Sneakerheads: Doing the Analytics on Athletic Shoe Enthusiasts

By: eBay Inc. Staff

In parts one and two of this series of articles, we looked into the sneakerhead craze, which involves people who collect, trade or admire sneakers, and the poster boy of sneaker collections: Jordan Michael Geller. In this final installment, we’ll take a closer look at the data and analytics driving the sneakerhead phenomenon.

Meet Josh Luber. Mr. Luber’s Campless sneaker analytics site tracks eBay sneaker sales, pricing and related market trends. This allows sneakerheads to gain critical intelligence when buying and selling coveted shoes.

The Campless site features two separate but intertwined functions. For starters, it acts as a pure data analytics engine for tracking sneaker pricing, sales volumes and volatility.

Secondly, the site hosts an insightful blog which breaks down key trends based on the analytics data.

Analysis Plus Insight
 A typical Campless blog post might look at standard data analysis, such as eBay sneaker sales over the past two years. Then authors project what the next year will look like based on those numbers.

“Over the past year, there were $309 million of sneaker sales on eBay [2013],” explained Luber. “In 2012 that number was $218 million. That’s a 40 percent jump in year over year sales. Our projection for the next 12 months is based on a 50 percent jump, which puts 2014 at $465 million.” Luber estimates that eBay sales constitute approximately a third of the sneaker market.

“eBay is by far the largest channel for sneaker reselling,” said Luber. So that’s where Campless gets all of its data. Luber explained that there several other “long tail” data channels, including an eBay clone called Kixify.com and Kicksonfire.com, which covers news and release dates. “We don’t track their data, however,” said Luber. “They don’t do nearly as much volume as eBay.”

By the way, the name Campless is based on the idea that people who use the site’s data will not have to camp out at Foot Lockers and panic over release dates when they have their own unique views on critical sneaker sales data.

All-Star Weekend and Social Media
 Campless started collecting eBay sneaker data in May of 2012. The date is important, because in February of 2012, the NBA All-Star weekend featured a Nike shoe release called the Galaxy Foamposit. “That shoe brought a lot of attention to limited edition sneaker collecting,” said Luber.

February’s all-star weekend coincided with the growth of social media within the shoe trading scene. “The first quarter of 2012 was when everyone piled onto Instagram,” said Luber. “Ever since, it’s been non-stop growth for the sneakerhead community.”

Campless Analytics
 During the day, Luber works as a strategy consultant for IBM. This is where his analytics skills come in. The Campless project developed as an outgrowth of his IBM experience and his love for sneakers.

“The goal at Campless is to become the industry standard for sneaker data,” he said. “We’re starting to see that people on Twitter will mention us, saying that they’ll pay X amount of dollars less than the Campless price. We’re also noticing that people are interested in deep analytics as opposed to pure pricing data. All the numbers help sneakerheads negotiate sales.”

eBay Auction Noise and Online Price Gaming
 “One of the hardest thing we do,” said Luber, “is to cut through the noise of an eBay auction. Sneakerheads write their descriptions with lots of different keyword variations. We spend a lot of time writing data queries that try to make sense of it all.”

The shoe buying complexity extends to shoe search and shopping activities, as well. “These days, limited release shoes are difficult to buy,” said Luber. “If you want to buy online, you need a program, a bot or a script that will shop for you. Gone are the days when you could click a Twitter link and buy a shoe.”

PayPal Transactions
 When the buying happens, it’s almost always via PayPal. “Most sneakerhead transactions happen via PayPal,” said Luber. “On other platforms, one of the biggest problems is fakes. There are lots of replica sneakers out in the wild, and they’re getting very good at producing identical shoes.” According to Luber, buyers and sellers use PayPal to insure themselves against counterfeit trades.

No matter where the trades are happening, the sneakerhead phenomenon is alive and kicking (pun intended). Prices are going crazy. Auctions are packed with bidders. And, all kinds of people are having fun collecting, trading and making money from shoes that chronicle the times.