“We’re fortunate to be a digital business,” says Sau Noddings, co-founder of Shoenvious – a direct-to-consumer footwear brand that enables women to customise their shoes using a proprietary online shoe customiser.
The COVID-19 crisis has forced businesses to go digital in a matter of days/weeks, and very few have been able to do that at the speed and scale that was suddenly required. With digital being central to Shoenvious’ operations, the brand has been able to navigate the storm successfully.
“We interact with customers online, through chat and social media and all transactions are completed digitally. On the back end, our systems are all automated, from when a customer designs a shoe, how spec sheets are generated, how those are delivered to our production team and finally delivered to the customer,” Noddings explains. “We’ve invested a lot of time and resources into building up this structure; now, we’re reaping the benefits of this investment.”
We’ve seen great results
As COVID-19 accelerated online shopping, Shoenvious has recorded 30% more traffic across its site. “We’re getting higher sign-ups and seeing a considerable rise in conversion rates, as a result of attracting a new set of customers who did not shop for shoes online earlier,” Noddings shares. “We have seen great results coming from our digital marketing investments, and we are capitalising on this opportunity to highlight our differentiated offerings. We are in the middle of rolling out improvements to our online shoe customiser so shoes and materials being showcased on the website look more realistic, enhancing the customer experience.”
Shoenvious’ proprietary online shoe customiser enables the customer to customise each detail of the shoe from 100-plus material combinations, resulting in millions of design possibilities. The brand currently offers over 300 styles across 20 silhouettes and heel heights. Each pair is handmade-to-order and shipped worldwide. Shoenvious ships to more than 80 countries, with the US and Europe being its biggest markets.
“Our custom shoe offering has become a favourite amongst brides. In fact, we are in the process of expanding partnerships with selected bridal boutiques in Europe and the GCC. We’re also seeing growth in our design-your-shoe gift cards, especially during gifting seasons.”
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We’ve made shoe customisation easy
Shoenvious launched with an online shoe designer that allowed the customer to change the full design of the shoes – heels, back style, front style and so on. “However, watching the customers use the site made us realise that when they are given the power to fully customise their shoe, during the design process, they found it overwhelming and confusing. It lengthened the conversion process and, sometimes, became a barrier to sales,” Noddings admits.
“That’s when we simplified the design process further, which led to a huge growth in conversion. Whilst a lot of options were a nice proposition, it was fewer choices that got them to buy. When we reduced the number of options, we reduced the complexity for the customer,” she explains. “We make it easy for every woman to find a shoe that ticks her boxes from the comfort of her own home. We have something for everyone – whether she has uneven foot sizes, wears a shoe size that is outside the standard range, if she is looking for a shoe in a specific style, heel height, material or colour or a special shoe for a one-time occasion. And all these at a significantly lesser cost compared to luxury brands and other custom shoe providers.”
We’ve experienced minor hiccups
Despite the success, Shoenvious has faced minor roadblocks. “We’ve experienced minor hiccups with our supply chain. We work with a lot of small-scale suppliers, who have had to pause operations or cease to operate altogether being hit financially,” Noddings shares. “Fortunately, we’ve got a great production team that has been able to get the right components to produce our shoes to the same quality. So, while we have had to source supplies at a slightly higher cost and had to pay for more expensive shipping costs, the ability to deliver to our customers to quality and without delay is invaluable.”
We’re seeing a rise in responsible consumption
Overall, the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the convenience of online shopping. “Along with the convenience, a trend that we’re seeing intensify is more-responsible consumption. Customers are becoming more mindful shoppers; they are buying less but opting for better quality,” Noddings points out.
“That’s where our differentiation is becoming more valuable as our made-to-order approach is kinder to the planet. Think about it – almost 20 billion pairs of shoes are produced each year, 90% of which end up in landfills and take 30-50 years to fully decompose,” she concludes.