2014 has been a banner year so far for shoemaker Stuart Weitzman. The luxury shoe brand is a top choice for a dizzying array of starlets who love Weitzman’s combination of style and comfort – such as Beyoncé who has claimed to have danced a thousand miles in hers, and Kate Middleton who sported a pair of Stuart Weitzman wedges when the Royal Couple visited Australia – and the brand made a big splash with the launch of SWxYOU.

SWxYOU is a series of limited edition shoes that allow customers to customize their shoes by choosing their own colors and hardware. Of course, Stuart Weitzman, the man behind the brand, has always been an innovator, ever since he took over his father’s shoe business and famously started using materials like lucite and wallpaper.

The brand has also been making news with its successful expansion.  In 2013, Stuart Weitzman opened Zaha Hadid-designed flagship store in Milan, and 2014 openings include Hong Kong and Rome.  All told, the brand operates forty-four retail stores across the United States, sixty-two international stores, fourteen international shop-in-shops, and e-commerce sites in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Hong Kong, making its footwear and accessories available in more than seventy countries.

Much of Stuart Weitzman’s recent expansion was fueled by careful data collection and savvy use of social media. The company uses offline data, such as in-store sales reports, in combination with online performance data, to gauge international audience preferences. It then uses those insights to drive promoted posts on Facebook in countries where it is about to open new stores.  For example, when Stuart Weitzman opened its new store in Mexico City, the brand saw 5,073 post “likes” and 46,128 clicks. It has since used similar campaigns to promote store openings in United Arab Emirates, Taiwan, and Korea.

The Way I See It

  • I see a revival of bespoke clothing and shoes. From Stuart Weitzman’s SWxYOU initiative, to suit and shirt makers like Indochine and Blank Label, brands are catering to customers by offering unique and individualized merchandise they can make their own via online templates.
  • I see social media remaining a key aspect of a brand’s marketing and advertising. Brands will continue to push out content via social media platforms – such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest – as a mode of connecting with their customer base. After all, many of us rely on social media to obtain the latest trends, news, etc., and brands have taken notice.
  • I see store opening events as not something of the past, but as a key player for brands. For all the handwringing about the demise of brick-and-mortar retailing, store openings can still be major events for brands that know how to play them right.  As Stuart Weitzman has demonstrated, smart social media promotion can drive foot traffic as well as virtual clicks.

The Way the Industry Sees It

 

 

I sat down with Wayne Kulkin, Chief Executive Officer at Stuart Weitzman, to discuss social media and world retail domination.

 

What was the inspiration behind SWxYOU, and what have sales been like through that program?

Our business model has always been inspired by creating styles that can be customized by the various merchants around the globe. We gave the merchants the ability to choose from hundreds of thousands of variables in an array of materials, heel shapes, heel heights, sizes and widths as well as their choice of ornaments and finishes. We even give customers the opportunity to change the type of sole from leather to a variety of comfort materials like latex. So we thought in this world of bespoke ecommerce that we would give individual customers the same opportunity as a retail merchant – allowing her to have a wide range of colors, ornaments, studding, and heels.

You partnered with SocialFlow – social media optimization platform – and use their Crescendo platform for your social media marketing. What did Social Flow bring to the table that made it a good partner, and what does Crescendo allow you to do that other platforms don’t?

SocialFlow and Crescendo are the firepower that helps us to cut through the clutter and ensures that people that are interested in the brand are seeing the content we work so hard to create.  We partner with SocialFlow to promote our posts as well as utilize day to day publishing through Crescendo. SocialFlow and the Crescendo tool use data and an algorithm that allows us to post content at the optimum time, to the most relative and engaged audience. Our publishing decisions are determined by looking at audience availability, topical appetite, topical saturation, and a risk assessment that includes audience and topical variability. Crescendo also provides an ad buying platform enabling clients to run ad campaigns on Facebook and Twitter. The product uses keyword targeting, refined by demographic targeting, to segment and target existing, potential and competitor audiences based on real-time conversational data. Through SocialFlow on Facebook we average thirty-five to forty percent higher engagement than when natively posting. Our results on the paid media side tend to be even stronger, with click through rates (CTR) as high as ten percent. Industry standard tends to be around one to two percent. Through SocialFlow on Twitter, we have an average engagement rate of approximately three hundred percent above retail averages and an average cost per engagement eighty-seven percent below retail averages.

What has the data taught you about shoe buyers in Asia and the Middle East, where you’re focusing your expansion? How do consumers in those places shop as well as use social media differently than in the United Stated, and how do you alter your marketing approach to accommodate them?

One thing we learned is – even though the world is flat with easy access to the Internet and all things mobile – it is critical to geo-target based off of customer’s behavior, likes, and dislikes. Some of the tactics we have selected are using specific lasts (which are molds that give the shoe its fit) and we learned many years ago that women have different fit needs based upon geography. On the socialization standpoint – part of what excites a customer is global celebrity – becoming a new trend is taking advantage of key local celebrities, tastemakers, and bloggers. The customer wants to be able to have a vehicle through which they can partake in social media in their own voice and we are just in our infancy in learning how to navigate successfully and uniquely with product distribution in seventy countries.

With Fashion Week coming up in September, is there anything new and interesting planned to take advantage of the buzz surrounding the week?

We pride ourselves on being a very democratic brand and believe fashion week should be celebrated fifty-two weeks of the year.  One of the challenges is to create a synergistic party atmosphere across all our channels that celebrate fashion, design, and function 24/7.

What’s the most interesting object in your office?

A talking monkey head, which has the ability to answer questions with variety of facial movements.  We confer to the monkey head for “yes” and “no” answers to lighten the mood on serious subject matters.