Chris Shimojima was brought in to steer the online business of Nike in 2006 – a position in which he oversees the direct-to-consumer digital sales of Nike and its sister brands, such as Converse and Hurley.
He recently spoke at ChannelAdvisor’s Catalyst event about how the company was generating business online through its Nike+ community and Nike iD, its system that allows shoppers to create customised trainers online and in store.
What have you been doing to restructure Nike’s e-commerce operations since you joined?
When I started, the organisation was organised around the regions. The European team had their e-commerce effort and the US had their effort. Even though there was some common IT infrastructure to support them, there was no synchronised global strategy about how we should be attacking e-commerce. We also had the same thing with the sister brands.
Organisationally, we flipped it to where we have region and brand-facing organisations, but I created a global centre of excellence team to provide e-commerce expertise that could be leveraged across the world.
What the regions and brands are responsible for are the consumer facing functions. But the infrastructure driven responsibilities reside globally – IT, operations, site experience, the navigational structure and content development.
How far are you through that process and how has it worked out?
We are still evolving into that role so I think the model is the right one. We still need to build out that structure to make it work.
What presence do you have in Europe now?
For Europe, we are in 15 countries, both for Nike iD and e-commerce. We launched the e-commerce function a year ago in January. It’s doing very well. iD has been in Europe for three years and we are very happy with it.
How do you balance your online aims with those of your retail partners?
This is where we are different from pure-play retailers. We need to drive direct e-commerce but we also need to make sure that we create an experience that supports the brand.
The first objective is to make sure that when customers come looking for a Nike product, we are able to convince them to buy Nike, whether they go to Nike online, one of our stores or a wholesale store.
Will you become more open when it comes to selling through partners on the web?
We take a very tight relationship with our sales teams in each market. We want to have a very rational strategy. We don’t want to open up to everybody. One of the downsides of the internet is it is a very transparent channel. We need to be very careful about how we open up.
In your experience, what is working and what isn’t when it comes to marketing via social networks?
Nike is very active in making sure we have the right digital channels cultivated. But we are still learning. I don’t think we have quite cracked the code yet. Social networks are a growing channel and we need to understand it better.
You have to have an idea of a product story that matches your core market. Start with the right product, listen to your customers, test and learn.
How has Second Life worked for you?
I’m not qualified to talk about that as I wasn’t involved.
Has it delivered results?
It’s a lot more hype than reality.
Your site is very Flash heavy. How does that affect your accessibility, search engine friendliness and general site performance?
There are some limitations, absolutely. We are looking at the whole execution of it. We got a little bit too technology oriented without really thinking about the other collateral benefits or disadvantages with Flash.
It’s something we have to be a bit more mindful about – performance, for example.
Are you looking to build more HTML into it?
What are your thoughts on mobile? Do you see it as a viable sales channel?
Absolutely. But you have to do it the right way. We don’t have the right application yet to be mobile commerce enabled but that is on the horizon.
Do you have any advice on acquiring budget internally?
Our business is great in the sense in that the marketing dollars we spend, we know exactly how much money we are getting off of that. If I am asking for money from my corporation, I will always be able to tell them what returns you can get.
But you have to keep improving the productivity – you have to get smarter and make sure you are spending it the right way.