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This article was published on August 8, 2019

Nike VP: The key to selling sneakers is emotion, and enhancing it with tech

Nike VP: The key to selling sneakers is emotion, and enhancing it with tech
Ailsa Sherrington
Story by

Ailsa Sherrington

Former Social Media Manager, TNW

Ailsa Sherrington is a former content marketer at TNW. Ailsa Sherrington is a former content marketer at TNW.

Whether you’re working for a major ecommerce site or a startup, understanding the future landscape of retail has become essential for success. Ron Faris, who has a strong background in building and designing unique digital experiences, has managed to capture a vast audience that now accounts for 20 percent of Nike’s digital sales. Previously, at our flagship annual event in Amsterdam, he shared how embracing the latest tech has played a vital role.

The SNKRS app

Faris is best known for his work at Nike, where he leads the team at s23NYC — the sport giant’s digital innovation studio responsible for the wildly popular SNKRS app. Through the latest AR tech, it offers consumers a platform to share their enthusiasm for Nike shoes, and creates immersive experiences for a chance to access limited edition styles.

In case you’re not a part of the sometimes fanatic “sneakerhead” community, it’s essentially become a must-have app for purchasing shoes.

Credit: Nike

When the app glitches out, fans can get extremely disgruntled. And when a new shoe is announced, they can be seen roaming the city streets to hunt down the virtual reality clues that they’ll need to unlock the purchase page in the app.

Turning engagement into sales

Not only has it become a fixture in the shoe scene, but SNKRS has also generated staggering sales for Nike. The app creates a seamless journey from casual interest to hitting the buy button, through simultaneously positioning itself as an online community and an ecommerce platform.

In a recent article by Quartz, CEO Mark Parker reportedly announced to investors that in this past fiscal year alone, “SNKRS more than doubled its business, doubled its number of monthly active users, and now accounts for roughly 20 percent of [Nike’s] overall digital business.”

So how did Ron Faris, who leads the team behind the SNKRS app, manage to build a platform that so perfectly engages such a profitable target audience?

Embracing the latest tech

In his TNW2018 keynote, Faris mentioned two key factors to its success: recognizing the emotional aspect of sneakers, and using the latest tech to enhance those feelings. Check out Faris’ full talk at our flagship event in Amsterdam to hear his story:


In his keynote, Faris explains that he transports the intense emotions that sneakerheads have about shoes to a mobile experience. His goal is to “bring the sneakerhead soul” to the SNKRS app – and he does it through following a social media tactic known as the tribal/cult model.

Around 20 percent of the fanbase on SNKRS consists of diehard fans, who serve as experts in the shoe game. Naturally, they drive the level of engagement seen on the app, and their extreme love for the products attracts the other 80 percent —  casual users who follow those experts for the latest information on limited edition drops. By building a platform that caters to even the least engaged consumer, it’s clear why the SNKRS app is raking in the revenue.

Augmented reality has also played a key role in its success. Sneakerheads need to hunt down clues in their physical environment, and when they find them, the app displays a cool 3D rendering of the shoe they unlocked in the user’s real world environment. “AR acts so powerfully here, as an incredible ‘surprise and delight’ moment for our customers,” said Faris.

If you’d like to hear more in-depth talks on how to prepare for the future of tech, make sure to join TNW2020 in Amsterdam on June 11 and 12. Early bird tickets are now available.