Monday, October 4, 2010 | 11:59 AM
Mike Knapp and Michael Fox had always dreamed of founding a start-up. Jodie Fox (Michael’s wife) had always loved custom-made shoes. When her friends started asking her to design shoes for them and to bring these handmade shoes back from her travels, she, Mike and Michael saw a business opportunity. The trio founded their online custom shoe design company Shoes of Prey to share the design experience with the rest of the world.
The business first took flight in Australia, where the founders live and their company is headquartered. Their first customers were trusted friends, who tested the online creation tool and proudly wore their personalized designs. The ability to create custom shoes quickly went viral. It seemed that with each step they took, the initial testers received questions about where they found their fabulous footwear. Soon strangers began making purchases, and when the website spread to overseas locations, the team began offering different currencies to allow for international sales.
The team had already created an AdWords account to promote Shoes of Prey to online customers in Australia. As they expanded internationally, they created new AdWords campaigns targeted at English-speaking countries with currencies they could process. They used AdWords location-targeting to show ads in new locations: Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S. Michael says, “Despite being based in Australia, it took only a matter of days for our first orders to start coming in from the other side of the world. It was exciting to see!”
Currently, about 10 percent of Shoes of Prey’s shoe sales come from AdWords customers—and about 40 percent of those sales are from international buyers. One of the main reasons they’ve been successful in reaching international audiences is the ease with which they can edit ad texts for each location. “Gift certificates have been really popular on our site,” Michael says. “So we use AdWords to promote our gift certificates. Key events for us are Mother's Day, Valentine's Day and Christmas.”
Michael then uses Google Insights for Search to identify each country’s peak search traffic dates for these occasions. “We time specific AdWords campaigns to target each of these events. Mother's Day is on a different day in different countries, so AdWords lets us run ads at different times of the year for the various countries, and edit the ads so they speak to users in those countries. For example, we’ll mention the price of our shoes in euro in Ireland and in dollars in the U.S.”
After only a year of operation, the founders have hired three new employees and have formed partnerships with local firms in Japan and Russia to localize their offering in those markets. “Early on in the life of our business, AdWords showed us the potential our business has for growth outside Australia, so we now offer Japanese and Russian versions of our website, complete with local marketing and customer support in those markets,” says Michael.
With AdWords, Michael, Jodie and Mike have been able to share their passion for custom shoes with international customers who share their love for customization. Their next step is to inspire all shoe lovers to design their own footwear. Michael tells us: “We're starting to experiment with the Google Display Network to help us find those first customers while they're browsing the web.” And they’ll continue to use AdWords location targeting and ad text customization to reach new international customers who might not know just how much fun designing shoes can be!