How Nike Is Battling SNKRS App Bots, Focusing on Fairness: ‘We Know We Can Be Better’

The SNKRS app is a place where sneakerheads can shop the hottest looks from the Nike Inc. portfolio of brands from their cellphone. The platform, however, has faced its fair share of criticism from the sneaker community.

Today, SNKRS VP and GM Lucy Rouse addressed media from Nike’s S23 Studio in New York City. The exec specifically detailed how the athletic giant is approaching fairness and transparency.

“We know we can be better. I’m going to say that straight up. But what we’re really proud of is the progress that we’ve made and the work that we’re doing,” Rouse said.

Working to mitigate the issue of bots and resellers is a priority of Nike, which it has stated publicly. For instance, the company updated its Terms of Sale last October, stating said it reserves the right to cancel orders, charge restocking fees, limit purchase quantities and deny access to Nike products to any customer that appears to be purchasing products with the intent to resell. Also, Nike said it can cancel any order if it appears to be made through an automated ordering service or if it exceeds product purchase limits.

And tackling this issue isn’t a new pursuit. Most notably, Nike Inc. president and CEO John Donahoe addressed the company internally in March 2021 about the fairness of limited sneaker launches. (The story was first reported by Complex.) During the meeting, Donahoe reportedly said Nike Inc. has “been working on anti-bot technology for the last several years,” also stating that this is just “part of the solution” and that the company needs to double down on its efforts.

Before revealing what has been done to rectify the bot issue and what the future holds, Rouse detailed what Nike faces when it comes to its launches. The exec said the company’s bot mitigation systems have a 98% success rate of attacking bots, and every month, Nike gets roughly 12.8 billion calls trying to game the SNKRS app. Rouse also said up to 50% of the entries on every high-heat launch can be bots.

“In any month, we can experience bad actors trying to scrape the back end of our platform to find out what launch dates are, and we now have challenges with third-party vendors,” Rouse said. “The amount of traffic that we get — and that’s both bots and actual keen, energetic, excited users — is huge. The reality of that is sometimes we do have new and unexpected bugs.”

Rouse said these tech issues have gone down in the past year, however there have been some that have riled up consumers. Most notably, the recent botched restock of the Air Jordan 1 High “Lost and Found,” which prevented consumers from submitting a payment for the sneakers. This restock took place late-April.

“A problem arose because we had a challenge with a third-party scaling issue, which prevented us from being able to handle the level of traffic we had for that particular launch,” Rouse explained. “We have a triage team who are on this faster than you can keep pressing resubmit. In this instance, we went back to the vendor, we identified the issue, we put in amended processes, amended checklists, launch readiness.”

Rouse said Nike was confident given the uniqueness of the Air Jordan 1 High “Lost and Found” situation and the processes put in place that the problem would be solved for the next big launch.

“We did the AJ1 Travis [Scott ‘Olive’] launch a week later and that went off absolutely seamlessly. And bear in mind, Travis Scott is, without fail, the most entries we ever get,” the exec said.

In terms of transparency with its, Rouse detailed what Nike has done and what the company is trying to achieve. These efforts include sharing info via Inside SNKRS last November on the app, outlining what it is doing to fight bots. Also, the company recently rolled out a bot mitigation screen for the launch of a product that Rouse said showcases what it is doing to look for bots.

“What we’re constantly trying to do is provide enough information so that we’re giving consumers confidence, but not give too much information because that can result in it being leveraged to botters,” Rouse said. “It’s a real balance, one that we’re [always] trying to navigate.”

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