Nike is one of the few companies whose found success in stopping automated purchasing bots.
Have you ever tried to buy a coveted sneaker on release day, multiple different retailer webpages open as you wait to refresh the page right when the shoe becomes available? This is a familiar scenario for many sneakerheads, and its become an increasingly fruitless exercise. The culprit? Bots.
Highsnobiety has a pretty in-depth look at how bots work, and how they’re forcing retailers to quickly adapt so that regular fans of the brands can get access to product without being computer-savvy. Essentially, purchasing bots imitate bots that web developers use to test whether their checkout process is working correctly. The bot finds the product ID, adds the item to the cart, and then checks out in a matter of milliseconds, much faster than any human could. In some cases, bots can put the product into their cart before its even available for purchase, skipping right to the ‘confirm purchase’ step while everyone else is still picking their size.
The onus is on retailers to fix this problem. Nike has done the best job so far (sorry adidas) with their SNKRS mobile app, as lottery-based systems are so far the only fool-proof way to foil these bots. END, a small UK retailer, has a similar system in place that seems to be working so far.
Despite the hoopla surrounding bots, it’s easy overlook the other factors that have played into bots ascendance and effectiveness. Many of the most coveted sneakers get snapped up by boutique employees or friends in backdoor deals meant to profit off of the resell market, which takes them out of circulation before even bots can get to them. On top of that, many retailers won't do anything because they're still making sales, regardless if those sales are happening due to human clicks or bots.
The most effective and traditional way of preventing bots, in-person sneaker line-ups, have gone extinct after cities began cracking down on them. The iconic around-the-block Supreme lines are not even legal anymore, leaving the bot-ridden online world as the only way for stores to sell sneakers that have become an investment and a commodity.