike Dunk sneakers directly from Nike’s website is the NikeID part of the site that allows you to design your own shoe. You can pick your favorite sports team, or just go wild:

I bring this up to illustrate the three things that you can learn from this deceptively simple premise.

  1. There are hidden nuances in the data – When you think of scouring transactional data, you might just think that you can pick your best customers or least active customers and incent them to purchase. The better usage lays several layers deeper. Did store location play a part in purchase, or in the case of the NFL personalized shoe, a certain sports team or area of the nation? This could impact retail store location when viewed on a larger level. New store locations can be planned totally from data – in the instance of a lender or bank, looking where folks took out online loans could plan for a branch location, or for a retailer, doing a competitive footprint analysis can best gauge where overlap in permeation can occur. For any industry, there are layers and layers of data than can be used in targeting and modeling your ideal customer. Just because someone is a frequent customer, you can’t assume their neighbor would be, until you see what else they have in common. In the case of financial industries where targeting is regulated, subscriber lists and profiling can replace the traditional customer intelligence practices. You can do a lot of predictive modeling based on transaction history and website activity.
  2. Crowdsourcing is more than just soliciting donations – Nike actually uses the data they glean from the NikeID personalized shoes towards future product development (per DM News). Additionally, there is a rich treasure trove of data in what they DIDN’T choose. Abandoned carts are as worthy to look at for insight as the actual purchase. This logic can be leveraged across most verticals. What caused your customer to not choose you, and what steps did they take before abandonment? If you see that 40% of your customers are designing shoes with Red as a primary facet, while 15% are using black and only 1% use purple, pin or gold, you can make a sound assumption and a business decision to remove these elements from your next seasonal release. The same can be said of response data to certain incentives, say for a retailer or bank that offers a % off deal or an incentive to open a checking account. If you can see some trends in who didn’t become a customer, it becomes easier to adjust your sales processes or inventory. In Nike’s case, if people start to make canvas shoes in their personalization app, but 90% put the shoe back, perhaps their store shelf stock inventory would have less canvas.
  3. Allowing for a customized experience can pay off with other dividends in the long run – Everyone likes their own idea more than the next guys. Seldom do I order my food as it is written on the menu – I like to add my own touch. Your customers want to be heard, and chances are, when you show that you care about their opinion, they are more likely share it on social media – developing a greater affinity for your brand. Think of a bank designing a variable banking portal for their customers to choose which elements are primarily displayed. Let’s face it – you probably don’t work for a company that has customized sneakers as part of your offerings, but you are offering something to your customer. Make it something they want to talk about and one where they can become a stakeholder in the creation. Choose sharing mechanisms that their network can take action on, or builds your brand. You can learn a lot from sneakers.