Since there’s so much hype around NFTs lately, it’s worth revisiting Nike’s CryptoKicks system. And while some are waiting for the cryptocurrency bubble to burst, others are doubling down with absolute certainty that blockchain and NFTs are here to stay.
There’s a quote that comes to mind often when referring to fashion and retail innovation. Sitting in the audience at Fashion Tech Forum Los Angeles in October 2017 musician will.i.am said: “Fashion brands better start thinking of how to bring new things to people or else the G is not going to be for Gucci, that shit is going to be Google.”
Without going deep into the mechanics of NFTs, let’s look at Nike more closely as it relates to the impending CryptoKicks system, to see how some of their existing initiatives have built viable building blocks to being at the forefront of retail in the digital revolution.
As the world’s most valuable apparel brand, Nike dominates in clothing, sneakers and culture, from high quality performance wear for elite athletes to limited release sneakers that people line up for overnight. Nike has the ability to create exceptional products bound by a brand culture so strong it rivals Apple. And like Apple, Nike’s access to global data and consumer insights informs its strategies.
I can only imagine the vast amounts of data Nike collects and analyses – the items bought in-store and online, foot traffic and dwell time at every Nike location, product returns, website hits, social media engagement, the number of people who purchased the Fortnite x Nike bundle.
Nike even analyses the data I load into the Nike Run Club app each morning, which tracks distance, location, average pace and time. I’ve also added my pair of Nike sneakers (style and colour) to my profile and set a mammoth goal of running 300km in them (hoping for a few perks along the way as I hit milestones).
Aside from the Nike Run Club being a great fitness and coaching app, there are a few features I’m sure we’ll see when using CryptoKicks. Registering the type of Nike sneakers I bought to my profile will be similar to the CryptoKicks “locker”, which is Nike’s version of a cryptocurrency wallet to trade digital assets, or in this case, digital and physical sneakers.
As for buying a new pair of Nike sneakers, they would come with a digital twin that is activated in my locker upon purchase. If that pair is from a limited edition collection, the digital version authenticates the physical pair as they’re traded between collectors. The digital twin is a unique identification code with product characteristics attached to the record such as colourway, materials and images. This collection of information would then showcase a product story accessible to current and past owners. This layer of transparency begins to unlock more unique ways of interacting with products and people, potentially breeding completely new versions of sneakers to create a ‘CollaboKick.’ And if a CollaboKick surpasses a preset threshold number through community voting, it may trigger a manufacturing event to produce that rare style of sneaker.
This where all things digital will go to live in the future. Keep in mind when reading about immersive technology that no matter our age and what we think about digital channels, Generation Alpha (people born between 2010-2025) will be more tech-savvy than any other generation. Also known as Generation Glass, they’ll use smart devices as their main medium to access information and communicate. Gen Alpha won’t differentiate between online and offline as we have. It’s one and the same.
The Metaverse put simply will be the next version of the world wide web, an extension of Web 3.0. But it requires complex technologies and infrastructure for it to exist, and we’re not there yet. Many systems, standards, and platforms we know today will help form the foundations. Platforms that we may consider being a waste of time such as computer games, content streaming sites, and social media apps, are normal environments where kids thrive, socialise, create, and develop important skills. It’s in these digital spaces that collecting intangible items is incredibly real and depending on their rarity, hold value also.
The CryptoKicks system will likely fit beautifully into the Metaverse, no matter who builds it or which of the biggest tech companies lead it, and if the collaboration between Fortnite and Nike during 2019 is anything to go by, it signals a highly blended and interoperable future.
For a short time, Fortnite fans could buy skins with Air Jordan 1’s in colorways – red and black like the Chicago Bulls, and yellow and purple similar to the Los Angeles Lakers jerseys. A partnership of this calibre exploded in the cultural zeitgeist, proving people will pay for items they’ll never physically touch. It’s then not a far leap to imagine connecting a limited release pair of sneakers purchased in-store to adding the digital version to your avatar, while hanging out at an AltspaceVR event with mates.
Combining data and CryptoKicks with in-person activities will enable Nike to deliver persistent real-time brand exposure, as fans dip in and out of digital and physical environments. To reference the Nike Run Club app again, I’m able to show my Nike pass (through a QR Code) to check-in easily at local events and receive personalised services at Nike stores.
Another example is Nike Live in 2018, a concept store in Los Angeles open to Nike members, offering rotating products based on consumer insights and data collected from that geographic location. Add to the mix subtle signs of gamification and community connection, and the motivation to regularly interact with the possibility of receiving rewards along the way, and engagement is heightened.
CryptoKicks look to be a way of bringing those elements together within the Nike ecosystem in an intuitive and familiar way, which are the necessary ingredients for helping people adopt new experiences. It remains unknown when CryptoKicks will launch, but all Nike’s digital and physical retail experiments to date put them in good stead for continuing their inimitable success in apparel, fitness and culture.