Big shoes to fill? Where Nike's AR app fits in today's tech landscape

15th May 2019
Big shoes to fill? Where Nike's AR app fits in today's tech landscape

Poorly-fit clothing has long been the Achilles heel of many retailers. 

It causes a nuisance both in the consumer's satisfaction and the amount of products being returned to the brand.

Rather than joining ASOS in restricting their returns policy, Nike have agilely turned the other direction and released an augmented reality (AR) app that ensures each consumer gets their measurement right and receives a tailored service, without an employee touching anyone's feet.

Different fits, different needs

Nike have recognised that not every shoe is supposed to fit in the same manner - running shoes are best fit snug, while casual trainers are best left a bit looser - meaning that if you stuck with the same reliable size that (you think) is the right fit, you might actually be doing yourself a disservice.

So to provide the ultimate augmented product, Nike are releasing an AR app that will scan your feet and tell you the exact size of shoe appropriate for you. Stopping here would make the app a cool novelty, but it would do little more than leave a single-use app on your phone. It’s the app’s integration with the Nike store that really sets itself as a quality piece of software. No-one knows Nike trainers like Nike, so they’ve integrated the sizing information the app collects with the consumer’s Nike membership, which allows them to show only the right size shoe according to its use.

Without the integration, you’d be double-tapping the home button and flipping between the Nike store app and the fit app, checking which shoe types are meant to fit tighter/looser, and then finicking through the sizes until you find the right one.

The second option wouldn’t break your back,  but the ongoing task of marketing nowadays is to make the sales journey as quick and seamless as possible. It needs to be equal to or shorter than our decreasing attention spans, which is why this app is such a fantastic example of customer-focused marketing; the user journey couldn’t be more streamlined to the sale.

It means we’re able to make the perfect purchase with the least hassle. It’ll make Nike a lot of money, and give reluctant joggers absolutely no excuse.

A winning strategy

Our Strategy Director Paul Harrison gave his thoughts on the use of tech to engage potential customers:

Brands have long been searching for the killer solution to engaging their customers digitally.

Many have focused their efforts on the digital experience, both in-store and online, in the belief that delivering a strong, on-brand experience with very little friction to purchase will lead to a sale.

And you can't really argue with that. It's true. The trouble is that this is now the expected standard, especially of premium or luxury brands.

What very few brands dare address are problems or difficulties with their product.

Retail, particularly, is so keen to make the online shop a seamless experience, that it seems big brands often overlook the chance to change things up and offer a new experience (or unfortunately don’t invest the time in experimental marketing).

Sure, we've seen full body scanning technology, but this really isn't ever going to be mainstream, and that's what is so refreshing about Nike Fit.

They've identified a real world problem - our feet are all weird and wonderful shapes, and definitely not on a nice, convenient scale of 1 to Shaq - and solved it.

There is absolutely still a place for digital innovation in delivering an immersive brand experience, but problem-solving innovation like this will always bring a smile to our faces - speaking both as a consumer and a marketer!

Real-world application

Our talented iOS Developer Harry Davies weighed in on the modern use of AR:

The first real exposure the world got to mass AR usage was Pokemon GOTM. Millions of people were running around the streets catching virtual Pokemon, all unbeknownst to the fact that the AR experience they were playing was pretty mediocre compared to what could be done.

Obviously tech progresses and things get better (Pokemon are now able to “hide” behind objects) but that whole fad seems to have faded now since other technologies developed that dragged our attention away.

This is why the integration between the Fit App and the Store is just as important as the foot-scanner itself - without it, we’d just use the app once or twice and move on.

That’s not to say that AR as a technology isn’t heading in exciting directions.

Apple have seen the gap in the market for businesses to use it to engage customers, so they’ve been making a real push on the ARKit (the software they’re offering to developers).

Unfortunately the grand majority of apps you will see in the app store today are static object gimmicks or games. Most seem to have been created with no other real objective than to shout about the fact that they can ‘do’ AR.

The real value of AR is being highlighted in learning at the minute.

It's only a matter of time before classrooms are equipped with AR-capable devices to help visualise various concepts to not only children but adults. There are some really impressive apps such as Complete Anatomy, which allows you to visualize the human body in intricate detail. You can explore different parts of the body from organs to joints. This is currently more targeted to university students due to the dense information provided on each part of the body.

Use this as a good benchmark of the detail that AR can provide.

The IKEA Place app is one of the most successful AR apps currently in the App Store which has real value. It gives users the ability to test how furniture would look in their home, but is essentially a static object AR experience.

The key words there are “most successful”.

While there are apps allowing you to dissect frogs with unbelievable detail, and play around with the diversion of rivers (affecting the nearby environment, including animals), the Ikea app allowing you to pretend there’s a sofa in your home is one of the most popular.

People obviously value AR highly in retail, so it’s about time that retail placed more value in AR.