User Research, Market Research, Competitor Analysis
Journey Mapping + Experience Design
Creative Direction + marketing
Footwear Design (prototyping, sampling, shipping)
PROJECT: Build a new, unique shoe brand featuring creatively designed footwear, and to deliver a personalized experience to delight customers.
Building a brand consisted of many steps throughout the process:
Qualitative + Quantitative Research
Prototyping shoes (this process is outlined here) + Manufacturing
Challenges: No existing customer base to gather data.
Solution: We utilized information we knew from working in the e-commerce and shoe industry. We used existing customer purchasing metrics to make our best informed decisions about product/market fit, and further tested this using our existing retail platforms by sending out surveys in the newsletters.
KEY INSIGHT: There was a disparity between the shoes that generated positive response, and shoes that customers actually purchase.
Customers are willing to invest in very unique shoes even if the materials are of lower quality, because the purpose isn’t longevity, it is for style and design.
Customers are willing to invest more for classic/traditional shoes if the materials are of higher quality because they will last through multiple seasons.
GOAL: To find the intersection between both insights and create shoes for the girl who likes unique footwear, but is willing to pay a little more for it to last several seasons (in both style and construction).
CHALLENGE: Working in the industry already was both an advantage and disadvantage at time. While it gave us access to data and insights, it also made it harder to shed assumptions. We did our best to make sure our decisions were backed by data or tested.
Utilizing the year’s trend research, we developed prototypes of footwear that we would like to create. To view an example of the shoe design process, please visit here.
Challenges: Validate and test the designs without releasing them to the public prematurely
Created Mood Boards to ask people which “vibes” they liked
Surveyed customers using silhouettes of different shoe styles
Spoke with industry experts to see what upcoming trends were - and got feedback on designs
Challenge: How might we market a new brand that people do not know and trust?
Through secondary research (Defy Media 2015), we found that:
58% of “thumb-stopping” content was posted by someone that the viewer respects
67% of millennials said digital delivers content that they can relate to
Through conducting surveys and interviewing 5 people on their perception of new brands, a few insights emerged:
People trusted a new brand more if an influencer they admire is wearing it
However, if the influencer is constantly promoting new brands, they lose credibility
Thus: authenticity is important and people will trust the voices of influencers that they feel are authentic
Solution: Partnering with social media influencers was the most cost efficient as well as most effective way to quickly build trust in our brand. We made sure that the people we partnered with had great style, high engagement, and an authentic voice (few promoted posts).
We wanted our brand to have a minimalistic approach, to really allow our products to shine. I created wireframes focused on some of our most important pages, the Product page and Add to Cart function. We wanted to really streamline and perfect this process so that customers felt comfortable checking out with a brand they didn't know. We also felt it appropriate considering these pages gained the most traffic and were high conversion points.
Delight + A Human Connection
Aside from the technical matters, what was important to us was also the physical connection our product would make with the customer. I felt extremely humbled and excited when people reacted positively to our shoes and wanted to personally thank each customer. So we thought, why not share this positive energy? As a small company, we needed to build positive relationships with our customers.
Based on research, here are a few insights I kept in mind:
70% of buying experiences are based on how the customers feels
81% of companies who deliver an excellent customer experience outperform their competition
84% of consumers cite recommendations from family, colleagues, and friends as the most influential source for trustworthiness
People expressing gratitude often underestimate how big an impact saying “Thank you” can be
In a digital shopping experience, personalization created a genuine human connection went a long way in fostering trust and delight
I believe that it is very difficult for smartphones or laptops to create pure gratitude and human connections especially since people are bombarded daily with marketing. Our solution was to wrap our boxes in black tissue paper and include a handwritten note inside each shoebox. GREAT SUCCESS!
Customers frequently emailed us and posted to Instagram their pleasant surprise upon opening the package. The small investment of blank cards and personalized notes helped establish a personal connection with our customers.
As our customer base is expanding, we hope to gather more data about our demographic, continue testing to ensure we are delivering the best products to them.
Challenges to address:
Moving older inventory and styles that are not selling as well
Inconsistent sizing. Sizing is so essential to purchasing, our goal is to ensure consistency and uniformity in our product line.
Short term Solution: I monitored sales and personally emailed customers who bought shoes with sizing issues.
Learned Insight: Vegan materials was important for a segment of our demographic, and we may begin designing with this in mind. Although we initially thought that quality = genuine leather, this seems to be not the case with many potential customers.
SELF REFLECTION + LEARNINGS
Looking back, building a brand has taught me a lot about project management, design, and communication. I started at the beginning with no experience in shoe design, made many mistakes, and learned from them as a result. The most important lesson for me, was the personal growth that occurred as I learned about myself and my processes, and being able to work with others to bring an idea to fruition.
Market Research strategy: Through trial and error, I learned that it is important to properly gauge product/market fit through rigorous testing. We had many styles that did not end up selling well, and other styles that constantly sold out. In the future, it will be helpful to conduct more tests to see whether there is enough demand for certain styles. Our approach was often flawed, because we would ask consumers whether they liked a certain shoe sample. However, it is inaccurate to base purchasing behavior on whether they like a shoe or not, since many factors are involved when it comes to converting.
Management: At the beginning, I struggled due to shyness and uncertainty. It was difficult for me to navigate the murky waters of management, emotions, and relationships. After much reflection and feedback, I learned that by being more disciplined in my approach, and not being afraid to step up to the responsibilities of leadership, I could contribute to a strong team and work together to accomplish goals.
Constructive criticism: As a designer, I had times where I was unsure about my work and lacked confidence. It was very easy to internalize critiques, because I felt that my design was an extension of myself. Over the years, with the help of amazing, supportive people, I was able to see that feedback was essential to growth. Now, I incorporate a process of reflection and feedback with each project, and try to learn from each one.
Clarity + Communication: Through many rounds of revisions and prototyping, I learned how to be much clearer in my communication with overseas factories as well as my co-founders. Initially, it was extremely easy to assume that other teams understood exactly what I was saying. I learned that this is not the case, and worked hard to try and understand the perspective of others. By being able to empathize, I was able to learn how to communicated exactly what I needed in a way that was understandable and considerate.
Standing behind your product: One issue that came up was inconsistent shoe sizing from different factories. We had to take preventative measures to ensure that customers were ordering the size they intended by making sizing recommendations very clear. We also personally emailed each customer that ordered different shoe styles with inconsistencies in size. Whenever a customer emailed us concerning misfitting shoes, we knew to accommodate them and waive shipping costs due to our error. Customers always received this gesture positively and understood that things like this happen. We learned from this experience that by being genuine and owning up to mistakes, we could still earn a loyal customer.