Chronicle of a Tweenage Shopper

Chronicle 00 In July of last year we celebrated my son’s twelfth birthday with the gift of a $100 Nike gift card. Sawyer has always had a preoccupation with athletic footwear, so I naively thought this would be a simple process.  The journey started with his constant review of the site and his frustration in the limited options that fit in his price range. After re-setting Sawyer’s expectation that a $175 customized NikeiD shoe was not going to happen, after his scouring every website to abide by his father’s ridiculous limitation and after visiting the Nike outlet store to try to find something to fit the needs of this burgeoning footwear fashionista and the laughably rigid $100 budget of a dad who wants to somehow set some boundaries for this young man, he decided to wait and see what had in the pipeline for the holiday season. 

Admittedly, I continue to be amazed that my twelve-year old with an ever-growing foot can’t find a shoe in the two-figure range that he can live with for the next six months, which is the life span of a shoe at that age. Footwear for a twelve year old is an expression of his personal brand; and little did I know, he had an entire network that was anxiously awaiting his footwear selection.

So, weeks passed, Christmas came and went and last weekend I found myself in a precarious position.  My son was already back in school and had not yet debuted new kicks, and my wife was more than tired of hearing the argument.  So, out we went to resolve this issue, each of us with our own agenda. What I discovered was that Sawyer was more prepared than me. He had been following Champs Sports and Footlocker on Instagram because he discovered that Nike was launching unique colors and designs at each store and they seemed to have more sizes in stock than  In the previous week, he received an update that the new Nike KD VI was arriving in stores the same weekend (which in retrospect makes me think this shopping adventure was a covert operation instigated by my son and impatient wife).

Chronicle 01As we entered the mall, Champs Sports was directly in front of us.  He quickly reviewed the options and asked to see the KD VI in his size.  It fit both our criteria: cool factor for Sawyer and a $99 price point for me. As Sawyer tried them on, he mentioned that he did not really notice the cool black on black pattern when he saw them online.  After compliments on his choice from the salesperson and a quick photo on his phone shot off to his best bud, Jacob, for confirmation of the cool factor, he decided these were a possibility and we asked for them to be held for us.  Off we went to Footlocker to see the other colors that he already knew they had on the floor.

Chronicle 02Sawyer walked up to the wall, scoured the options and clicked a picture with his phone.  I asked him what he was doing and he responded that he liked both color options and wanted to know what his friends thought. He promptly posted a photo on Instagram for them to vote on the contenders.  Despite my knowledge of the significant impact of social media on millennial shopping decisions, I did an internal eye roll and wondered how I failed in raising a son that could not make his own decisions. He tried on the silver version and decided he didn’t like the color and pattern as well as he did when he saw it online.  His judgement was confirmed when the results of his Instagram survey came back.  The vote was 5 to 4 for the silver pair, but Sawyer decided on black, given that the boys were more heavily in the black camp.  At twelve, the opinion of the guys matters more.  I didn’t have the heart to break it to him that the opinion of women in his life would override in the future. Secretly, this Gen X dad envied his circle of friends that were engaged in his life and willing to comment on a pair of shoes.  I was genuinely surprised that nine friends responded so quickly to his request.

Chronicle 03We headed back to Champs Sports to buy the winning pair, as we felt some loyalty to the friendly sales staff that helped us with our selection.  With both of us satisfied with the purchase, we moved on with a stop by the store I wanted to visit.  As we entered the next store, our omnichannel adventure continued when Sawyer announced he was going to put on his new shoes and promptly dropped to the floor, hidden in a sea of fixtures.  I walked over and caught him arranging the shoes on the top of the box.  He said he needed to post a photo of his new shoes for his friends–his personal celebration of his purchase. I found it interesting that his first priority was to close the loop with his friends, but it seemed to him to be a natural step in the process.

Chronicle 04As I thought back on his shopping adventure, I realized that my son engaged equally with touchpoints both inside and outside the store. I recall him browsing online through site after site and equally engaging in store as he wandered the aisles comparing and contrasting all the options. I watched him respond to the sales staff who validated his decision and confirmed his fashion sense and reaching out for the same validation from his network. Sawyer turned the showrooming model on it’s head by browsing online and purchasing in store.  He had heard that the KD VI’s fit was different than other shoes, had read online that some people found them uncomfortable and was unsure of the color choice.  So, he always planned to see them live before purchasing. This personal adventure confirmed for me that winning retail merges experiences across real and virtual platforms to connect with consumers, regardless of age, with relevant information in the format that means the most to them.  We can’t underestimate the power of young shoppers and their expectations for consistent, complementary communication to close the sale.

One Response to Chronicle of a Tweenage Shopper

  1. benwilliams says:

    Rob, I love your perspective. I really enjoyed this post. Please pass on my congratulations to Sawyer for his thorough research and review-based decision making skills. Although, I’m sure I could just do that in the equivalent of finding him on Instagram and double tapping the photo of his shoes.

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