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Nike highlights the power of staff as it looks to promote retail experience

By shifting the lens inwards, the brand highlights how the benefits of the physical store are being redefined

Georgie Moreton

Assistant Editor, BITE

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For a good 18 months, consumers have been forced to live deep within the digital world. The high street has taken a hit as audiences have grown accustomed to the ease and convenience of e-commerce. But for all its benefits, there remains a human element that is missing. Whilst online shopping has proved itself invaluable throughout the pandemic, the physical in-store retail experience still holds a treasured place for consumers and its key differentiator lies within people. 

In Nike’s latest campaign with agency BMB, it has chosen to shift the lens inward and focus on the people within its stores and what they bring to their roles. ‘Ask our athletes’ spotlights Nike staff, positioning them as athletes in their own right and emphasising the invaluable skills each individual brings to the store to create an experience that simply cannot be emulated online. 

Looking at a variety of different employees, ‘Ask our athletes’ showcases the personal interests and athleticisms that make members of staff the most important asset of the Nike store. The first two ads to launch feature Confidence – an international sprinter, and Sasha – who loves working out in the gym, with the slot challenging audiences to raise their own game. 

The campaign focuses on the idea that whilst it is of course possible to buy Nike products online, the advice and guidance of employees is an in-store exclusive. By drawing on their own life experiences, staff are able to enhance the shopping experience which can lead to meaningful purchases that might not happen elsewhere.

Redefining the retail experience

The high street as we once knew it has been changed dramatically by the effects of the pandemic. Once popular stores were forced to close their doors, many shoppers fell into the habit of buying online in a behavioural shift accelerated by lockdown. Yet, with consumers long deprived of in-person experiences, people are now returning to the high street in the search for a more human experience. The role of the physical store is being redefined and instead of trying to compete with its digital counterpart, brands are instead looking for ways to differentiate and carve out a unique experience.

The pandemic has certainly left its mark on retailers. Store layouts have been forced to change and in many places changing rooms remain closed as brands aim to provide a safer experience for consumers. As the needs of shoppers change, smart brands will adapt and redesign their retail properties to suit these needs. 

Murmurs from within the retail industry suggest that the store of the future could become more fulfilment-focused or even a customer service hub, but what we do know is that the high street of the future is looking to be more experience-led. Plans unveiled for the future of Oxford Street even pre-pandemic showed a shift towards experience, putting people at the heart of its plans, pedestrianising the road and turning the former BHS into a food hall showcasing pop-up sellers. Where nowadays quick, efficient shopping can be done online, brands must look to their stores as places to interact with consumers on a more personal level, be it by connecting staff and shopper like Nike or by providing a product or service that's unique to the store.

The power of people 

Last year's rule of six slimmed down people’s social circles and as the world reopens we are reminded of the beauty of interactions with those further away from us or even from total strangers. There is so much that can be learned from others from different walks of life and this is something that smart brands are well aware of. Lockdown stifled spontaneous interactions and as we enter a new era, the power of people is one of the most valuable assets.

In ‘Ask our athletes’, Nike harnesses exactly that: the power of people. People are what ultimately make up a brand, uphold and create brand values and contribute to its ongoing successes. Staff members and employees aren’t only an extension of a brand, they are the lifeblood of an organisation that without them would cease to exist. Employees within a store are the bridge between a brand and a consumer and it’s within organic, authentic conversation and advice that they are able to provide unmatched experiences. 

Ben Hutchings, Consumer Direct Marketing Marketplace Director, explains: “Our Store Athletes are integral to the business but they are also amazing humans, with incredible talents and passion. We wanted to work with BMB to draw out that humanity and show that coming to a Nike store means more than just getting served a shoe in the right size; you get personal experience, passion and genuine love of sport too.”

The past 18 months have been particularly difficult for retail workers with many placed on furlough and left uncertain about the future. As the world reopened, they were amongst the first to return to work and their contributions were more noticeable than ever. For many, retail staff were the only people outside of their own bubble they would interact with. As we turn the spotlight inward to look at the individual people that make up a brand, the human element to retail shines through and audiences are reminded of the most crucial part of the high street: the people.

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