Shoes of Prey and the New Web of Real Customisable Things

Shoes of Prey and the New Web of Real Customisable Things

Shoes of Prey, the Australian startup that lets you create custom women’s shoes online has had its official launch and, along with kick-ass shoes, brings the promise of things to come for all of us.

Founded by former Google employees Michael Fox and Mike Knapp; and with Fox’s wife Jodie, the business’ “Director of Fashion”, the site has gained a lot of attention since coming out of stealth a few months ago, and rightly so.

Every single woman I have shown the site to, without fail, has looked like a kid on Christmas Day. Admittedly I was showing many of them the site on the actual Christmas day, which may have had an influence on their look, but that small fact aside there’s no doubt that the site is a winner for a large chunk of the fairer half of the population.

Adding to the hype surrounding Shoes of Prey, the site has just been announced as a finalist in the TechCrunch Crunchie Awards category of Best Bootstrapped Startup. More importantly though, they’ve also been nominated in The Next Web Australia Awards in a number of categories and will no doubt feature in the finalists there too.

So what is it about Shoes of Prey that makes the site so interesting?

First of all, it’s the number of options – Shoes of Prey’s simple online shoe-designer can be used to create 3.81 x 10^22 types of shoes that’s 381 followed by 20 zeros!

Secondly, it’s the customer service side of things like their Guaranteed Gratification Policy – if the shoes don’t fit, or just don’t fit your dream, then you can send them back for a full refund!

But, most importantly, it’s a great example of what will no doubt be an evermore-popular component of e-commerce – the web of real, customisable things.

Need proof? Check out Milk or Sugar and its collection of sites that allow you to order custom goods online.

Between real customisable things, rapid prototyping and the growing trend towards user-led innovation, it’s clear that we’re in for a change in the way that many of the things we buy are developed, created and distributed.

The current popular model, where companies come up with stuff they think we might want, mass produce it, then squeeze the f*** out of suppliers in order to compete on price, leaves little room for smaller producers to compete globally.

Sure there are artisan sites like Etsy and RedBubble, but customisation is about something different.

What customisation does is allow businesses to compete at scale on a new form of value – the “me” in a world of impersonal mass-produced goods.

Nike know it. So do Ralph Lauren. But they and the other big boys playing in the space are working both sides of the game. That’s not showing any real commitment to the cause and will do little to counter the real winners from this movement – startups, like Shoes of Prey who, by building a business purely on customization, will shift the demand curve rather than moving up or down it.

It’s been a long time coming, researchers have been writing papers on the idea of mass customization for almost 15 years, but when women are prepared to buy something as personal and important as a custom pair of shoes online you know the movement’s time is near.

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