Digitally native footwear brand Allbirds is selling a limited-edition shoe exclusively to its Instagram followers.
The shoes, which are a multi-colored version made in honor of the brand’s second anniversary, will only be accessible through a link shared in the bio of the @allbirds account and in Instagram Stories beginning at 10 a.m. on Thursday. While Allbirds has largely focused on selling a select inventory of monochromatic styles, the limited-edition shoe, which retails for the same $95 as the brand’s other styles, will mix and match colors using leftover materials from other products. The company will also use Twitter and Facebook to tease to the Instagram posts, where the shoes will remain available until the limited inventory runs out.
Julie Channing, head of marketing at Allbirds, said the tactic was the culmination of months of discussion about experimenting with debuting new products through the social platform, where the brand has developed a rapidly growing following. (In the past year its follower count has more than doubled from 50,000 in March 2017 to more than 110,000 today.) The strategy takes a cue from brands like J.Crew and Madewell which first started using Instagram as means to drop pre-sale items back in 2016, giving existing followers first dibs on scoring new items while luring new followers. It also follows Nike’s use of Snapchat last week to drop its latest Air Jordan sneaker, which sold out in 23 minutes — showing that driving and tracking sales directly from social platform isn’t a lost cause.
“Since Day 1, we’ve been really focused on creating a sense of community and connecting with our consumers on channels that help fuel word of mouth,” Channing said. “We’re very lucky that the product speaks for itself, but social has been the backbone of a lot of our marketing communication since we started.”
The shoe was first teased on Instagram on Wednesday afternoon, notifying followers to stay tuned for a forthcoming surprise. Channing said the decision to use Instagram specifically was a testament to its social followers, which have become a valuable tool for the Allbirds team to gather insight that informs new styles and colors.
“We look at these channels as a place not only where we can share content and fun stories about the brand and products, but where we also listen intently. We’re constantly engaging our community there,” said Channing.
Allbirds first launched in March 2016 as a digital-only brand created by New Zealand soccer star Tim Brown, founded on the principle of creating high-quality, simple footwear with a sustainable wool fabric. With the help of the $10 million in venture capital funding it received after its first year, the company has continued to evolve by expanding into new countries like Australia, and opening physical retail spaces in cities like New York and San Francisco. In its second year, Allbirds also added a second style, the wool lounger, to join its classic wool runner style.
Looking to its third year, Channing said the team has a “robust roadmap ahead,” that will largely be focused on product innovation and expansion, both from a pure retail and geographic perspective.
“We see this moment as an opportunity to take advantage of and create products and experiences that are crafted in a way that’s rooted in beautiful, simple design, focusing on natural materials that create a better, more comfortable experience,” she said.