Nike Fuel Station: The future of retail?
Nike is hoping to change the way we shop. The shopping experience of the next decade is to be all about involving you, the customer, in a way that not even Apple does at the moment.
The Nike shop of the future is about reacting out to you, playing with you, even helping you - and that's before you've even touched or seen a product.
To demonstrate the new retail experience of the future, Nike has created a showcase store in London's Shoreditch.
It's the first of its kind in the world, and even though the Nike Fuel system isn't available in the UK yet, it is all about that.
Called the Fuel Station, the new store is located in the Boxpark mall off Shoreditch High Street, just seconds from the Tube station. Boxpark mall, an innovation in itself, is made from shipping containers. Stores can fill one or more of these containers and in the case of Nike it is spread across four.
That helps define the store while also giving it that cool vibe. Not that you could tell that it was a container when you walk in. Nike has decked this store out to impress all those who enter.
The first impressive moment is experienced when you walk in and head down a long corridor. The instant you step through the door a camera tracks your movement, turning the red interactive wall green as you move past it.
"It's all about showing off movement," a Nike spokeswomen told us. "We want you to feel as if you are involved."
It's a clever trick and one that you don't immediately notice until someone points it out or you catch it in the corner of your eye.
Get into the shop proper and you are presented with more toys and help stations. You've yet to see a product but are whisked into having a go at the fuel pod.
Powered by a Microsoft Kinect connected presumably to a PC, this area is designed to let you record yourself jumping up and down and having fun. The Kinect tracks your movements, recreates a silhouette made of thousands of pixels on the wall in front of you and goes from, you guessed it, red to green based on the amount of movement. At the end, if you give Nike your email address, you get an email with your 30-second clip and you can share, embed, or just watch your efforts. When was the last time you wanted to share your shopping experience, other than to complain?
But it's not just about games, there is shopping to be done too and the store is broken down into different areas for men and women - one container a piece. The store's design isn't in your face, there aren't racks upon racks of clothes or shoes stuffed in and it is well lit.
The walls are decked in wood, there are local scenes in the changing rooms that you would run along, while mirrors turn on and play inspirational videos of famous Nike runners strutting their stuff.
Aside from the shoes, there are computer stations that look like those old arcade coffee tables you used to get in foreign hotel lobbies and are there to help users set-up the new Nike+ Fuel Band. Due out in May, these stations mean that if you buy a Fuel Band you will be set-up the moment you walk out of the shop. It's a great service and one that will benefit many who are unsure and want some guidance.
With only a handful of shelves ,you quickly realise that this store doesn't stock everything and to counteract that there are half a dozen iPads on the wall ready to double up as an interactive catalogue for you to check out the latest shoe. All the staff carry an iPad - in specially designed back pouch - so you can ask them questions and they will have the answer. If it's not about buying something they can share local running routes with you or - just a little over the top - help their sales pitch with a bit of augmented reality.
Out comes a QR beer mat and within seconds you are seeing how a Nike shoe is made and what bit does what, while you get to move the iPad around for good measure. It is bound to get wows but why Nike couldn't just use the parts of a real shoe is beyond us.
The final pod features a treadmill and a series of cameras that will record you running. The information is then automatically beamed to the store attendant's iPad and that means you get to see how you run. The room doubles as a free physio room on running nights for people to seek advice on running ailments.
"It's about building a sense of community," one of the salesmen tells us.
To Nike, which is using the Shoreditch Fuel Station as a test bed for UK retail, the future of shopping isn't about shopping it is about sharing. It is about building a community, it is about creating a destination whereby even if you don't buy anything you want to become the brand. It has grasped the fact, like Apple, that high street shops are just one way of selling.