Nike, the world’s biggest sports brand, is to discontinue its run club app from July in China, according to an official statement on 8 June, addressing the app’s 8 million+ users in Nike’s most profitable market. The move has added to the list of foreign brands retreating from mainland China, including the most recent departure of Airbnb, and Amazon is set to phase out its Kindle e-bookstore in China by 2023.
The announcement did not provide a detailed explanation as to the decision other than stating that all app services and operations will end from 8 July. It also acknowledged that all Garmin sports smart devices will stop synchronising with immediate effect on the announcement day and dedicated support assisting user data export is available upon request.
However, these intentions are being seen as downplaying the seriousness of the action with a spokesperson from Nike suggesting that an “enhanced and localised” solution will be introduced to engage with runners in the concerned market, as per Reuters.
On the other hand, it also emerged that the move is part of Nike’s wider project of digital transformation in China. The Chinese media outlet The Paper indicated that the halting of app operations is “temporary” to allow the company to transfer relevant data and research resources from its US server to its innovation centre in the Chinese city of Shenzhen, with objectives ranging from building digital platforms and online payment, to AI, machine learning and digital warehouse management.
It is also understood that an online service upgrade will be rolled out this July across Nike’s digital platforms in China, including the Nike App, SNKRS App Chinese version (which is dedicated to sales of Nike’s limited-edition sneakers), and its official website Nike.com. In addition, the brand is also expected to invest more in upscaling its ecosystem on Tencent’s super messaging app WeChat, which includes the brand’s official mini-program and a complimentary mini-program Nike Training Club (NTC), a community providing professional fitness training for China’s workout enthusiasts.