Nike execs can't stop saying one word, and it reveals the future of the company

  • Nike's chairman and CEO, Mark Parker, and its CFO, Andy Campion, together said the words "digital" or "digitally" 69 times during a conference call announcing the company's most recent quarterly results on Thursday. 
  • That frequency is up substantially from the third quarter's call, when executives mentioned digital 42 times, and the second quarter, when they mentioned it 36 times.
  • Digital sales rose by 41% in the most recent quarter as Nike continues to invest in new digital initiatives.

For Nike, the future is digital.

In fact, it's all the company's executives can talk about. Chairman and CEO Mark Parker and CFO Andy Campion together said the words "digital" or "digitally" 69 times during a conference call announcing the company's most recent quarterly results on Thursday.

That frequency is up substantially from the third quarter's call, when executives mentioned digital 42 times, and the second quarter, when they mentioned it 36 times.

Parker, Campion, and the rest of the Nike team have good reason to be excited about digital. It's one of the brightest spots in Nike's business right now. Nike's online sales were up 41% for the fourth quarter, boosting the company to a 13% sales increase overall.

"We saw acceleration in digital that quite frankly exceeded even our own expectations," Campion said on the call.

This acceleration comes as Nike continues to evolve its business to sell directly to its customers, including through its online stores, which accounted for 90% of the quarter's sales growth.

Nike has thrown its considerable weight behind digital as it strives to keep growing.

"Our digital offense is transforming Nike from how we connect with consumers to how we deliver products," Parker said on the call. "This is a major shift from operating models of the past to a new digitally powered model of the future."

Parker said that Nike is continuing to invent new ways to combine digital and retail, and that it will "fundamentally" shift the entire company. What's driving it is Nike's membership programs, like Nike Plus, which gathers data on customer buying patterns and preferences.

"Digital is allowing us to realize our vision for smart retail, to remove friction and personalize experiences through the intersection of digital and physical environments," Parker said. 

As an example, he said that Nike is planning a new retail store called Nike Live, which is a "small-format, data-driven store with an assortment influenced by what consumers are buying from surrounding zip codes."

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