December 26, 2000, 9:55 AM

Led by retail adventurer Mary Kate Buckley, Nike explores the wilds of selling online

(Page 2 of 2)

Phase one of the Web site rollout is a logistical testing period, and Buckley is working to assure that distribution is up and running before Nike begins to offer a broad range of products online. (A Web site showcasing the Alpha line was introduced last December, and Nike added the shopping functionality in February.)

Things haven’t gone entirely smoothly. The company has had to resort to manual systems to make sure customers got their products. Access problems have plagued the site as well. Many potential visitors could not log onto the Web site, and some who did access the site found it to be slow-footed and cumbersome.

Nike experienced a few technical problems with the site during the early days, especially getting different software to work together, Buckley admits. But the first phase of the Web site roll out was meant to be a testing period. As a buffer to retailers, for instance, it quickly added a store locator online.

Meanwhile, Nike’s online team is constantly gathering data about how people use the site, and staff members meet frequently to share ideas and update one another, says Buckley, who devotes nearly all her energies to Nike.com. “With the Web site, we are making a bunch of assumptions, going out to test them, analyzing the results and then adapting quickly.”

After initial research suggested that some people were still reluctant to give their credit card numbers over the Web, the online team decided to include an 800 number customers could call to place orders-only they buried it within a customer service tool bar. When no one called the toll-free number, staff moved it to the home page. Now, telephone orders account for 25% of online sales.

“I learn something every day,” Buckley says. “To be in e-commerce, you have to have some element of vision, some comfort level with being without a lot of hard-core information, and you have to be willing to learn and adapt.”

Thinking globally

Nike presently sells its products through retailers in more than 100 countries, and its e-commerce ambitions are similarly global in scale. “We have relationships with retailers all over the world,” Buckley explains. “We can’t just sell from here and undercut our retailers outside of the United States.”

The ultimate success of selling shoes online may depend on where someone lives-even within the United States. “Shoes are notorious for not fitting properly,” says Bob Wischnia, managing editor of Runner’s World magazine, Emmaus, Pa. “The sizing is sometimes off, and you just don’t know how a shoe will fit until you try it on. That’s obviously one of the biggest obstacles to online shoe sales. On the other hand, if you don’t have a running store within 50 or 60 miles, then the Internet is a good avenue.”

Nike’s biggest advantage may be that its brand message should transfer well. “They have done a phenomenal job developing their brand for television,” Cassar says. “On the Internet, they will be in an even better position because their advertisements push activity. They tell you to do something.”

In other words, “Just buy it.”

MargaretAnn Cross is a business writer in Allentown, Pa.

Mary Kate

Buckley

- Experience

March 1998-present: Director of new ventures, Nike Inc.

July 1997-March 1998: Director of new ventures, The Walt Disney Co., Disney Consumer Products (Europe, Middle East and Africa).

November 1996-June 1997: Director of retail development and marketing, The Walt Disney Co. (Asia Pacific) Ltd.

October 1994-October 1996: Director of corporate development and senior manager of business development, The Walt Disney Co. (Asia Pacific) Ltd.

April 1993-September 1994: Marketing manager, The Walt Disney Co. (Asia Pacific) Ltd.

August 1987-March 1993: Manager of finance and administration, senior financial analyst and financial administrator; The Walt Disney Co.

March 1985-July 1987: Systems and financial analyst, Doremus and Co.

March 1983-March 1985: Assistant media director, media planner and assistant media planner; Grey Advertising.

- Education MBA in marketing and international management, Stern School of Business Administration, New York University. B.A. in economics and English, College of the Holy Cross.

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