Bots, Access Codes, and How Nike Should Handle Their Releases

As e-commerce continues to steamroll over bricks and mortar locations the accessibility for a consumer to get the next great pair of shoes is increasing. Increasing of course, is a subjective term, and is subject to the speed of your computer, the reliability of your alarm clock, the speed of your internet (if you don’t have Google Fibre good luck), and if you spent $300 on a bot that circulates for free.

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For people that aren’t super into computers and “bots” check this link out from the guys at Complex Magazine as they define it all. Essentially, it’s a “script” that automatically adds a shoe to your cart in your size so you can try to get a shoe before it sells out.

Up until February 21st Nike handled all their big releases with a Twitter link and sometimes some pairs at retail locations. The basic timeline was this:

  • Find out about release 1-6 months before release through sneaker blogs, influencers, athletes, and company employees
  • More information on release is divulged so people can understand how popular the shoe will be, get an idea of supply, and figure out where they will try to pick up a pair

Now you have two choices: Retail or Online

  • Retail – Night before a release – Check all your local retailers to see who will be getting the release. Then line up outside in the wee hours of the morning or earlier (even days or weeks earlier) depending on demand.
  • Online – 755 am EST and 455 am PST – Wake up to an alarm clock, and try to will yourself awake and to your computer. Most of the time not leaving your bed and continually refreshing @nikestore on Twitter. (After a few releasesF5 and you have a closer relationship than you care to acknowledge)

The benefit of course to online is you get to stay warm inside your bed and are barely inconvenienced. So what this has led to, especially with stores only getting one or two pairs of a given size is people giving up on their local retailer and just trying to win the online game.

Now put yourself in the shoes of  someone that really wants a pair of Bred 1’s. Your options become buy from a reseller, lineup for over a day in front of a store, or buy a sketchy Google Chrome extension that presses size 10.5 for you. Most of us would likely try to get the extension, and as a result shoes are selling out in seconds.

Nike has always had the idea to give pretty much everyone a fair chance. They want people to have the opportunity to spend their money on swooshes. There is a select group of people however that every sneakerhead follows called “influencers”. These people are the newest marketing tool and I am betting that Nike has made these access codes for them.

My best guess on why Nike released the codes is because with the growth of “influencers” dominating social media. They need to make sure the shepherds (influencers) corral the sheeps (hypebeasts) towards the latest release. The access codes are an easy way to connect Nike with influencers that aren’t quite at a level that warrant a visit from a Nike and some free shoes. They can find an Instagram account that is regularly  featured with Nike products and is great at “building hype”. They then hook the owner of the account up with guaranteed access to sneakers that everyone wants. This account is now able to guarantee they get access to new releases, and Nike has to do very little to attract this influencer to become a loyalist or at very least an advocate if they weren’t already.

The other potential reason why Nike has the access code system is that it is a new way to battle the bots. There are people saying this might be a large scale attempt to change the game.

If that is the case, and the game is changing to where I might actually get a pair online then I’m all for it. It would be great to know that everyone has a chance.

Essentially this is what Nike has said, and it isn’t a lot. That said, it has let me speculate as to what is going on, and it gives you a chance to read about it. You be the judge on what they’re using the codes for.

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What I would love to see, and what I think Nike should do is simple. Take the model that most stores use for an uber popular release and put it online. The model I’m talking about of course is the “raffle model”. My idea is pretty simple. People can sign up to be a part of the raffle 24 hours before the launch of the shoe. By signing up they commit to pay. Nike has their credit card and shipping info on file so unless they pull out they’re in the running. At 8 EST, Nike uses an algorithm to pick the lucky winners, and they get shipped their shoes. No ridiculous wake-ups necessary, no waiting in the cold, no complaining about your WiFI, no sneaker violence, and more opportunity for everyone. Will this take some of the fun out of it? Maybe, but at least it makes it fair for everyone.

I guess until that day though, the struggle will stay real. For those without access anyways.

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