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This past February we announced the results of our 2016 Customer Loyalty Engagement Index. It’s a 100% customer-derived predictive view of how 635 brands will be treated by consumers in the future.

Eleven of those brands fall into the Athletic Footwear category, a class of clothing that’s been transformed by customer expectations and brand innovation, although it’s kind of a nose-to-nose race as to what’s driving which one.

The customer expectation part of the equation has to do with the fact that consumers are looking for “Performance Optimization Via Innovation,” the 2nd most important engagement driver of the category’s four, and the one for which consumers hold the highest expectations in the category. And when we look at how the brands’ own customers see them in terms of meeting their expectations for that driver, the top-5 ranked like this:

  1. Nike
  2. Under Armour
  3. New Balance
  4. Adidas
  5. Skechers

The innovation part falls to the brands themselves. So we weren’t totally surprised when, a month later, Nike unveiled their HyperAdapt 1.0 semi-self-lacing sneakers, a more-than-just-a-nod to the futuristic sneakers Marty McFly wore in “Back to the Future Part II,” although, except for a turquoise light emitted from the sole, they don’t really look like Nike Mags.

The new line of shoes – with a heel sensor that adjusts fit without having to adjust laces – is something Nike calls “Adaptive Lacing” (rather than “self-lacing”) because they can be adjusted via + and – buttons on the side of the shoe. The HyperAdapt 1.0 will be exclusively available to users of the Nike+ app in time for the winter holiday season.

Right now “Customization” (the 4th most-important engagement driver in the category) will be limited to black, gray, or white. As to “Brand Value” (a component of the 1st most-important category engagement driver), we’re betting the sky’s the limit when it comes to getting a pair of these babies! By the way, “Full Range of Shoes” is the 3rd most important driver, but since everyone pretty much has the same stuff – at least until Nike releases the HyperAdapt 1.0 and others follow with other versions of automated shoes – consumer expectations are currently pretty reasonable and pretty much table-stakes for major athletic footwear brands.

But since consumer expectations only grow, what are the brands to do next? Based on where category values are sprinting, it would seem that the next step in smart apparel is increased automation.

That means that brands will take data being tracked through smart watches, fitness bands, smart-clothing and all sorts of smart wearables and use it to create enhanced, innovative versions of athletic shoes that – on their own – fulfill consumers’ expectations for optimized performance. Imagine, a shoe that adjusts for fit and prevents laces from loosening or coming “untied,” to use the present vernacular.

What’s next? Who can tell? Although it’s been said that the future is only the past again, by entering through another doorway.

And sometimes, driving a modified DeLorean.


Find out more about what makes customer loyalty happen and how Brand Keys metrics is able to predict future consumer behavior: Visit our YouTube channel to learn more about Brand Keys methodology, applications and case studies.

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