How Keds Deepened Their Connection to Fans With Custom Shoes
“Keds is a beloved brand that has an amazing heritage in America that centers on our relationship with strong female role models over the past 100 years, from Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe to Taylor Swift,” said Emily Culp, CMO of Keds. “Keds is about female empowerment and supporting generations of strong women who are in charge of their own destiny, and in that spirit we’re handing over the design reigns to our consumers and offering custom products, which creates something within our brand that resonates with that mission.”
Offering custom products enables Keds to work much more closely with their customers, facilitating a more direct fan-to-brand connection.
“I’m so excited about offering customization, because we’re all about listening to our customers and engaging with them,” Culp said. “We saw a lot of our customers were embroidering their Keds with their wedding date, or decorating them with with Sharpies. So we took what our customers were doing and made them an in-house offering that was even better.”
Keds partnered with Fluid to create a dynamic customization experience that guides their customers from inspiration through creation, presenting them with a range of customizable attributes. The Keds Custom Studio was designed from the ground up to be an immersive experience that closely aligns with Keds’ brand DNA, making users feel as if they are inside a shoe design studio while at all times conveying Keds’ sense of style and fashion. The “designer experience” of creating a pair of custom shoes was essential, said Emily Culp, Keds CMO, as was making customization fun, simple and engaging.
Users start from two base styles, the Champion and the Crashback, and then personalize their shoes with thousands of combinations created from eight customizable elements from top color down to a choice of four colors of eyelet. Keds offers a Suprise Me feature, which surfaces a pre-designed custom shoe as a base model that customers can use to spark their creativity. As far as customizability is concerned Keds elected to go with maximum flexibility, offering not only a range of exclusive color and pattern choices but also the ability to select from different materials including jersey, denim & chambray as well as elements that are uniquely available within their custom line, such as monogramming and personalized lace beads.
“What Keds has done so cleverly is to weave the feel of the brand into their customization experience, making the customer truly feel like they’re a designer and an integral part of the creative design experience,” said Adrian Stevens, VP of Global eCommerce at Wolverine Worldwide, the parent company of Keds. “There has to be a jolly good reason why somebody would spend the time to do this, so we wanted to create an experience that was valuable and would and would give our customers a really fun, unique experience. I think the teams at Keds and Fluid should feel extraordinarily proud of what’s been done here.”
As customers play with the different elements, their design comes to life in real time, visualized in photorealistic quality that includes 3D texture mapping. The use of such imagery is critical, as too often online configurators rely on animations or other renderings that show what can best be described as an approximation of a custom creation; this can lead to dissatisfaction when shoppers receive their actual product, and consequently unwanted returns. Photorealistically rendered 3D images, such as those used by Keds, allow customers to see and know exactly what they’re getting. All these features are part of Keds’ focus on making sure that their customization experience is robust, beautiful, and available anywhere, anytime on both desktop and mobile.
“Our roadmap focuses on mobile first and a key tenant of designing for mobile is ensuring we offer very compelling, intuitive and engaging experiences to surprise and delight our customers,” said Culp. “I fundamentally believe designing for mobile first makes a brand more mindful & thoughtful in their consumer communication, because the screen size, ability to consume messaging etc. forces a brand to distill a message or product.”
Finally, Keds’ customization program is supported by a manufacturing capability which guarantees delivery within 4-6 weeks, and is backed up by a robust eCommerce experience that was enhanced by Wolverine’s recent replatforming to Demandware Commerce.
“Offering a unique, compelling experience like customization is essential for brand survival in today’s market, and it’s so critical to have synergy between the brand’s story and the ecommerce experience.” said Stevens. “You’ve got to make it so someone comes to your site and it’s not only easy to shop, but interesting to shop. Custom is part of a portfolio of activities we’re offering to answer the question “why should someone shop with us, rather than one of our retail partners.”
Keds’ customization experience went live in December 2015, following a limited beta test with some of their most loyal customers which generated rave reviews. Following this success, custom plays a foundational role in Keds’ brand roadmap moving forward.
“To us, everything is a learning laboratory, so my hope is that our custom offerings can be used as a “test vehicle” to learn customer preferences and inform even our main line products,” Culp said. “Customization allows for a conversation; instead of saying ‘here is what we have for you,’ you can now ask ‘what would you like,’ and if we listen to our customers who are now voting with their wallets, there is huge potential there.”
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