New York-based shoe company Soludos got its start in 2010 selling espadrilles to men and women, but over the years, the brand has looked to grow its customer base by expanding into more products including handbags and boots.
Now Soludos is trying to fine-tune that process by catering releases to consumer demand. Soludos realized it wasn’t truly listening to what customers wanted from its products, including what colors, fabrics and embroideries they featured. Instead, the brand was developing espadrilles and sneakers that the design team felt were on-trend.
In response, the brand started working with MakerSights, a technology platform that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to help companies get smarter over time about design and inventory decisions made throughout the production process. For Soludos, that’s included everything from what fabrics it incorporates in shoes, to how many of a style it makes to what images get stitched onto its signature smoking slippers (bulldogs or peaches, for instance).
“As a company, we’ve made a commitment to really reduce the lead times in our supply chain and do a better job of bringing to market products that consumers really want. As part of that, we knew it was important to have a strategy around product,” said Brigid Foster, Soludos chief operating officer.
In the last 18 months, since using MakerSights, Soludos’ overall sales have grown by 100% and the brand has been able to “increase sales dramatically on less inventory than previously carried,” Foster said. While the brand did not share specific sales numbers, Fashionista reported Soludos global sales reached $28 million in 2017.
“Today’s consumer is wildly empowered and has a really clear idea of what they want both in a creative sense and also from brands they care about. If you provide a platform that allows brands to capture that sentiment at scale, that is a really helpful data input to pair with both historic field data that brands already have and their creative intuition,” said Matt Field, CEO of MakerSights.
Through MakerSights’ platform, Soludos uses email and social media to ask customers for feedback, usually about products they’ve recently purchased or spent time looking at online. A customer will opt in to take a quick survey on MakerSights’ platform, where they provide short feedback about what they liked and didn’t like about a specific item. Soludos can later use that data to figure out what products, colors and styles will resonate most with customers based on age, gender, geographic location and more.
“We test early on to gauge overall consumer demand and then again near the time we place our purchase orders with our vendors. The meatiest thing we’ve been able to test and see really compelling results on is which embroideries and designs for our smoking slippers people really respond to,” Foster said.
Foster said one of the most important things she has learned is that the brand has different types of customers coming to them for different categories of shoes. “Our embroidery is going to appeal to a certain percentage of our customer base, and our new silhouettes, including platforms and heels, are going to appeal to a different percentage,” she said. “So we started segmenting those groups with targeted emails and got pretty different results from when we were mass-emailing products our entire customer list.”
So far, Soludos has run over 100 products through MakerSights’ testing and has leveraged those insights to drive up sales for roughly 80% of those styles.