By Tom Pollock, Senior Manager, GreenBlue

Who knew all that goes into a shoebox? At SPC Advance 2016, Elizabeth Blackwell (Nike) and Demaree Raveaux, (OIA Global,) explored the meaning and expectations a shoebox has for customers and how Nike has balanced these expectations with sustainable packaging goals. Nike’s approach to cutting-edge design, industry leadership, and influence in the marketplace means, as Demaree explained, that a study in the evolution of the shoebox is, in fact, the evolution of the Nike shoebox.

At Nike they have a saying: “There is no finish line.” This company motto also applies to the design of a Nike shoebox; constantly evolving to meet multiple requirements including basic functional tasks, communication with the customer, providing the important “reveal,” and aligning with Nike’s sustainability goals.

In terms of functionality, the shoebox must perform a number of tasks at the beginning of the supply chain including the  ability to ship the box flat before the shoes are inserted,constructed the shoebox in a small space, and be put the shoebox together without  the use any glue. From there, a the shoebox is designed to move something that is not square – the shoes – easily through a global supply chain, while protecting this merchandise on its journey, and once at the store, make stacking and identification in the “back of house” easy,  and finally, have a clean look in the “front of house.”

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Once the shoebox runs the gauntlet of functionality requirements through the supply chain, its next requirement is to capitalize on the opportunity to talk to the customer at the store. As the presenters explained, it is the first experience the customer has with the shoe and it is an opportunity to showcase Nike’s world-renowned brand voice . A good example? I think there are more than a few people who still get excited to see this box.

Another job that the shoebox is hired to do is one that, I had not expected, but apparently has a strong following on YouTube: the reveal. After the shoes go through the supply chain, make a great first impression on the customer,the next step is where the shoebox “reveals” the merchandise that is so special. The way the lid opens, how the shoes fit, how they look at that moment – those are all part of the shoebox’ job.

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And, finally, we get to sustainability. On top of these other requirements, Nike and OIA Global put an incredible amount of time, innovation, and resources to making their shoebox more sustainable. The above timeline depicts,shoebox dimensions and weights have changed over time. As Nike has experimented and tested customer reactions you can see just how much effort goes into balancing customer expectations and sustainability goals (which is also a customer expectation).

Finally, both Liza and Demaree explained, Nike thinks of sustainability a bit differently these days – it is a source of innovation not just a nice to have. Looking forward, some interesting things Nike is thinking about are ideas like less waste, turning plastic bottles into thread, the afterlife of a shoebox, and if there will come a day when a shoebox not needed? All the while maximizing performance and minimizing impact.