Monday, October 31, 2011

Welcome to the team Lucy Beynon!


Last week we welcomed Lucy Beynon to the Shoes of Prey team. Lucy joins us on a 3 month contract working with Jonaye on customer happiness over the Christmas period. During this time Susie will transition into a full time creative role managing photoshoots and a website redesign as we've got some major updates planned.

Lucy joins us after spending 4 years at Macquarie Bank as a Business Analyst Manager. She studied a Bachelor of Arts at Reading University in the UK majoring in Italian (which she speaks) and management studies. Outside work she enjoys photography and has been taking some photography courses, as well as netball and yoga.

We met Lucy when we made her wedding shoes earlier this year then again at our recent friends and family sale.

Welcome to the team Lucy!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Gift Certificates for Christmas


We sell a unique and interesting experience/product which makes for a great gift and gift certificates make up 16% of our sales. Last December that jumped to 54% of our sales as we sold more gift certificates for Christmas.

We're wanting to beat that performance this year so I thought I'd post our plan here and ask for your feedback and ideas. Any thoughts and ideas are very welcome in the comments.

1. PR - Men's Publications
  • Get in touch with men's magazines and online publications, most of these will run gift guides in the lead up to Christmas and it would be great to be published in those.
  • Offer them Shoes of Prey gift certificates to give away as part of a promotion.

Which men's publications do you read and you think we should contact? Please let me know in the comments. And if you have contacts you could introduce us to that would be fantastic.

2. Facebook page promotion
We're about to hit 28,000 fans on our Shoes of Prey Facebook page. I'd love to come up with a promotion that encourages those fans to spread the word about our gift certificates.

  • Run a promotion to win a Christmas gift certificate and ask people to post a link to the design they'd order if they won? Any other more creative ideas?
  • It doesn't encourage spreading the word but we could run a promotion where 1 in 10 people who buy a gift certificate for someone else win one for themselves. Not sure how that sits with the fact we don't discount, but I think that might not devalue the brand if messaged in the right way. Alternatively we could offer a free belt with every gift certificate purchase (we had some made up recently).

3. Facebook ads
We tried promoting our gift certificates for Valentine's Day via Facebook ads earlier this year but the campaign didn't work. Based on all the great suggestions in the comments from our previous blog post about this, some changes we'll make to a new campaign:

1. A better photo targeted to men. Perhaps an attractive female leg/foot with a brightly coloured shoe.

2. A version of our Facebook gift certificate page on our website. The advantage of this is we can then modify the headline in our ad rather than being stuck with 'Shoes of Prey' which men may not recognise, when we point to the gift certificate page on our Facebook page. The downside is that we lose the social element to the ad. An A/B test is required to see what works better here!

4. Google AdWords
I've optimised our Google AdWords account and added in some more gift certificate related keywords, and increased our bids on gift certificate related terms.

5. Gift certificate panel on home page
The panels on our home page allow us to swap different images in and out and about 50% of the time we have a gift certificate promotional panel up. We'll keep that up 100% of time between now and Christmas.

6. Mention gift certificates in all PR between now and Christmas
We get a good amount of PR and do quite a few interviews with business and fashion publications. We should mention the fact we do gift certificates in those interviews to spark the idea of buying one with potential customers.

7. A/B test our gift certificate page
Our current gift certificate page is very basic, it doesn't promote the gift certificates and explain why it's a great idea to buy one. We should create a second page and A/B test it.

Any thoughts on the above plan? Anything else you think we should do?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

iiNet - I'm angry, sad, disappointed and we're breaking up

iiNet, we've tried for months to have you help us and in desperation posted two weeks ago that our office internet connection still wasn't working correctly to give you the opportunity to do something about it. You initially got back to us quickly but have since failed to contact us again despite multiple emails from me.

1. Our wireless network is not working, this is the third Bob modem/router we've used, I've spent over 15 hours on the phone with your team and you can't get a wireless network working for us. I've been very patient, we've been using our kind neighbour Posse's wireless connection (thanks Posse!) on and off for months now but we can't keep doing this.

2. Our wired connection continues to drop out at least twice a day. Again, I've spent part of the 15 hours on the phone with your team trouble shooting the ZyXel modem and you've sent a replacement and still it doesn't work. Usually it only drops out for a couple of minutes which interrupts our office of 10 people, but sometimes it drops out for hours at a time and we have to send the guys without wireless cards in their computers to work from home. This is not productive and has cost us thousands of $ in lost productivity. Again I've tried to be patient with this because it always seems like you almost have the problem fixed but it's been 6 months now.

3. Yesterday I was invoiced hundreds of dollars for an 'incorrect call out' (see invoice below). Your team suggested this after I'd spent 15 hours on the phone and you couldn't solve our issues. I was informed if there were no issues with the line I would be charged an incorrect call out fee, but your team member was confident that was the only issue that could be left after all our trouble shooting. The first technician that came out who didn't work for Telstra told me there was a lot of noise on the line which might be causing the drop outs and that he needed to get a Telstra technician sent to fix it. The Telstra technician came and said he wasn't able to test for the same things as the first technician. He explained Telstra only warrant that 3 tests which they perform will be successful and he said all those were fine. To me, this isn't an incorrect call out. a) It was the only option left to us and b) the first technician said there was an issue which could be causing our connection problems. It's unreasonable and frustrating of you to charge us for this.

Your service which doesn't work has cost us:

  • 15 hours of my time. We are a 17 person business so don't have dedicated technical support. I'm an owner of the business and this role currently falls to me. My time is valuable and I should be spending it trying to grow our business, not trouble shoot your crappy service. At a conservative $200/hr for my time (the opportunity cost is much higher) you have cost me $3,000.
  • We've had periods with no wired drop outs and periods with 3+ drop outs per day. We've averaged around 1 per day and they generally last 5 mins each if they're not a major one. Over 6 months that's ~100 drop outs, 500 minutes or 8 hours. We have 10 people in our Sydney office so that's 80 hours of lost productivity. At a conservative $50/hr for our team members that's a cost of $4,000.
  • We've had multiple periods where the wired connection has dropped out for 4 hours + at a time and we've had to send people to work from home. This results in lost productivity as our team are not on their normal computers and communication is more challenging. This has happened 3-4 times and results in 5 people being sent home at a conservative cost of ~$1,000.
  • As I have it we've paid iiNet $2932.71 for 6 months of internet access that hasn't worked.
  • ~$50 on Krispy Kreme donuts that we've been purchasing for our friends at Posse to thank them for the loan of their wireless network. :)

I've been patient, I've done more than is reasonably required of someone to try and solve these problems and that's because you used to provide such great service with my home connection, clearly something's changed within your business. I've put up with iiNet team members not calling me back 80% of the time they say they will. I've put up with your business support line almost always putting me through to your residential team who can't help me, then waiting on the phone for long periods while they try to find a business team member who can help me. I've put up with having 4 people tell me a manager will call me back to discuss this case and no manager has ever done so. Your business support team member who contacted me after our last blog post promised he would get back to me last Friday and I haven't heard from him since. I emailed the above points to him 24 hours ago and said he had 24 hours or I would post to our blog again. I received no out of office message and haven't heard back from him.

Here's where we go from here:

1. We are going to switch ISPs and iiNet will maintain our connection until our new connection is established. A few people have recommended Internode so we'll try them.

2. iiNet will refund the $2932.71 that we've spent on iiNet services since establishing this connection. This is a reasonable request given your service has never worked correctly and the conservative $8,000 in lost productivity we're experienced due to iiNet's terrible service as outlined above.

3. Once we have our new internet connection established I will send back the 2 x ZyXel modems and 3 x BOB modems that you've sent us to date.

Please get back to me within 24 hours or I will be taking this up with the telecommunications ombudsman.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tech Talk: Brendan Forster on Innovation at Google

Our next Tech Talk will be by Brendan "Bob" Forster from Google presenting to us on the topic of innovation at Google. A slight date change, Bob will be presenting on Wednesday 2 November rather than Melbourne Cup day as originally planned because we thought a few people might be at the pub. :)

Bob is a Product Specialist at Google and his role is to inspire Google's large Australian clients to try new, innovative approaches to their marketing. He's across all Google's innovation, developments and strategies and I love chatting to him to get ideas on how we can apply those to Shoes of Prey and Sneaking Duck. It should be a really good presentation.

Join us at our offices at 5:45pm for a 6pm start. RSVP either in the comments or to michael@shoesofprey.com.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Marketing through your packaging

As an online retailer we view packaging as a key part of what we do. It's one of the few physical touch points we have with our customers.

We've experimented a lot along the way and have finally settled on what our customers tell us is a fantastic experience to open.

Recently a customer Lucie, posted to our Facebook page a 9 part photo she'd put together showing the process of unwrapping the packaging for our shoes (posted below with her permission). In it you can see:

  • Matt black Shoes of Prey branded shoe box
  • Shoes of Prey black ribbon and tissue paper
  • Shoes of Prey branded silk shoe bag to keep your shoes in
  • Matt black envelope with wax seal
  • Developed photograph of your shoes
  • Handwritten note introducing you to your shoes
  • Bag with different shoe inserts to assist with comfort and sizing
  • Most importantly, the shoes themselves!

This packaging fits with our brand proposition. We offer high quality, beautiful bespoke, customised shoes. With that comes bespoke, tailored customer service. And your shoes are delivered in high quality, beautiful packaging complete with a customised photo and letter.

This sort of packaging isn't going to work for all brands. It costs us a couple of dollars more than standard packaging so if the brand proposition for your online retail business is the lowest price this type of packaging might not work well for you. However it fits nicely with our brand and when viewed as a marketing investment rather than an operational expense, we get a great return on investment from the money we spend on our packaging. It's another 'purple cow' reason for customers to talk about our brand as Lucie has. In addition to the time and effort she's gone to to put this photo together, I love her comment, "You got me pretty emotional Shoes of Prey! Thank you so so much! ♥"

How do you approach packaging in your business? Which online retailers have you seen who do packaging really well? Posted to Power Retail.

Friday, October 21, 2011

7 tips for turning Facebook likes into buys - Part 2

This is part 2 of a 2 part post outlining 7 tips for converting Facebook likes into buys. You can read part 1 here.

4. Measure which posts engage customers best


We experiment with a range of different posts on our Shoes of Prey Facebook page. 2 of the posts that we find work best are:

1. A simple post briefly discussing a fashion trend, for example, "Loving vintage inspired trans-seasonal Mary Janes..." then displaying two shoes we've made that match that trend and asking which shoes people prefer, the ones on the left or right.

2. Whenever Jodie is attending an event she'll choose an outfit and Susie will photograph her wearing 3 different pairs of shoes to go with that outfit. We'll then ask our Facebook page which shoes she should wear to the event.

Both of these posts are simple to put together, get great engagement and most importantly lead to sales of the shoes in the photos.

5. Use targeting options to your advantage

We recently held a friends and family sale at our offices. Because this was an offline sale held online at our Surry Hills offices, we wanted to only target our advertising to customers who lived locally. We created a Facebook ad targeting people who like the Shoes of Prey page and live in Sydney. This was only 2,060 people however the ad got an excellent click through rate and we had about 200 clicks for $70 of spend.

At the sale we asked customers who made a purchase how they'd heard about the sale and we recorded this information. Nearly $10,000 or revenue could be attributed to customers who heard about the sale via these Facebook ads, a fantastic return on our investment.

6. Time of day to post

This one is getting quite detailed. We created a custom report in Google Analytics that tracked sales referred by Facebook by the time of day those sales occurred. We then mapped that data to the time of day we were posting to Facebook. What we found was the times that converted into sales best for us were 3-4pm and 6-7pm. That makes sense, we're a fun shopping experience so customers are shopping with us in their afternoons at work or when they get home in the evenings.

The times of day might be different for your business, so creating a custom report like we did to measure this for your own business could be worthwhile.

7. Multi-Channel Funnels

Google Analytics recently released a feature called Multi-Channel Funnels. Say a customer first visits your website after clicking a link on Facebook. A few days later they search for 'design your own shoes' on Google and visit the site again. A week later they type www.shoesofprey.com directly into their browser and make a purchase. Most analytics software would track this sale to the last visit, in this case a direct visit and no attribution would be made to the Facebook or search visits even though these contributed to the sale.

Multi-Channel Funnels changes this and allows you to see which sites contributed to the sale as your customers moved through your various sales funnels. It's very useful for seeing which sites, like Facebook, introduce customers to your brand who later go on to convert.

Using this report we've found that Facebook contributes to 8% of our sales while driving 4% of the traffic to our site, so it's a marketing channel that's well worth us continuing to invest in.

Are there any other tips you have for converting Facebook likes into buys?

Slides from my presentation below:

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

brandsExclusive - Interview with Daniel Jarosch & Rolf Weber

Last week I sat down with brandsExclusive co-founders Daniel Jarosch and Rolf Weber to discuss their Sydney based flash sale online retail site.

In 3 years they've grown their business to a team of 150 people and are continuing to go from strength to strength.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Focus v Diversification - Sneaking Duck

Originally posted to NETT.

Earlier this year I wrote a post about whether it's better in a startup to focus purely on the one business or diversify into related areas. When I wrote that post I had in mind the online glasses retail concept Sneaking Duck that we've just launched.

We initially had the idea for Sneaking Duck 18 months ago, not long after we launched Shoes of Prey. Spending a lot of time in China we could see all sorts of products which would be great to sell in Australia, but the one that stood out most was prescription glasses. Jodie, Mike and I all wear prescription glasses and in China it was easy to get very fashionable frames at very reasonable prices. After our second or third trip we each had 5 different pairs of glasses and were accessorising with them, matching them to different outfits. As entrepreneurially minded folk tend to do, we put together a business plan for an online retail glasses business and loved what we saw.

At the time though we were super focused on launching and ramping up Shoes of Prey so we left the business plan on the 'to think about' pile. As time went on we couldn't shake off the idea. We saw Warby Parker launch successfully in the US with a near identical concept. We were keen to go ahead but Shoes of Prey was tracking very nicely and we didn't want to lose focus on that business.

So we decided the only way we could go ahead with Sneaking Duck was to bring another person in as a co-founder and CEO. They would take the lead on the new business and utilise the experience, relationships, team and infrastructure we've built up with Shoes of Prey. Mark Capps joined us in this role and we think we've struck the perfect balance between diversifying into a fantastic new business opportunity, while maintaining our focus on the Shoes of Prey business.

That's not to say it's been an easy decision and it's not been a clear case of black and white as to whether we should be maintaing a laser like focus on Shoes of Prey or diversifying with Sneaking Duck. We've been speaking with a number of investors about potentially investing in Shoes of Prey and the response from them to this decision is indicative that this is a grey area. Some love the move we're making and see it as a plus, others dislike the loss of focus on one business.

We're confident we've made the right decision and that we've taken a smart approach in bringing on Mark to co-found and lead Sneaking Duck and we'll be keeping in mind the focus issue so that any impact on Shoes of Prey is limited.

Do you think we've struck the right balance? How would you have approached this?

Image credit.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

iiNet - I used to love you

iiNet, I used to love you, in one of my Virgin Mobile rants I even wished you would enter the mobile provider space because your service can be so good, but the last 2 months have been ridiculous.

I've spent over 15 hours on the phone with you, we've had to send staff to work from home because our internet has been down for days at a time, your business support team, particularly your managers often don't call back when promised and you just don't seem to care.

So:

7 tips for turning Facebook likes into buys - Part 1

This is part 1 of a 2 part post outlining 7 tips for converting Facebook likes into buys.

We've blogged before about how Facebook is fantastic for word of mouth focused startups. While brand building and awareness is great, the key outcome from any marketing activity for an online retailer is sales. I recently put together a presentation discussing how we convert our Facebook page fans into buyers and I thought I'd share the slides and content here.

1. Purple Cow Your Brand
I've discussed Seth Godin's Purple Cow concept in an earlier post, but essentially you want your product to be unique and interesting so that consumers want to share it. Particularly in this age of social media, if customers want to share something they now have some fantastic tools in Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to do that. Get customers sharing your product through those channels and your product will be introduced to their friends and ideally lead to sales.

We've "Purple Cow'd" our product in 3 ways:

  • Offering customers the opportunity to design their own shoes is something unique in the shoe retail market.
  • We view our customer service as a marketing activity to be invested in for the best return rather than an operational expense to be minimised, and we go out of our way to ensure all our customers are ecstatic with the service we offer.
  • We pay a lot of attention to our packaging. Our customers receive their shoes wrapped in a beautiful shoe box, with a silk shoe bag, a developed photograph of their shoes, a handwritten note introducing them to their shoes and some inserts to help with comfort and fit.

Each of these points is regularly talked about by our customers on our Facebook page and these comments form great testimonials encouraging other fans of our brand to buy from us.

2. Encourage the Facebook experience to be personal About 12 months ago we started signing off posts and comments on our Facebook page with the name of the Shoes of Prey person who was responding. Overnight engagement on our Facebook page tripled. Customers love talking directly to Jodie on Facebook after seeing her in the videos on our site, or Jonaye after speaking to her over email or the phone.

3. Customer service on Facebook converts A couple of days after we started doing this a customer asked Jodie if she could post a picture of someone wearing a particular peep toe we have in our designer, because she wanted to see how it looked on a foot. I photographed Jodie wearing a pair of wedges that a customer had designed with that peep toe. 4 days after the post had gone live it had 67 likes, 21 comments and most importantly we'd sold 13 pairs of wedges and quite a few other shoes with that peep toe design, higher numbers of those shoes than normal.

The customer wrote in to us on Facebook and we could have responded via email or with a private Facebook message and we would have had a happy customer. Responding directly on the Facebook gave a much better result both for us and more of our customers.

Cross posted to Startup Smart.

You can read part 2 of this post here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Shoes of Prey turns 2

It's been a massive week with the launch of Sneaking Duck and Saturday saw Shoes of Prey's second birthday! We celebrated with cake and cupcakes in our China and Sydney offices.

Happy birthday Shoes of Prey!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sneaking Duck launches!


This is part 5 of 6 about Mark's experiences leaving Google to set up Sneaking Duck. Read parts 1, 2, 3 and 4.

After just 4 crazy months, we have just launched Sneaking Duck. I am personally so thrilled to see all the hard work of many people coming together, and kicking off the next step of the start-up adventure. I cannot wait to get our frames out to our first customers.

Here’s our launch mail, with details of the $25 gift card offer for all our first customers:

Hey there!

We are so excited to let you know that Sneaking Duck has launched - thank you for waiting patiently while we carefully prepared the site and polished frames! You can browse and order at www.sneakingduck.com.

Everyone who places an order by Wed 19th Oct can claim a $25 gift voucher. To get yours:

  • Buy a pair of frames from www.sneakingduck.com
  • Forward your receipt to framed@sneakingduck.com with the phrase “I can’t wait for my $25 gift card”
  • We’ll send gift cards in a few weeks

This offer is open to everyone, so please forward this to any friends who might look good in Sneaking Duck frames.

We really hope you love our frames. Don’t hesitate to contact us at framed@sneakingduck.com or 02 8006 0704 with any questions.


Cheers,
Mark

There are so many people to thank: Friends and family have been generous with good advice and time. An incredibly useful team of beta-testers shared great views on our range and provided us with orders to test our suppliers and processes.  They are the lucky first customers! Colleagues and other contacts have helped in innumerable ways. My wife, Allegra, has been tolerant of my new obsession. Most importantly, my co-founders and the teams here and in China have worked tirelessly to pull everything together. Thank you all so much.

As I said in my first post on this blog, leaving Google to start up a new business was not an easy decision. However, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that it was a good decision. It is an exciting and rewarding experience to be part of creating something new, and today perhaps the most exciting day of all. . . so far.

However, there’s no sitting still. Now we have the site up, it’s on to driving our operations and marketing, and ensuring that every one of our customers has a terrific experience.

I invite you to take a look around our site - Please do share any thoughts and suggestions on how we can make this even better.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Telstra Business Women's Awards - Jodie Fox!


Last Friday saw the announcement of the New South Wales Telstra Business Women's Awards and out of thousands of entrants, our very own Jodie Fox was a finalist in 3 categories, and won the Hudson Private and Corporate Sector Award in amongst a seriously amazing and inspiring field of candidates.

Congratulations to all the other winners and finalists from all over Australia. The other NSW winners were:
  • Catherine Burn of the NSW Police won the White Pages Community and Government and the overall award for NSW.
  • Maureen Houssein-Mustafa won the Commonwealth Bank Business Owner Award
  • Professor Veena Sahajwalla won the Nokia Business Innovation Award
  • Jo Heighway won the marie claire Young Business Women's Award

As a winner in NSW, Jodie proceeds as a finalist in the national awards which are held in Melbourne on 18 November.

The Telstra Business Women's Awards are a very well organised and impressive program and past winners include some of Australia's most talented business leaders. Hats off to Telstra and the other sponsors for putting together such a great program.

And congratulations Jodie!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Prue Healey - PR for your startup TechTalk

On Tuesday we had Prue Healey come to share her tips for startups on how to approach PR. She gave an excellent presentation to the 30 or so entrepreneurs who joined us and she kindly allowed us to film both the presentation and her answers to the many questions that came from the audience.

There were a lot of questions on practical issues like the best way to approach journalists and how exactly to pitch a story. Prue has kindly offered to write a guest blog post on these topics which we'll share at a later date. In the meantime I've embedded the videos below.

Our next TechTalk will be by Brendan Forster from Google presenting to us on the topic of innovation at Google. Brendan will be presenting on 1 November (Melbourne Cup day). More details to follow but feel free to mark the date in your diaries, it will be a good one!




RIP Steve Jobs

RIP Steve Jobs, such an inspiration for entrepreneurs, you'll be missed but your legacy will live on.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Friends and family sale

Late in August we held a Shoes of Prey Friends and Family Sale to see if we could sell some of the shoes that have been returned to us by customers, mainly where they don't fit so we've remade them in another size.

Results
We held a mid week sale and sold $6,475 worth of shoes followed by a Saturday sale where we sold another $12,075 worth of shoes, a total of $18,550! This was about 200 pairs of shoes. Approximately 1 in 2 people who attended the sale made a purchase. The average customer who made a purchase, purchased 2 pairs of shoes.

Marketing
We marketed using 6 different channels to spread word of the sale. On Saturday we tracked how purchasing customers had heard about the sale. The channels and % of customers who came through them were as follows:

  • Email to Sydney based Shoes of Prey account holders - 19%
  • Facebook ad targeting Sydney based fans of Shoes of Prey - 26%
  • Old school letterbox drop to 500 residences in the local Surry Hills area - 11%
  • Blog post on 22michaels.com - 7%
  • Posting the sale to various Sydney based online sale sites - 4%
  • We encouraged people to pass the sale on to their friends. We're not sure how the original friend heard about the sale, so this result should partly be spread across the previous 5 channels - 33%

All channels delivered a great ROI on the time spent on them, so we'll repeat them all next time.

Brand Impact
One of our initial concerns was that the sale might have a negative impact on our brand with customers devaluing the shoes after seeing them sold at a cheaper price. We helped negate the negative impact of this by only advertising the sale to people in Sydney. Based on comments from customers on the day, the sale, if anything had a positive impact on brand perception. A number of customers were thrilled to be able to come in to the office, try on the shoes and see the vast range of styles and colours we offer. Many said they now felt more comfortable to purchase from us online.

Customers could still see the added value that being able to design their own shoes offers them, they could clearly see the distinction between our ready made pairs and custom shoes and so the price difference is justified in their minds.

This approach won't scale as our business does, so we'll need to work out other methods for selling returned shoes in the future, but it should work nicely in the short term.

Cross posted to Power Retail.