Have you ever been so excited for a new drop – be it a pair of sneakers, new phone or the latest edition of the Telfar Bag – that you get the website on time, refresh the page and click buy only to discover the product has already sold out? Most consumers in this case take to social media to vent their frustration and blame bots for the loss. But bots aren’t always to blame…

The prevalence of automated bots disrupting the release of profitable resellable sneakers is widely acknowledged, hindering regular shoppers’ access. This issue extends beyond footwear, impacting the purchase of items ranging from sought-after game consoles like the PlayStation 5 to limited-edition luxury goods. Retailers continually develop measures to thwart these bots, prompting developers to devise countermeasures. In response, U.S. legislators are considering banning bots, creating opportunities for tech providers like EQL, offering advanced solutions to counter their effectiveness.

Besides bots, there is another reason why people can’t always get the products they want, and it has nothing to do with technological competition:
Brands prefer it for their image. 

Companies typically keep their release quantities confidential, but according to social media chatter, an estimated 300,000 pairs of the Reverse Grinch were released by Nike across various drops. However, the number of eager shoppers vying for them reached into the millions. The Reverse Grinch secured the fifth spot in the most-wanted styles of 2023 for U.S. shoppers on SNKRS, as highlighted in Nike’s app recap. Even with stringent bot prevention measures, numerous customers still missed out.

Nevertheless, it’s unlikely this outcome is accidental. Nike deliberately calculates the number of shoe pairs released for its high-demand launches, carefully considering the balance to ensure customer satisfaction.

Exclusivity plays a major role here.

The allure of a product’s exclusivity serves as a potent status symbol, a fundamental reason why scarcity and desire have been synonymous in the fashion world. Luxury brands and sneaker manufacturers strategically manage their distribution to maintain high sales without oversaturating specific markets.

Despite occasional complaints from shoppers about limited availability for coveted products, the pursuit of these items persists. Mike Sykes, the author of The Kicks You Wear, a newsletter covering the sneaker industry, noted that brands recognize the potential impact of releasing large quantities of their most sought-after styles and disclosing those numbers—likely diminishing demand. While Sykes believes increased transparency and information about upcoming drops’ quantities would benefit consumers, he views it as an improbable development. 

Regardless, customers remain frustrated. Bots undoubtedly pose challenges for both shoppers and brands, serving as a headache in the process. However, they also play a role in an ecosystem intentionally crafted to maintain low supply and foster heightened competition, whether or not technology aids this dynamic.

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