"Everybody is brand-crazy, and on e-commerce sites, the brands get all the attention," says David Smith, executive creative director of The Republik, the Durham, N.C.-based agency that developed the site. "But that's not the way many women shop for shoes. They have a specific need--a black high heel or a dressy sandal. And they want many options, but not an overwhelming number."
He says the Lynchburg, Va.-based shoe company's goal was to make the experience a little more like a shoe store than a search engine. "When you walk into a shoe store, there are tables set up with shoes that have something in common--they're not usually separated by brand. Maybe everything will have a metallic tone, or there'll be several evening shoes together."
But, he adds, it can be very overwhelming for someone to go to a larger site, like Zappos, where a search for "black heels" turns up thousands of selections from its nearly 3.3 million products. The same search at Consolidated's musthaveshoes.com produces a few dozen options, ranging from a $385 boot to a $39 wedge. In all, the site-- which launches this month--will contain only 400 styles.
Consolidated's five shoe brands range from the Apepazza, a high-end Italian line; Poetic Licence, a funky British label; Nicole, a classic lower-priced Middle American line, the teen-oriented Madeline, and OTBT, geared for global travelers. But since they are small brands, with relatively fewer offerings, it's easy to get lost. "We hope this levels the playing field," Smith says.
It's also more efficient for Consolidated, which no longer needs to maintain five separate sites. "It's a good way to maximize its marketing dollars," he says.
But most of all, Smith says the hope is that a site that stresses the goal of a shoe will appeal to some shoppers more than the brand. "It's not that people don't like shoe brands. It's just they don't always want flirty shoes, and they don't always want dressed-up shoes. We wanted to do something that wasn't about the brand, but the purpose the shoe serves."
Smith says the company will introduce the site with banner ads and on social networking sites.