“Atoms” is a sneakers brand that has sprung up rapidly in the United States in recent years. Since its establishment in 2018, it has created $12 million in revenue with only two casual shoes priced at $129-159 per pair.
University touches the online world and discovers the potential of online sales
The co-founders of “Atoms”, Waqas Ali and Sidra Qasim, are a couple from Pakistan. Before they got married, both of them went to university in Lahore, the second largest city in Pakistan. One majored in physics and the other majored in business. Only halfway through his physics department, Waqas came into contact with the fast-growing Internet at that time, and spent several hours surfing the Internet in the computer classroom every day; he found that the convenience brought by online shopping would be the future trend and business opportunity. So he took Sidra to study together, hoping to take advantage of the upsurge of Internet entrepreneurship and sell physical products online. However, local entrepreneurial resources are extremely scarce. They have no way to get started, don’t know where to find manufacturers, and don’t even have a computer of their own. In order to find relevant resources, in addition to applying for business subsidies everywhere, Waqas also took all the living expenses of 800 US dollars that his mother gave him to hold a “investment promotion” event, hoping to find manufacturers willing to let them sell products on the Internet. However, the local manufacturers didn’t understand what the Internet was at all. They failed in attracting investment, ran out of money, and failed to find half of the suppliers or customers. Waqas and Sidra had a big fight because of this and moved back to their hometown. Not long after, Sidra suddenly received a notice that the startup grant they had applied for before was approved and they received $10,000. They were able to continue to visit various manufacturers to explore various possibilities. Finally, they found a group of leather shoemakers who were willing to take orders and asked them to sell their leather shoes online. Then, they joined the entrepreneurial course provided by Google in the local area. While learning the knowledge needed to operate e-commerce, they learned how to choose leather materials and how to design shoe sole patterns with shoemakers. In the end, they founded an online leather shoe brand called “Markhor” in Pakistan: Skip the middleman, and consumers can buy a pair of high-quality handmade leather shoes for only 300 US dollars. Compared with the price of thousands of dollars for famous brands, Markhor does have The market, however, is limited by production capacity, and only about 50 pairs of leather shoes can be sold each year, with limited profits. Waqas and Sidra knew that such results were not satisfactory, and they continued to look for other entrepreneurial resources to grow themselves. They opened a Twitter account to communicate with entrepreneurs from other countries, and even applied across the sea to the Silicon Valley startup accelerator “Y Combinator”, which had an acceptance rate of only 2% at the time and had bred many new unicorns such as Airbnb and DoorDash.
Magnify the small difference of 1/4 inch into tens of millions of dollars in revenue
There are two main considerations for ordinary people to buy casual shoes: they are comfortable to wear and easy to walk on, and they can be worn on various occasions. According to their years of experience in the shoe industry, more than 70% of people have a difference of 1/4 inch (about 0.64 cm) between the left and right feet, and even 7% of them will have a difference of half an inch; in terms of wearing comfort, The fit of the shoes is absolutely key. However, most shoe factories on the market only provide sizes in units of half an inch, and can only buy one pair of shoes of the same size at a time, which cannot perfectly meet everyone’s needs. So Waqas and Sidra see this as a great opportunity to differentiate. They founded the casual shoe brand “Atoms” and found a Korean supplier who was willing to make casual shoes for them ranging from 3.5 to 15 inches in units of 1/4 inch. In addition, customers can choose 3 sizes when placing an order online, and Atoms will send 3 pairs of shoes of different sizes. After the customer tries them on, they can leave any 2 “only” shoes that fit their feet, and send the rest back for free. The response of consumers proved that Atoms proposed such an overturning concept that it is indeed effective: the first casual shoe “Model 000” attracted 40,000 people to line up for pre-order before it was officially released.
The fewer choices, the happier you are. Believe in “minimalism” and only produce one of the best shoes
In addition to fit, consumers also consider whether the functionality and appearance of shoes can meet various occasions in daily activities when buying casual shoes. “Most ‘comfortable’ shoes on the market are only established when you try them on,” Waqas cites another footwear startup “Allbirds” as an example: “Allbirds shoes made of wool are very soft, yes, wearing them Walking a few steps is like walking on clouds. But after walking 10 blocks, you will find that the soft sole design is uncomfortable for a long time.” In order to make casual shoes that can adapt to various occasions, Atoms invited senior shoemaker Sangmin Lee, who has worked in Adidas and Puma for 18 years, to design the design. In order to allow customers to walk for a long time, some round holes are dug in the sole to reduce the weight by 20%. Copper wire is used for antibacterial and deodorizing; shoelaces often fall off and need to be re-tied, which is very troublesome. We use oval shoelace holes that are not easy to loosen and elastic shoelaces so that customers only need to tie shoelaces a few times a year. On the other hand, because Sidra and Waqas believe in a minimalist philosophy, when they first entered an American supermarket, they saw a variety of milk and yogurt brands on the shelves, but they didn’t know where to buy them. Compared with only one choice in the Pakistani store: “We feel that life should be as simple as possible, and there are too many choices for people to choose.” The minimalist style is also present in their product portfolio: Atoms shoes were only available in black, white and black and white when they were first launched, and there were no extra decorations or brand logos on the upper; For customers who like freshness, new colors or limited pattern versions will be launched at intervals of 45 to 60 days to accept pre-orders. Half a year after the official sale of the Atoms Model 000, more than 12,000 pairs of shoes were sold.
How to create a 30% repurchase rate? Provide old-for-new discounts and analyze the mystery of insoles
For start-up brands, success in the first wave of sales is not enough. How to convert the first wave of customers into stable repeat customers is the key to sustainable growth. Therefore, Atoms has also established an innovative model to retain customers’ hearts: First of all, Atoms offers an old-for-new discount: Customers can get a set of discount codes to buy new shoes as long as they send back their old shoes that they don’t wear. Next, Atoms is designing a special pattern that will be printed on the insole, which will be worn to different degrees according to the customer’s different wearing habits and walking postures; after Atoms receives the old shoes sent back by the customer, it will analyze the pattern And the wear condition of the sole, we can use this to know which part of the structure needs to be strengthened or reinforced. When customers repurchase the shoes, they will attach a tailor-made customized insole in an attempt to make the customer wear more comfortable and never wear it again. Back to the general mass-produced shoes. Finally, customers who repurchase are also eligible to pre-order limited-edition products at the first time, so as to avoid a product line that is too single and unsustainable after consumers lose their sense of freshness. According to Waqas, 30% of current Atoms sales come from repurchase customers. As a start-up company, Atoms has indeed successfully squeezed out living space in a market dominated by traditional big brands with a large number of advertising campaigns and physical stores. However, if they want to stand firm and not be overtaken by competitors, they must rely on flexible strategies and deepening customers. Advantages of experience. Sidra and Waqas hope to continue to prove: “The world is not only ruled by Nike and Adidas”!