With many competitors in the industry, retailers are constantly looking for new ways to stand out. One of the easiest ways to offer a product that differs from competitors is by allowing customers to customize it themselves. Without having to constantly come up with new designs and try to market them to your target audience, customization allows your customers to tell you exactly what they want. Essentially, marketing efforts will be minimized, as you’ll just need to make it known that consumers can design their own products to ensure they are getting what they want and need.
One of the original companies to start offering customized shoes is Vans. In 1966, Paul and Jim Van Doren opened up their first shop with their partners, Gordon Lee and Serge Delia, called the Van Doren Rubber Company. The store offered Vans’ “Authentic” style shoes, and were essentially all custom shoes, seeing as every pair was made to order. While this set up worked well for the company at first, they eventually started creating shoes in bulk to fulfill growing demand.
In the early 1970s, skateboarders went crazy for Vans and the grip that their iconic rubber sole offered. This spike in demand plus the introduction of new styles led to the Van Dorens needing to increase their supply on hand to keep up with orders. This is when Vans started to mass-produce their shoes.
However, as the company continued to grow, they did not stray from their roots of great, customized shoes. In 2004, they launched Vans Customs on their website. With more styles and fabric selections, Vans Customs offered the option for customers to customize their shoes by selecting different fabrics and colors for each component of the shoes. This option has continued to do great for the company throughout the years and has even graduated to being able to customize smaller elements, like the color of the eyelets and shoelaces. While these offerings were far above any of their competitors, Vans didn’t stop there.
In November of 2016, Vans offered an incredibly new way to personalize your customs shoes. Now, in addition to choosing various fabrics, you can upload your own pictures to the website and have them printed on your custom Authentics or Slip-ons. Vans has always been a great supporter of the arts, and has even sponsored school contests where students can draw up different designs for new fabrics. This was a great opportunity for them to tie in their love of unique art in their marketing efforts for the new personalized Vans Customs. As it is a very new feature, they have not done much advertising yet. In their e-mail newsletters, they told subscribers “Customs just got personal.” In the introductory e-mail, Vans was pleased to announce that customers could now add their own art and photography to their shoes for an even more personalized shoe.