We are living in a time of radical transformation as the traditional retail ecosystem continues to change at an accelerated pace (no surprise here). Retail is changing. Retail is actually expanding, consumers are shopping and sales are up. It’s just a matter of where, when and how consumers buy goods that are shifting. If brands want to succeed, they need to seek creative ways to “engage” consumers into a brand rather than “pushing” the brand at them.
Experiences are the name of today’s consumer-driven game.
In an e-commerce world, marketers want to evoke one emotion over everything else: excitement about their product.
Then, once a brand has excited their customers, the challenge is to transform them into loyal customers and brand ambassadors.
To recruit such engaged customers, brands need to focus on implementing a product marketing strategy that captures their audience and gives them a reason to purchase.
Getting product marketing right is hard work. It requires a profound understanding of the audience, the digital platforms they use, and their needs.
Bespoke Mindset, Conspicuous Consumption
In order to truly grasp what it’s like to get product marketing right, I recently sat down with Co-Founder of Undandy, Rafic Daud, about how he launched this impressive online e-commerce platform that enables customers to design and create their own shoes.
Co-Founder of Undandy, Rafic Daud
Personalization is No Longer a Novelty.
While mass production is still an important component in the e-commerce market, Undandy is capitalizing on the core values of customization, self-expression, and personalization to create a truly unique and customized customer experience. Mass customization, fast fashion, and e-commerce are projected to reach new levels of growth in the coming years, and surprisingly, shoes have the highest penetration rate with the lowest return rate.
Leveraging this trend, Undandy figured out a way to keep bespoke men’s shoe prices low — actually impressively low — while maximizing the quality. These shoes are actually handcrafted-on-demand in Portugal by third-generation shoemakers.
Founded in 2015 by a duo of Portuguese entrepreneurs, this platform is remarkably simple yet captures every customer in. What seems like a point-and-click custom design platform, turns into billions (156 to be exact) of style choices.
The customers' bespoke shoe journey begins with three choices: shoes, boots or sneakers.
1. Custom men’s shoes are a luxury that’s far out of reach for most consumers. How did Undandy start? What drove you to bring the custom-made men’s shoes to the masses?
Luxury, as a concept, has always been pillared on exclusivity, but now with the saturation of mass production, the industry had to search for a new type of exclusivity, in essence — to own something truly unique. This desire for uniqueness has come at the same time as technology has allowed us to do so, therefore democratizing the footwear industry with a flood of direct to customer online brands (without the middle man mark-up) for traditionally handcrafted, made to order products. The only difference with ours is that we go a step further by utilizing technology to have an online customizer where clients can actually be in total control of their shoe design. Although our shoes do not have a luxury price tag, owning a pair of handcrafted, custom designed shoes is really the definition of the concept. As technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, this level of customization will become the new norm and exclusivity will no longer be considered luxury.
2. For several years, Undandy ads have been popping up, and retargeting me, across digital platforms. And what tactics is the company integrating to ensure such a strong (“aggressive”?) digital marketing strategy?
We’ve been learning since the company started in 2015 by trial and error, trying to perfect ways to target consumers in the most maximized ROI manner. If you’ve been seeing our adverts for a while, what this tells me is that you should have been buying Undandys yourself but didn’t figure it out quite yet!
Brands need to understand the paradigm has shifted, nowadays a huge portion of our attention is glued to our smartphone. So, if that’s where the customer is, that is where we’ll be.
3. Undandy has simplified the online purchase experience. The entire site is amazingly seamless. Breaking down the choice into 3 simple categories: shoes, boots, or sneakers. Sure, there are millions of options and variations. So far, Undandy’s technology by far outperforms any other online customer order experience? How long did this take to get right?
We’re still perfecting it! It’s an iterative process to offer the billion different design possibilities on our online design customizer, with realistic rendering and at an even faster speed. We actually believe this is just the start, as buying online becomes even more seamless with the advancement of technology. We still have eons to go to make the process of buying online to satisfy the customer’s growing appetite for effortless ease.
4. Social media, especially Instagram, seems to be Undandy’s platform of choice. The content is sharp. The narrative is creative. How does Undandy integrate social media into the overall brand marketing efforts?
Naturally being an exclusively online company, social media is incredibly important for both branding and sales. Although we cannot physically see our clients, we are connected to them through social media and it is here that we can really engage with our clients, not only on a customer care level. After all, these networking channels were born out of the desire to make connections online. We believe in client engagement and connection with Undandy that goes beyond the digital world.
With regards to the aesthetic of our social channels like Instagram, I personally like to think of it as the front window to our online store, and just as with your shoes, you should always make a good first impression. It can be overwhelming at times when preparing content for social media as our online customizer has over a billion different design possibilities so trying to create a coherent brand aesthetic is one of our main challenges. Yet ultimately, it’s our customers that create our brand and we’re far more interested to see what they come up with and share on their own Instagrams, talking with them, meeting other shoe fanatics, sharing stories, just building a community. At the end of the day, we’re all shoe lovers here at Undandy and it’s great to share that passion for design with our social media followers.
5. The company’s tagline is “Conspicuously inconspicuous,” and you’ve been quoted as saying that you are someone that “lives by a code of conduct and strives to be the epitome of excellence in all aspects of life, and naturally does this with impeccable style and shoes.” What drove you to put your efforts in shoes?
That’s our aim with Undandy and of course one of my own personal values, to strive to be better in all aspects. At Undandy we want to inspire the modern gentleman to put his best foot forward. I think shoes are a great starting point as they have always been considered to be one of the first things someone notices about you on the first impression. Being based in Portugal with a long-standing heritage of our shoemaking as well as the start-up scene well and truly kicking off in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, an online shoe brand made sense from all sides.
6, You can usually size up a person from their sole outward. What story is Undandy trying to say overall and what drives the company’s vision to move forward?
In the fast-paced, ever-evolving, modern world, it’s totally unpredictable where this company can end. Our vision is to become the reference for direct to the customer, customizable brands in men’s footwear as well as expanding our current product offering.
But nowadays, more than ever, companies have to add value to society or to their consumers, the profit has to be simply a by-product. We want to revive traditional values and appreciation of fine craftsmanship through modern technology and ultimately inspire men to be unique and tell their own stories with their shoe designs.
7. Can you tell us about your favorite pair of Undandys and what inspired you to go with those?
My all-time favorite design in the 15 by Gianni, a sleek Italian style whole cut Oxford that was designed in homage to the godfather of Sprezzatura, Gianni Agnelli. But then again, we just launched a brand-new tennis sneaker called the ’01 which is total perfection when it comes to combining a classic sneaker with any choice of leather, colors, stitching, etc. Being able to design your own shoes is truly addictive on our customizer and I’m afraid I’m one of the most addicted.
8. Navigating the modern world can be a somewhat perilous task faced with many pitfalls for the modern man. How did you decide to resurrect the concept of custom made shoes to the modern man?
At Undandy one thing we often say is one step in the past, one step to the future. It would be easy to let mass production overtake traditional artisanal work which is perhaps on the surface more efficient. Yet if you marry tradition values and skills with the contemporary technology you often get the best of both worlds. This is one of the core philosophies behind Undandy, the blend between the digital era and traditional craftsmanship with a direct to customer approach. Excellent craftsmanship offered at an honest price as a result of direct to consumer business model is one of the benefits of choosing Portuguese supply and selling exclusively online.
9. Sneakers, boots, chukkas. What’s next for Undandy?
We’ve just launched two new models already this year, a driving shoe and sneaker and are looking to launch pocket squares, knitted ties, and additional sock styles, as well as even more shoe care kits. All handcrafted in Portugal. Really the sky is the limit when it comes to additional products that revolve around the footwear and menswear spheres!
10. How many customers is Undandy dressing?
We are at around 50k customers across the world, in over 140 countries.
Marketers are no longer focused solely on moving a customer through the funnel. The growing momentum of social e-commerce, inclusive marketing, or brand activism means that marketers are connecting authentically with their customers. As e-commerce marketing becomes increasingly complex, it’s always great to be inspired by great brands on how to create engaging experiences for their customers.