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  • Writer's pictureCory Gill

The Power of Customer Learning: A Lesson from Nike and Apple that can Transform your Shopify Store

Updated: Aug 21

Effectively educating store visitors is invaluable for any business, but especially in eCommerce. Notably, after a customer reads a brand’s educational content, they are 131% more likely to purchase.

Customer learning, however, is an incredibly broad umbrella under which exists the opportunity to focus on numerous aspects of the business. This can include a brand’s story and origins, founders, products, manufacturing processes, sustainability initiatives, and much more. Even within these different areas you can produce a significant amount of content on more granular subjects. For example, within product education you can demonstrate different use cases, unique features, differentiation from competitors, or tutorials.

While talking to an online store owner recently, they spoke of one of their problems saying:

“...if only I could take 5 minutes to explain the uniqueness of what I’m doing, then more customers would get the value of it and make a purchase…”

This notion of having the opportunity to storytell and communicate the uniqueness of your brand and products has helped revolutionize and massively boost prominent names in the retail industry, including Apple and Nike. Here are two stories where that 5 minutes (or so 🙂) of customer education completely changed the course of these brand’s trajectory and growth:

In 1976, shortly after launching the Apple I computer, Steve Wozniak attended the Homebrew Computer Club, a gathering of computer enthusiasts in Silicon Valley. At the meeting, Wozniak showcased the Apple I, and it caught the attention of Paul Terrell, the owner of a small computer store called The Byte Shop.

Terrell was impressed by the Apple I and saw its potential after Wozniak educated him on the product. He placed an order for 50 units, even though the computers weren't fully assembled at the time. This order marked a turning point for Apple, as it gave them the resources they needed to mass-produce the Apple I and fulfill the order.

Terrell not only placed a substantial order but also provided valuable feedback on the design and features of the Apple I. He suggested that the computer be fully assembled, with a keyboard and power supply, which ultimately led to the creation of the Apple II—the company's breakthrough product that truly kicked off the personal computer revolution.

Steve Wozniak with the Apple I

The second story occurred in the early 1960s, when Phil Knight, who was a passionate runner and a business student at Stanford University, took a trip to Japan. He discovered a brand of low-cost, high-quality running shoes manufactured by Onitsuka Tiger (now ASICS). Recognizing the potential to introduce these shoes to the American market, Knight began importing them to the United States.

Back in the U.S, Knight was traveling to different track and field competitions looking to sell Tiger sneakers as their main distributor on the West Coast. On his journey, he stopped by to visit Bill Bowerman, his former track and field coach at the University of Oregon, and a renowned innovator in athletic footwear. After explaining and educating Bill on his plan and the shoes, Bowerman was convinced to not only have his runners wear them, but also to partner with him in growing a company called Blue Ribbon Sports (BRS).

Together, Bowerman and Knight went on to create the iconic Nike Waffle Trainer, featuring the innovative waffle sole for enhanced grip and cushioning. The partnership of Bowerman and Knight, forged through education, and the success of the Nike Waffle Trainer marked a turning point for the company. In 1971, BRS officially became Nike. The company's focus on innovation, performance, and athlete-centric design set it apart from traditional athletic shoe brands.

Nike Waffles original

In both of these companies’ cases, customer education and learning made a massive impact on their trajectory. Apple and Nike were on a much different path (even with completely different names!) before these two consequential moments in history. Effective customer education to the right set of potential customers led to a significant turning point in their business. Furthermore, the feedback they gathered from these customers led to their continued innovations. Wozniak received invaluable insights from Terrell which led to the Apple II, and Knight’s partnership with Bowerman led to the Waffle Trainer several years later. Both of these relationships were built through these beautiful moments of customer education that benefited both parties in innumerable ways.

Phil Knight and Bill Bowermann

Knowing this, how can eCommerce stores and retailers have similar moments through selling exclusively (or primarily) online? This is where Alia comes in.

Alia is an application listed on the Shopify App Store that allows businesses to educate their customers while rewarding them for this learning. This is done through interactive lessons embedded in your store that allow you to communicate your brand’s unique story and value through multimedia content. Here’s a video explaining more about Alia and how we've helped clients build new, profitable relationships with store visitors through customer learning:

On average, if a visitor completes an Alia lesson on one of our clients' stores, they have more than a 30% chance that they would make a purchase. With a lightning-quick installation process, easy-to-use lesson and reward creation, and a pricing model that only costs your business if we help to drive new sales, Alia is the best choice for educating your customers and boosting conversion in the process! Take a look at one of our recent case studies with MASC:

Just like with Steve Wozniak bringing the Apple I to Paul Terrell or Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman’s relationship, you too can improve customer learning through our engaging Alia lessons, while also gathering first-hand data and feedback from customers and store visitors, for example, asking about what features they like and dislike, what led them to the store in the first place. You can soon have enough insights and data to go and make your own “Apple II” or Nike waffle shoes, while increasing sales and conversions through education in the process!

Apple 2

If you’re interested in seeing how Alia can look on your store and what the power of educating potential customers for 5 minutes can do, sign-up for a custom demo with our founder, Shaan Arora:

And check us out on the Shopify App Store!

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