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Lean start-up secrets: how Shoes of Prey did its market research on a shoestring

Lean start-up secrets: how Shoes of Prey did its market research on a shoestring

There is one thing that entrepreneurs want more than anything.


Specifically, on whether you’d hand over money for their product or service.

Shoes are frequently called the “gift no one loves to give”. There is an exception to this adage, but it requires a special set of circumstances.

Your audience has to be in the act of buying whatever the product or service in question is. Then, and only then, can you elicit a true insight into the target audience’s mind.

This is normally done in a focus group and it comes at a price. Focus groups are very valuable if run well, but in start-upland they are rare extravagances normally saved for a time when you have more money than you do right now.

In the early days of Shoes of Prey, we desperately wanted feedback on our shoes and the concept of being able to design your own via our website. We figured out how to do it for a grand total of $140 a pop. Here’s how.

We needed to find a place that encouraged a candid conversation, was filled with our target audience (25- to 35-year-old women with disposable income) and was a place where women would be thinking about fashion.

That place was Bondi Markets.

We set up our stall Sunday after Sunday, testing different opening lines to see what resonated and communicated our concept best. We talked with women about colours, styles, textures and make. We asked what their biggest frustrations were with shoes and what would solve them.

We rarely tried to sell shoes because that wasn’t our objective. We wanted to uncover what our online customers couldn’t articulate to us as they quietly clicked around our site. We asked them, do you enjoy designing shoes? What’s difficult about designing shoes? Would you design your next pair of shoes instead of buying them off the shelf?

I think back on Bondi Market days and love that we share our brand foundations with such an iconic Australian place. If I had my time over, this is an activity I would definitely do again.


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