Brand Prix, Features

Adidas vs. Nike: Who Won the Race to Retention Excellence?

PostFunnel introduces its Brand Prix series: the competition in overall retail communication performance. First up: The two sportswear giants

Rebecca Wojno
March 03 2018

After weeks of pouring over emails, tracking ads, and mapping out our purchases (okay, scrolling through the site to see what would look right at home with our wardrobes) we’re thrilled to present our first ‘Brand Prix’! With no further ado, let’s dive in:


In this series, PostFunnel will follow two competing brands to assess their customer marketing performance. For each case study, we’ll enact a customer journey with the respective brands, documenting every customer interaction that was sent to our testers and give professional inputs and insights from our experience with the brands.

The Companies

For our first round, we choose two of the biggest global athletic apparel and equipment companies: Nike and Adidas.

Nike is a design, development, and manufacturing corporation that markets and sells athletic equipment, sportswear, accessories, and services.

As the largest sportswear manufacturer in Europe, Adidas designs, manufactures, and sells sportswear, equipment, and accessories.

May the best retainer win!


For this first article, our two female testers were given up to $500 to spend with the brand. They then engaged with the brand for the duration of six weeks on a few platforms. The PF editorial team then grades the performance based on personalization, user experience and overall engagement on all life cycle stages. Each brand is scored in each life cycle stage out of 10 possible points, with an average final score.

Welcome Visitors!

The first action we took was to log onto Adidas’ website from a desktop. Almost immediately, we received a pop up advertising a 15% discount if we signed up for the newsletter. While a common practice in e-commerce marketing strategies, the discount incentive is effective nonetheless. We signed up for the newsletter and received a nice confirmation email.

That same day, we browsed Adidas’ Gazelle and Stan Smith shoes, and received a series of ‘you may like’ emails as well as a targeted Facebook post featuring the very shoes we’d browsed. The brand earned a few more points with their timely and sophisticated newsletter pop up and targeted Facebook post. Adidas used their data and showed us the same models we were browsing before we became a new customer. Their personalized ad ensures we wouldn’t forget the shoes we looked at, which increases the likelihood of a purchase. A win for all.

During our first visit to Nike’s site, we browsed the women’s section. Unlike Adidas’ immediate call to action, there were no communications from Nike during or immediately after the site visit. Although brands should avoid bombarding first-time visitors with pop ups, on our end, their lack of engagement isn’t ideal motivation for a future purchase.

Two days after our initial visit into Adidas’ website, we paid them another visit and this time added four items into our cart: a skirt, leggings, t-shirt and a visor, all from the women section, but  left the site without checking out. The next day, we received two general marketing emails, none of which mentioned our cart abandonment – this was a missed opportunity for the brand to gently remind their newly registered customer to follow through with their purchase.

When we returned to our cart two days later, it was empty. This is a huge marketing and customer experience blunder, that cost Adidas a full point. Not only is this aggravating for us, the customer, but it’s just bad form as a brand. No new customer wants to click through all their items again, especially if they added more than one into the cart.

We landed on Nike’s site two days after our first visit, and clicked around the women’s sportswear category. While exploring the website, we received a pop up asking us to sign up for the newsletter. We completed the registration and returned to the site where a “You Might Also Like” pop up appeared, suggesting three products we had already engaged with. This was a timely data-based nudge into making the purchase.

During the same visit, Nike sent us an email confirming our signup and encouraging us to become a “Nike Member.” We looked through some sports bras and added a pair of shoes to our cart, and then left the site for the day. The next day, we returned as a guest and the cart was still full, a great win for Nike. We decided to join Nike+ and subsequently received free shipping, an add-on we’ll always welcome. Once we completed our order, we received a confirmation email for the Roshe Two Breathe Women’s shoe totaling $100.

Visitor Stage Score: Adidas 7/10, Nike 7.5/10

Dear New Customers

In our next visit with Adidas, we added a tee, a skirt, and a black dress to our cart and completed the purchase, totaling $100. Following checkout, Adidas sent us an order confirmation along with a request to fill out a survey. The survey, which asked us about our experience, was short and to the point – a savvy move on the retailer’s end both for gathering data and for creating a reciprocal environment with the customer.

During the week following our first purchase, Adidas’ new customer received a couple of interesting marketing messages: we were targeted again with a marketing email, but the recommendations were for men. Up until this point, we had only browsed and purchased from the women’s section, so it was clear we weren’t the right audience for this effort. Adidas should have directed their marketing efforts towards their female customer instead.

Another abnormality? Although up to that point we had only given out our work email, three days after the purchase we received an email offer for 15% off our next purchase to a personal email account. The fact that Adidas could track private information is certainly worth noting as a possible invasion of privacy. This slightly off putting blunder cost Adidas a few points.

Five days after completing our first purchase from Nike, we received an email asking us to download the app. We already gotten this email and downloaded the app, so we made note of the poor personalization.

We later opened several marketing emails from the brand, none of which related to our browsing history or our purchase. The unrelated content appeared generic and made it clear that Nike doesn’t shy away from mass email blasts. On the bright side, these emails did introduce new products, a marketing strategy that keeps the brand front of mind, but all and all, the brand didn’t really provide us with a unique experience.

Not long after learning that Adidas got a hold of our private email, we received similar promotional emails to both of our email accounts, a further marketing misstep. Here, it’s not so much the content, but the fact that we opened the same message twice. For a customer, this comes across as unorganized and confusing.

During this time span, we also received our package, four days after ordering. Adidas kept up their efforts to convert us into an active customer through a second purchase. On the second week following our first purchase, we received an invitation via email to design our own look, providing the opportunity to interact with the site and create a custom product. In another pleasant surprise, during this week, Adidas sent us three emails offering a discount; two for 15% off, and one for 20%.

The company also sent us a personalized ‘we’re waiting to hear from you’ email, asking to rate our newly purchased Trefoil tee and top — a move that showed Adidas’ considerable effort to turn a new customer into an active customer by offering discounts and asking for feedback. Spoiler alert: The discounts worked.

Three weeks into our journey with Nike, we browsed several types of products including the Air Vapormax Shoes. On the following day, Nike sent us an email introducing the Air Vapormax design, which enticed us enough to check it out again on their site. Whether it was the copy, visuals, or timeliness of the email, the brand succeeded in directing us towards this particular product.

This time, we added six items to our cart before abandoning it and leaving the website. In the following days, Nike sent us two additional emails that neglected to mention our unfulfilled purchase and abandoned cart. What they did mention, however, was that the brand was showcasing additional styles.

When we returned to our cart the next afternoon, it was saved. Unfortunately, during the payment process, we had trouble using our account and our experience with Nike’s customer support was very slow and very inefficient. The items themselves were shipped after five days.

New Stage Score: Adidas 7.5/10, Nike 7/10

Active and Kicking

Three weeks after our initial purchase with Adidas, and with $400 left to spend, we began browsing for items, adding a knit tank to our cart. The next day, we received a marketing email promoting a special collaboration with the FARM Company, to both our professional and personal accounts. There was no mention of our pending cart. And, yet again, when we went back to the site, the cart from the previous day wasn’t saved.

For our second round of purchases we bought several items, including the Gazelle shoes. That same day, we opened an email from Adidas: “thank you for dropping by,” but in this email, they suggested the Gazelle shoes we had just purchased. While Adidas had been collecting data on through multiple platforms (surveys, browsing and purchase data, newsletter signups), they failed to personalize their communications. Not a great was to promote engagement.

When we paid another visit to Nike’s site, the cart was still saved, so we went ahead and completed our order. They sent a confirmation email for items totaling $399.73. In the days following our purchase, we received additional promotional emails for shoes and sports bras.

Nike sent us a five promotional emails in the five days following our purchase. One of those marketing communications featured Nike’s men’s products—clearly irrelevant.

In the following days, we saw a sponsored Facebook ad featuring Adidas’ Climacool running shoes, an email confirming our purchase, as well as several other emails: Featuring supermodel Karlie Kloss to both personal and professional accounts, an announcement informing us of their new athletics apparel and… An email sent to both accounts about the new NMD Collection drop.

Four days later, we received a Facebook ad that featured the items we already purchased. After a couple more days, the brand sent us an email asking to rate the new items.

Nike’s last correspondence—six weeks after our first visit– was a marketing email for the Air Huarache shoes.

Active Stage ScoreAdidas 8/10, Nike 7/10

The Final Verdict

So, six weeks of testing, buying and communicating with the brands are done. Our testers received together 67 transactions from both companies, documented each one, every mail and ad, so we were able to go over to our lab, and come up with these insightful info-graphics (note that some of the transactions we got have been classified in more than one category):

This is a narrow win for Adidas, despite two major faux pas: the empty cart and the use of the personal email that was not given during these transactions. At the very end, it was their personalization efforts that nabbed them the win. Throughout the entire process, it felt like Nike was doing the minimum, nothing more. The emails were fine and (mostly relevant), no major bloopers on the way, except maybe the poor customer service, but the experience as a whole felt impersonal.

Do you feel we should have crowned a different winner? Have an idea for our next competition? Join the discussion on twitter or Facebook by using the #BrandPrix hashtag.

Make sure you stay tuned for our next Brand-Prix in the upcoming weeks!

Rebecca Wojno

Rebecca is a marketing content writer and copy editor. Aside from writing about the importance of customer retention, she spends her time searching for good Mexican food and watching "Suits" reruns.

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