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Nike Doubles Down on Digital With Computer Vision Acquisition

Nike’s on a spending spree, doubling down on digital with the acquisition of computer-vision startup, Invertex.

At last year, the Israeli startup showed off its ScanMat, a deceptively simple innovation that combines artificial intelligence and 3-D to scan consumers’ feet in stores and facilitate the sizing end of the perpetually taxing shoe-shopping experience. It was the latest in the fashion-tech company’s efforts to unify online, offline and mobile shopping tools to gather rich consumer foot-fit data and help shoppers know definitively their best size. They can then save that size in a profile and use it for buying footwear online—where returns are traditionally, notoriously high. Zappos, for example, posted $100 million in returns in 2016 alone.

Invertex CEO David Bleicher said at that customers at the time included Zara, Adidas and Nike—and now the Portland, Ore.-based athletic apparel and footwear giant known for its trademark swoosh and “Just Do It” slogan has purchased the startup for an undisclosed sum in an effort to gain a digital edge in a competitively data-driven retail milieu.

It’s NIKE’s second data-startup deal in just a matter of weeks, signaling the urgent importance of customer information and insights for apparel companies that will rise above the turmoil of retail today. In late March, the company purchased Zodiac, a startup that predicts customers’ future spending trends.

In announcing the acquisition, Nike said Invertex will help the active giant develop “groundbreaking innovations” for the benefit of its customers worldwide.

“The acquisition of Invertex will deepen our bench of digital talent and further our capabilities in computer vision and artificial intelligence as we create the most compelling Nike consumer experience at every touch point,” Adam Sussman, Nike first’s chief digital officer hired in 2016, said in a statement.

Lately, apparel companies have been innovating through acquisition rather than developing solutions in house—which can take considerably longer. Nordstrom, for example, just acquired two digital startups, including MessageYes, which facilitates commerce via mobile messaging. The other startup, BevyUp, enables sales staff to expand their customer relationships beyond the four walls, empowering them to edit selections for clients via shoppable Style Boards.

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Nike previously has referred to digital technologies as a “vital accelerator” that will help to fuel its goal of reaching $50 billion in annual revenue by 2020. The brand’s net revenues for its most recent Q3 earnings results came in at $9 billion.