(updated – Aug 13, 2008) Customizing footwear has been a long theme in this blog. RYZwear recently offered a fresh approach to this (see my report), and now the evolution of custom footwear continued one more step. US shoe brand Keds just launched its new custom footwear offering, called Kedsstudio.com. While looking at the first glimpse like a copy of NikeID or Timberland's Custom, a closer look on the site convinced me that Keds went much further.
Keds is an iconic US brand that actually invented the term ‘sneaker’. Since 1916, Keds is offering its classic champion sneaker and a large variety of other styles. Keds is a subsidiary of the Stride Rite Corporation, which again is a unit of Collective Brands, Inc.. Collective Brands is the owner of Payless ShoeSource, a more than 4,500-store retail chain in footwear, and thus one of the very big guys in the international footwear market.
With kedsstudio.com, they created a mass customization offering that goes far beyond the present state of the art in this industry. Their advancements are with regard to two dimensions:
First, users can upload any design or picture on their shoe. So it is not just picking color options for pre-defined components of a shoe, but really getting what you want. Shoes are manufactured with an advanced digital printing technology that offers great variety in high quality. The customized sneakers are produced in China within 24 to 48 hours, and will be received by consumers within one to two weeks, depending upon the shipping method selected.
Secondly, and more interesting, Keds is one of the best examples of a new trend in mass customization: Keds actually did not build any mass customization operation of its own, but outsourced most of the process to mass customization intermediary Zazzle. Keds Studio is one of the finest examples for the benefits of the new MC infrastructure providers.
In an e-mail, Gregg Poulin, who initiated and implemented the Keds mass customization program as the e-commerce director at Keds, described how this collaboration worked (Gregg has left Keds to become CEO of compete.com).
When Keds' management decided to profit from the mass customization trend, Gregg had to face a tough challenge:
"Essentially I had no budget and very little partnership dollars to create a custom shoe program that as you know can cost millions of dollars. In order to complete the vision I needed to be creative and find partners."
While browsing the web looking for a solution, he found my blog and a report on Confego, the company of Brennan Mulligan that later became part of Zazzle: