Shoes and subscriptions

ShoeDazzle’s switch from its original shoes-as-subscription business model to a more conventional e-commerce approach has cost CEO Bill Powers, ex of ProFlowers, his job. Om thinks that the company will have a hard time regaining its customers’ love, even as it puts original founder Brian Lee back in charge. (He notes that the board must have approved the business model change, so it’s not all Powers’ fault.)

Om observes that “joy and love were the two emotions ShoeDazzle’s customers associated with the company.” It’s hard for a retailer to establish that kind of relationship, but it doesn’t have to be dependent on the business model. This is a banal observation, but the usual pitch to a consumer for a subscription business focuses on things like:

  • Value. For one low monthly fee, you get access to all these TV networks or music, instead of paying separately.
  • Utility. Think magazine and newspaper delivery without the reader having to do the work.
  • Revenue alternative. Skip the ads by signing up for a subscription.
  • Replenishables. Similar to utility, but subtly different: re-stock your razorblades automatically.

For some customers, shoes are replenishables, or such a frequent purchase that the utility kicks in. And like the old book or record of the month club, there’s a value pitch, too. Or at least an “I already paid for it” benefit. Do those values apply to a big enough audience?