Susanna Dale, a Consultant in Capgemini’s Marketing, Sales and Service practice and keen runner writes about her experiences of using Nike+.
In early August this year Adidas launched a challenge on the incredibly popular Nike+ online running club by turning it’s miCoach training service into a smartphone app. Previously providers, such as Garmin and Abvio, have tried to take on Nike in this field but no one’s come close to overtaking the ‘swoosh’.
As a keen runner myself I’m going to look at some of the characteristics of Nike’s hugely successful product – what steps has it taken to truly understand its customers?

Nike+ is a small sensor which is inserted in the sole of a trainer and links up to either a runner’s iPod, or if they don’t run with music, a Nike+ SportBand. Pace, distance and calories burned are all tracked and stored whilst on the move. Once back home I can then sync this information with my computer and upload it online to the Nike+ website. The Nike+ website tracks all my previous runs and allows me to set specific goals either by distance, time, pace – effectively acting as a my own personal trainer. I can also view stats for and interact with Nike+ members all over the globe – effectively enabling me to be part of the world’s largest running club.
Wired Magazine credits the success of Nike+’ to the way they have “reconfigured how runners approach their sport”.
I’d say from my own experiences that the huge success of Nike+ is more a result of the product design and experience reflecting exactly the needs and wants of this customer base and complementing these needs. I’m not referring to the product, which admittedly is sleek. Nike has spent decades developing trainers, personalised sports watches and performance clothing that certainly fulfil a number of athlete physical requirements. However, in teaming with Apple, Nike+ has really cut to the athlete core – emotional need – and has made the experience more fun. Let me elaborate by looking at three classic traits of its key customer base for this product: the distance runner.
Distance runners like routine and are notorious creatures of habit.
Nike+ offers consistency – it’s not boring that my data appears in the same way every day – it enables me to track and compare progress dependably. Nike+ appeals to this group through the gradual accumulation of improved times on the screen. Moreover, runners are proud of their disciplined nature and like to revel in their ability to endure pain. We all complain about having to head out for a long Sunday run in the rain but there’s a secret pleasure in it. Why else would anyone run cross-country after the age of 15? Nike+ allows runners to publish their runs directly to Facebook and Twitter for friends and fellow runners to see.
Runners are also very much goal oriented.
Nike+ fulfils this need on several levels. Runners can set their own goals, select tailored training goals from schedules or challenge other runners from anywhere else in the global Nike running club. Sport is an emotional experience (you don’t need to be a runner to know that, you could just spend a season supporting West Ham). People don’t enter 10k races because they’re going to be world champion – they’re racing themselves. This is personal and despite the big names it sponsors, Nike manages to keep the experience on an individual level. This is carried through into Nike+ which allows the user to upload very detailed information about their own achievements and map these against the goals of the whole of the global Nike Running club. Thus, effectively achieving personalisation on a global scale.
Finally, runners adore stats.
Whilst my iPod may be streaming music in my ears, a number of thoughts are racing through my mind: “Aiming to break that 40 min barrier for this 10 k… 4min/km but I got swept along with the crowd so 3min 45 for 1km, need to pace myself to get back on track– what should my time be at that point?” I’m sure I’m not alone in these deliberations!
Indeed, the Nike+ running club proves this – there’re over 2 million runners uploading and analysing their distance, time, pace, calories burned all over the world . Tesco Clubcard is regularly cited for its ability to understand customer behaviour, but with runners as its customer base, it is every mile that counts and Nike+ have over 200 million to analyse. This kind of data can only give more customer insight. Here’s an interesting fact about achieving runner loyalty: if someone uploads only a couple of runs to the site, they might just be trying it out. However, at five runs, they’re a great deal more likely to keep running and uploading data: Nike+ has them hooked. Nike is seemingly embedded into its customers’ lives.
Forgetting my Nike+ sensor really takes the life out of my run. When I’m tracking my performance – living ‘by numbers’ if you will – what happens after the run almost becomes as important as the run itself. Adidas has got its work cut out to engage with its customers in the way Nike has done so successfully!