In March 2010, six months after Shoes of Prey launched, the custom footwear business embarked on its first big campaign to reach out to new potential customers.
It partnered up with one of the world’s biggest YouTube sensations at the time, juicystar07, a 16-year-old girl famous for her online make-up tutorials.
“We ran a competition with her. She did a 10 minute video and at the end of it was: ‘Come and design your shoes at Shoes of Prey’,” says co-founder Jodie Fox.
The initial results were stunning.
“We had 90,000 people enter the competition. We were the most commented-on video on YouTube that day, we had half a million people visit the site,” said Fox.
But there was a problem.
“Who watches 16-year-old girls put make up on YouTube? 16-year-old girls. And what do 16-year-old girls have to spend on shoes? Not our average price point of $250.”
She was with Michael Fox, one of her two other co-founders, in Hong Kong as they watched the data come in from the launch of the campaign. And they realised something was amiss.
“It was a long day after lots of meetings… and Michael and I were in a very small hotel room in Hong Kong. We were huddled together to try to watch the analytics and figure out what was happening, what the impact [of the campaign] was going to be.”
Using Data Intelligently
On their analytics engine they watched “the traffic spike but sales figures remain static,” according to Fox.
“It was just a hugely gutting disappointment,” she said. It was “the kind of moment where your throat goes dry and your stomach feels totally empty and you think, ‘Oh my god, how could I be so stupid?’
“I think that anyone who has a business goes through that every couple of days. But it was a pretty tough one to face.”
It taught the business a valuable lesson about the application of technology, which Fox says “helps us to get to the insights that customers can’t tell you”.
“Surveying customers will get you so far, but understanding what they do in the situation reveals what they really want.”
The insights that have helped grow the business are drawn from deep analytics enabled by modern technology in today’s connected world. “Technology can deliver data on demographics, [people’s] location, their reason for shopping, and an infinite amount more about our customers that help us to be able to understand where the pain points are that most need resource to get our customers into the shoes they’ve been dreaming of,” she told Business Insider.
“It solves the problem of us having to invest heavily in offshore markets to reach women all over the globe.”
While the result with the video campaign was far from what they expected, it was an invaluable lesson about different kinds of customers. “Not all traffic is good traffic,” she says.
“It taught us to think a campaign through completely.” Looking through the data was about “finding out who our audience wasn’t.”
The business now looks back on it as a learning experience.
“We set our objectives incorrectly. Our objective was to get traffic and assumed that equals sales,” she recalls, laughing, now realising this was not the case. “We were targeting someone who wasn’t our target audience.”
Managing Customer Relationships
By figuring this out early Shoes of Prey has strengthened its understanding and connection with its audience, which Fox now considers to be one of the most important aspects of their business.
“People are more likely to respond positively if they feel like you have approached them at the right moment with something that will help solve a problem for them,” says Fox.
“There’s not just one communication to win them all,” she says. There needs to be a reason for reaching out to the consumer.
“I think there are different types of reaching out. There’s reaching out that is community-building or branding-building,” Fox said.
“We use a lot of search engine marketing as well as ad words and Facebook ads… It’s often something that is segmented down and we’re putting quite a targeted message out through those channels.”
There’s also email, and dialogue through social channels. “We connect with our existing customers or account holders through email and we find that to be a great way to interact with them. A lot of the dialogue also happens through our social media channels, so we’re very active and responsive through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.”
She said it was important to the Shoes of Prey brand to be available, responsive and relative when communicating with their customers, and important to know where “they might be and where they might want to interact with us as well.”
But Fox said these approaches change depending on who you’re addressing and why you’re addressing them.
“To approach new people is a little bit of a different. We meet a lot of our new customers offline, in our [physical] store,” something they try to do every few weeks.
But if Shoes of Prey wants to seek advice or feedback, they will approach customers online.
“If you spend time on the site you will receive a Net Promoter Score Survey that just asks one question: ‘Would recommend Shoes of Prey?’, and there’s a comment box underneath it.”
Fox says this simple yet effective strategy helps the business to understand how their services are being received by their customer and gives their customers an opportunity to be heard.
“If they make a suggestion to us then we’ll keep them in the loop with introducing those particular elements.
“We also do quite a bit of testing as well on the website and we’ll ask people specifically what they think about both online and in-store.”
While Fox said this is a valuable and insightful connection with their audience, they are aware their customers’ answers may not always reflect the situation “because what they will say to you and what they will do are two different things”.
“It’s a combination of asking questions and also seeing what they do by watching the data,” she said. “We’ll have a look at things that have prompted, sharing or sales, sharing and therefore sales or sales themselves, in their behaviour in the past and then we’ll look at creating campaigns that replicate that behaviour.”
Transparency As Strategy
Fox said, though, the overall key was to be open with the customer.
“We never try to hide anything either. A great example was a few years ago, when we were still quite new to how Facebook operated we had a post that was put up that was quite offensive.
“An outside person had come onto our Facebook page and they had questioned the ethics of the materials that we were using. But instead of posing a question it was an accusation that was made and so we responded to it and we left it up on the Facebook page. Interestingly we found that the community came into it as well and responded quite positively.”
Fox said she always gets suspicious when companies take posts down from social media, unless of course it is rude or explicit.
“I think that we just have to be really transparent with all those things. I think that it was important for us to behaviour in a way that is very consistent with who we are.”
Acting On Analytics
When it comes to improving sales and figuring out what it is the customer wants before they have to search for, comes down analysing metrics the business has developed over time.
With the help of some “unbelievable” analysts on the team, the company analyses what designs a customers goes through before deciding on a shoes, as well as sales trends. They study the textures, colours and materials that are being most frequently purchased, as well as heel height and heel shape.
Fox said these findings are then normalised against the broader market to understand the significant trends.
“These metrics help us to understand where the gaps might be they also help us understand the relationships between the leaders in the business as well, they we might not know about. That is how we discover leaders that are causing peaks or troughs in the business and then learn how to use them to prevent to troughs and make more peaks.
“It also help us to understand what our customer values and helps us understand how everything on the website works,” she said.
As well as using their own metric system which relies on the data from their own site, the company also relies on products like Chartbeat and Big Query, Office Enterprise products and video chat.
Using The Cloud
It’s natural to expect a digitally-native company like Shoes of Prey to lean heavily on cloud computing, a tool that can still be a bit of a mystery to businesses who haven’t already made the leap to a cloud-based platform. For Fox, using the cloud is like breathing – it just happens.
Asked how Shoes of Prey uses the cloud, she responds: “How don’t we use it?”
She explains they use it for: “Storage, document drafting across continents [because] we have offices in NYC, Tokyo, China, Manila and Sydney”, plus “image and video delivery, server and server back up.”
“Cloud is critical for a business like ours for two key reasons. One, we have five offices globally. And two, our customers are all over the globe. We need to be able to communicate seamlessly in both situations to run a great business, and only cloud can facilitate that.”
The company, which has grown 250% in the last 12 months, now has 5 million unique viewers and $4.75 million raised to date.
Fox says the success of Shoes of Prey comes down to the fact that the business is solving a footwear problem for modern woman.
“The customer is evolving… so we are doing everything that we can to solve an actual problem for our customers. We are constantly striving to make accessible and convenient shoes for women in a way that they don’t have to choose between comfort and style,” said Fox.
“The idea of designing your own shoes online was actually very exciting to a lot of women.
“We’re helping them realise this is not just something you do on a special occasion but that you can actually design your whole wardrobe.”