Think on Your Feet: D2C Footwear Brand Snibbs on How to Build an Unforgettable Brand
How do you create a beloved brand? According to Daniel Shemtob, Co-Founder & CEO of Snibbs, and Haik Zadoyan, Co-Founder & COO, it comes down to a few key principles.
During our recent masterclass on June 3, the pair were joined by Moody Nashawaty, Chief Strategy Officer at MuteSix, and Zip’s Director of Merchant Success Andy Ma to dive into the genesis of the Snibbs brand—and how industrious retailers can replicate their success.
Here are some of the top takeaways:
- You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. You just have to make it better than it was before.
- Adjust your branding in real time to carve a unique place in the market.
- The line between online and in-store is shifting. Adapt your omnichannel strategy to meet consumers where they are.
- Keep experimenting until you find a marketing mix that resonates.
- Give customers the tools to invest in your products. They’ll thank you for it!
Read on for the lessons they’ve learned, from a quick COVID-induced pivot to their best-in-class product development strategy.
Andy Ma: Let’s start from the beginning. How did the idea for Snibbs come about?
Daniel Shemtob: Before Snibbs, I was a chef and ran a food truck. We started Snibbs to solve a simple problem: I hated all the work shoes currently on the market. Either I was wearing clunky clogs that were terrible for mobility, or opting for “cool” brands like Nike or Adidas that didn’t provide proper support. We wanted to create a fun brand that would reinvigorate an otherwise dull space, much like Figs had done for scrubs.
We set out to create the best product on the market, working with Dr. Snibby—a practicing orthopedic surgeon in Beverly Hills—on an intensive R&D process. We went through 40 iterations of the design, testing it in a range of workplaces. The end result was a product that was good for those who work on their feet all day, dense with features, and aesthetically beautiful.
“We wanted to create a fun brand that would reinvigorate an otherwise dull space, much like Figs had done for scrubs.”
Haik Zadoyan: I may be a sneakerhead, but we both come from outside the footwear industry. We were committed to manufacturing and building something unique from the ground up, and our focus has always been on creating a superior product. We work with Ortholite, one of the leading insole providers globally. They have unique proprietary technology that they have made available to us, and we’ve experimented with 20+ versions of our insole.
Moody Nashawaty: Snibbs is making work shoes cool, and the market has been super receptive. There are a lot of clues that this whole market needs disruption—Figs’ recent IPO is one of them.
AM: The brand launched at an interesting time. Can you speak a bit about how you navigated the early days of COVID-19?
DS: Snibbs launched on March 9, which was one week before the COVID lockdowns. We had to pivot our target audience quickly since restaurants, catering businesses, and food trucks were all shut down. That’s when healthcare workers became a bigger focus for us.
In those early days, we launched a “Soul Support” initiative with MuteSix to drop off food and shoes at hospitals. We had just ordered 6,000 pairs of shoes and were looking for ways to show up and show our team that things were going to be okay. Our intention was just to make a difference and build community around the brand, but we ended up getting a lot of positive press and sold out of product within six weeks!
Branding is interesting because you can work so hard on it prior to launch, but then you see how consumers react and have to adapt to carve your unique place in the market. We knew healthcare would be a big demographic for us, but we didn’t anticipate that it would be the group we started off with.
AM: Now that the worst of the pandemic seems to be behind us, what trends are emerging in the D2C space?
HZ: We’re seeing a lot of traditionally D2C brands, like Allbirds, opening physical retail stores to educate customers. They’re designed more as showrooms than retail spaces, to communicate the brand story and encourage repeat purchases.
MN: A lot of these brands are renting cubbies or kiosks with zero inventory—you’re still getting the product delivered to your home. It’s an effective way to get in front of the right audience without the acquisition or paid media cost.
Ultimately though, when COVID hit, people started moving to online shopping. That hasn’t changed even with stores reopening. COVID sped up the opportunity for online D2C sales.
AM: You’ve been partnered with Zip since the early days of the Snibbs brand. What drove your decision to implement a buy now, pay later solution?
DS: We did a deep dive on customer data to understand their motivations, pain points, and spending habits. We found that many of our customers are living paycheck to paycheck, so $135 is more than they’re comfortable spending. Allowing them to break the cost up, at no extra cost and with no credit check, makes this life-changing purchase more palatable. Zip has been a game changer.
HZ: Payment platforms are really appealing for high-ticket items. A lot of our customers were wearing work shoes under $50 and now we’re asking them to spend $135 on our shoes. It’s up to us to educate the customer and let them know why it’s worth the investment.
“Allowing customers to break the cost up, at no extra cost and with no credit check, makes this life-changing purchase more palatable. Zip has been a game changer.”
We talked to a bunch of different BNPL companies, and were really excited about what Zip offered in terms of technology. The initial conversations we had made me feel confident that it would be a good partnership. It was an easy choice for us.
The process of working with Zip has been seamless from the beginning. Once we decided to pull the trigger and move forward, implementation was really easy—it’s just a small snippet of code that our devs threw in and it worked right off the bat. Anything we need, we reach out and are taken care of very quickly by our account manager.
AM: What should retail brands be focusing on in this current moment, from a marketing perspective?
MN: People are really excited to get back out right now. It’s important to message the moment and speak to consumers’ current needs. Brands need to use their channels to tell a story rather than pushing product all day long. If you focus on making a unique, differentiated product, the marketing becomes easy.
“Brands need to use their channels to tell a story rather than pushing product all day long.”
DS: You can be very transparent about the brand story with the consumer. They want to know where their money is going and get to know the entrepreneurs behind the brand. Authenticity is key.
AM: Can you share any platform- or channel-specific insights?
MN: Facebook is still the easiest channel to scale in a cost-effective way. Our Facebook creative is designed to look native to the platform. We’re leveraging UGC and telling interesting stories to make our content as discoverable as possible.
We’ve also done some TikTok partnerships with influencers that went viral out of the gate, and Snibbs works with micro-level, super niche influencers (i.e. doctors & nurses) whose audiences are highly active and engaged. My advice is just to keep experimenting until you find new hero channels that can be part of your media mix.
DS: We’ve learned to start with a small budget and a wide net and then go more granular with our ad creative and targeting. We’re always testing and retesting.
AM: What would you tell an entrepreneur who may be struggling to hit their stride?
MN: If everyone’s going in one direction, go in the opposite.
HZ: My passion for entrepreneurship stems from my thirst for knowledge, and I’m always looking to improve and expand my skill set. The most important thing is to keep an open mind no matter what you go into. There’s always something to learn.
DS: If you’re not at a point where you’re in over your head, you’re not doing things right. If you believe in something, put your passion behind it. Take risks and be excited every day.
Another piece of advice: talk to your customers. We call customers every week and we routinely hear people say that they have been working on their feet for decades, and the shoe has dramatically changed their lives. If I can solve one person’s issue, that’s what matters.
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