Nike Retail Automation

Retail Automation and sneaker customization are growing trends that appeal brand owners and managers, and to the fashion sense and the collector-mindedness of those shoe fanatics sometimes known as “sneakerheads.” Now Nike is offering a limited number of enthusiasts the chance to try out a new, fast form of customization technology.

Nike’s limited-time, invite-only event, called the Makers’ Experience, has been taking place in the Nike By You Studio in New York, according to Engadget. Visitors choose from four possible packs of graphics and a few different color schemes to customize the upper portion of the shoe. They can also input custom text. The design is then projected onto a blank pair of sneakers the customer is wearing to demonstrate resulting look. Once the final design is chosen, it takes an hour or less to create the final product.

Nike intends to eventually bring this experience to its retail stores. Initially, only “Nike friends and family and select Nike+ members” have been invited to participate, according to the Nike website.

Nike is not the only shoe brand trying out retail automation and next-gen shoe design and manufacturing technology.

Adidas, for instance, after piloting its first retail automation Speedfactory in 2015 in Germany, began opening the automated production facilities throughout the U.S. Speedfactories, staffed mostly by robots, are capable of producing around 50,000 shoes per year, and are able to quickly shift gears to create shoes made out of custom materials and react to new design trends.

And Under Armour has been innovating in the area of design customization with its UA Icon platform. UA Icon allows site visitors to choose the style of different shoe parts, as well as upload custom images to be printed as a shoe’s graphic. The platform is a customer-facing adaptation of the one Under Armour has long used to let B2B customers, like colleges, design team uniforms.

Although the retail automation technology on demo at the Makers’ Experience event is currently limited to one style of shoe (the Presto X), additional features and customization options could make for a significant shift in shoe shopping if and when the tech hits stores.

“For retailers with cult-like followers like ‘sneakerheads,’ this seems like a must,” said Lee Kent, principal at Your Retail Authority. “But keep in mind the athletes who just like to buy Nike running shoes may have little or no interest in customization. In other words, it’s not for everyone. It’s all about providing the right experience and differentiation for the customer and this type of customization is right for some.”

“Retailers should be looking hard to see who their ‘sneakerheads’ are,” Ms. Kent said.

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