Friday, May 27, 2011

Shoes of Prey Japan - Marui Department Store Partnership

This is a guest post by Yusuke Mitsumoto, co-founder of Bracket Inc. our partner for Shoes of Prey in Japan.

We are delighted to announce that we have just launched a small shop inside of the department store called Kyoto Marui, one of the largest department store chains in Japan.

It's been almost a year since we have launched Shoes of Prey Japan, and with our focus on customer service and localising the packaging for the Japanese market Shoes of Prey Japan has been growing steadily. In the last half year we have received significant media coverage, and our service has been used by many well know Japanese celebrities and fashion models which has helped get our name into the market and has really helped us to increase the number of shoes we sell.

However, as we operate the service in Japan, customers often comment that they'd like a place to see the actual shoes and to be able to try them on. As an online service we haven't been able to do this. We have been selling leather samples so that customers can see and check the actual leathers, preparing leather movies to give a clearer indication of what the leathers look like, and we offer a generous return/remake policy if the shoes don't fit or the customer doesn't like their shoes for any reason.

Even after we offer these services, we can clearly see that there are still a lot of potential customers who feel uncomfortable purchasing shoes online without seeing the actual product and being able to try them on.

Because of this "barrier" we feel that those customers who do purchase are still in a minority group of peole, with high IT/online literacy. Operating as an online only retailer we still have not been able to approach and sell to the other majority group of people, who do not use internet services so much and usually purchase shoes at offline retail stores.

Thus, as Michael wrote on this blog last year, we've been curious to know how Shoes of Prey will do if we open a retail store and Marui's opportunity was a great chance for us to try this out.

The biggest challenge that we had before we opened our small store within Marui, was to determine how best to explain Shoes of Prey to people who have not come across our service before. If we only show and display our sample shoes, customer may view us as a usual ready-made shoe store, and it might be difficult to communicate about our service to the people who might get interested in designing their own shoes.

We thought about displaying many PCs at the store, but since our store was placed in the ladies shoe section of the department store, and most of the people who came to this floor were looking for shoes, we thought a store with many PCs and few shoes would not look attractive and thus we might lose many people coming into our store space.

As a result, we came up with an idea of displaying many shoes together with the captured image from the designer's page so that we can communicate the "idea" to the customers that these shoes were created based on the illustrations.

Did it work?

We still do not know.

The sales from the store for the first 10 days since the launch have been very good, and most of the customers who have ordered our shoes from the store were the people who have never purchased any products online before. This is showing that we are capturing the new customers who would not order shoes if we only had the website.

Also, since most of the communications that we have with our customers are online, we have never had a chance to speak to our customers directly, face to face. It has been a fresh and interesting experience for us to see our customers' direct reactions and feedback towards our service.

As I said, its only been 10 days since we have opened the store, and we do not know yet if our service will work in an offline environment or not, but we are sure that the learnings from this experience are valuable and will help us to continue to improve the service.

We will keep you posted about the progress of the store, and if you have a good idea for how we might improve our display or the offline experience for Shoes of Prey Japan customers please let us know in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Michael,

    An interesting and fun way for customers to get involved might be to have iPads in the store next to the shoes, not cheap but people would definitely be keen to get involved.