Aldo Agostinelli

President of eBay Marketplaces from 2005 to 2015, president of PayPal Holdings from  2008 to 2015 and, finally, since 2017, president of ServiceNow, an American company specialized in cloud computing, listed on New York stock exchange and member of the Russel 1000 Index. And, starting from next January, president and Managing Director of Nike. John Donahoe is not a technician, he is a super-technician who is going to run a fashion group.

But what has technology got to do with fashion? Everything, at present. And Donahoe is actually an expert in it more than in shoes and sportswear. He understands the importance of data and customers’ targeting, he knows how e-commerce works and he knows how to develop it. Above all, he understands that retailing and physical stores would be short-lived should they fail to integrate with the digital world, without a renewed customer experience.

Over the last few years, on the other hand, Nike has been boosting the digital transformation both online and offline. In 2018 it took over Zodiac, a company dealing with data analysis. A few months ago, instead, it took over Celect, a company specializing in predictive analysis. The purpose of such moves is clear: collecting customers’ data, analyze them and use them to develop the user experience throughout the whole customer journey (Why Nike selected a tech executive as its next CEO).

Commerce is in need for some e-leaders to reach into the future

If the target is to implement a new app and allow customers to use it also inside physical stores, while expanding the digital eco-system alongside the traditional, physical one and integrating the real and the virtual world, taking on board a tech-geek with a foresight is the right move.

Far from being a long shot, it can be seen as a logical choice. In a world which keeps changing and evolving within which new technologies are playing an increasingly important role ( actually the role of the protagonists ), old patterns crumble and fall and categories which applied to the last century are now obsolete.

If, in the past, someone who sold sweaters was expected to be knowledgeable about cotton and wool and could be less skilled in using a cashier, nowadays people in charge of expanding businesses need to reach into the future and picture a scenario which needs to be built starting from now. These new technical figures must be savvy about technology and informatics. They must be synonymous to e-leadership.

And this applies to every sector. Nike is not the first brand to follow this trend. Let’s take the Starbucks Corporation as an example: in 2017, instead of hiring an expert of food and beverages, they selected Kevin R. Jonson, a veteran of the Silicon Valley – a member of Microsoft first and of Juniper Networks then, as their new CEO (Nike Dips as It Doubles Down on Tech With Pick of Ex-EBay CEO).

Stores are hubs

Physical retail is going through a revolution. Shops are expected to become hubs blending digital and real experiences. Nowadays customers buy things online and pick them up in stores; try thing up in stores and buy them online.  Wherever the customer experience starts, the process is expected to be fast, efficient and satisfactory to be completed in the most suitable dimension, whether real or virtual. Those who believe they can ask their customers to make their purchases like their predecessors would have done it, is wrong and is bound to disappear.

Nike has been aware of it for years, now. The company is building a reputation as the tech company of the streetwear market and intends to keep communicating and appealing to  Millennials and Gen Zs. This is why they have invested on direct sales, online sales and mobile sales through its “SNKRS” and “Nike” apps. And this is why its new flagship stores have been designed to integrate with smartphone apps (Nike’s new CEO is set to double down on the company’s success selling online. Here’s what analysts are saying about John Donahoe).

If the digital transformation is the way to get new customers, the one leading them must be a visionary, or better, an e-leader.

Do you think that your company CEO and managers who are in charge of the digital transformation can become good e-leaders? Tell me your experience by tweeting @agostinellialdo.

To find out more about the digital world, you may read my latest book entitled: “People Are Media” 

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Aldo Agostinelli