Shoebuy is thinking big. The Boston-based online footwear and accessories retailer is pursuing a fresh strategy under new owner Jet.com, a subsidiary of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
Shoebuy CEO Mike Sorabella and COO Bob Mullaney said the site would look to increase traffic and brand awareness — and that the team is excited to add footwear expertise into Jet’s growing online marketplace.
Expanding Shoebuy.com is the company’s main focus following the $70 million deal, which closed in December. “The acquisition allows us the resources to maximize the potential of the site as more people migrate to make their purchases online,” said Mullaney.
Sorabella noted that Jet’s user base is “much deeper” than Shoebuy’s — and the new parent company offers “great scale and efficiency we can leverage.” He added, “At the same time, we have a rich experience on the footwear side, and [we understand] how to merchandise for different users and different consumers.”
The executives said the top priority is to get more consumers to the site as competition from Zappos.com (owned by Amazon.com) and other online shops continues to be a challenge. Other priorities include adding and evolving technology platforms, investing in more inventory and expanding its staff of 200 employees.
The e-tailer, which stocks more than 800 brands, will also focus on being more experiential, providing curation and product suggestions. Plus, Shoebuy will look to expand the athletic and fashion categories and up its emphasis on curated online shops that are currently devoted to running, comfort, sneakers, boots and more, Mullaney said.
Existing shops have seen traffic double over the past six to nine months. The execs said they haven’t ruled out launching more standalone spinoff shops similar to the site’s high-end concept, Elevtd, a partnership with Tarek Hassan, owner of The Tannery. Future shops could be embedded into Shoebuy.com, be standalone or both.
“The vision that we’ve introduced has resonated not only with Jet but with our brand partners,” said Sorabella. “The shops have enabled us to open the door on some athletic or fashion brands that had been a longer chase for us.”
Looking ahead to the back half of this year and into 2018, Shoebuy said it would begin to focus on synergies with Jet.com. Both brands are expected to reach new audiences. For now, Jet.com is targeting millennials, and Shoebuy is focusing on providing a mix of footwear categories that includes comfort, fashion and hard-to-find sizes.
Boosting its footwear offerings is a priority for Jet.com, as is its audience reach. “It’s important to be where your consumers are and offer them a broad assortment of choices,” said Jet.com spokesperson Ravi Jariwala. The Shoebuy acquisition “was a good fit for what we were looking for,” he added.
Shoebuy footwear brands not already sold on Jet that are interested in expanding to the online marketplace will have that chance. In terms of cost efficiencies, credit card transactions
and shipping rates are at least two areas with immediate promise, said Jariwala.
Other possibilities include using Walmart’s vast distribution center network to ship Shoebuy product, Sorabella said, which would improve overall inventory turn.
One decision yet to be made relates to footwear pricing on Jet.com in its so-called “smart cart.” On Jet.com, when consumers are ready to add a product to carts, prices can become marginally lower when certain choices are made. For example, if customers give up the free return option, pay with a debit card or buy multiple items of the same product at once, they can get a better deal.
Shoebuy isn’t against changing prices as it pertains to footwear. “If you can pass along true value because of efficiencies,” Sorabella said, “it empowers the consumer.”
For their part, vendors are upbeat about Shoebuy’s new path under Jet.com. “Shoebuy has proven themselves to be strategic, nimble and highly focused on the customer, and we expect that to continue under Jet’s ownership,” said Jim Pisani, global brand president at Timberland.
“Any situation where a larger parent can provide greater resources to develop a more compelling footwear-specific platform is, in our view, not a good thing, but a great thing,” said David Kahan, CEO of Birkenstock Americas.