Greenes Shoes is a family run business founded in 1939 and for the past 20 years, it has focused entirely on specialist shoe shops. They are based out of Donegal, Ireland and deliver across Europe.
Rising online competition
The company first decided to go online four years ago, and in April 2020 Greenes Shoes upgraded its eCommerce platform to Shopify. “And just as well, given the current lockdown situation,” McFadden says.
“However, it is not enough simply to be online. Especially after the coronavirus, everyone is online and there are plenty of good local shoe shops in Ireland offering an online service to their customers. It is very difficult to differentiate yourself,” she adds.
In fact, we are in a relatively strong position with a very broad selection and strong buying capacity, but even that is not enough.
The only way you can stand out from the rest in the physical store setting is excellent in-store service with well-trained and helpful assistants. But that is very hard to replicate online… Orla McFadden, Managing Director, Greenes Shoes
A very smart virtual shop assistant
Drawing on her knowledge of consumer behaviour, McFadden expands on the point: “When shoppers enter one of our shops they often just want shoes. They only have a vague idea about what sort of shoes. In Shopbox, when you click on a pair of shoes it will give you a selection of similar pairs, based on size, style, colour, brand.”
She explains how this mirrors what she tells shop assistants: “I tell them, ‘never come back empty-handed. For example, if a customer says, ‘I love this style, but have you got it in size 10?’ don’t come back from the storeroom and say, ‘no, sorry!’ With such a large selection, you can come back with a few close matches.
"More often than not, the customer will take one of the alternatives. That’s how you not only make more sales but also delight the customer. And that is basically what Shopbox does, it’s a very smart virtual shop assistant.”
“Shopbox understands customer psychology. It puts customers at their ease, understands them and works with them. It seems to be saying, ‘let’s see what we can find for you!’.”
Shopbox guides customers through our wide selection and seems to understand what a shopper is looking for, even when they have not yet made up their mind
When a customer revisits the Greenes Shoes website, Shopbox reminds them which products they “recently viewed”, saving them time, but again, without forcing things on the customer. The “recently viewed” panel is off to a corner, so it does not get in the way of browsing for other things.
When a customer revisits the Greenes Shoes website, Shopbox reminds them which products they “recently viewed”, saving them time, but again, without forcing things on the customer.
The “recently viewed” panel is off to a corner, so it does not get in the way of browsing for other things.
“In this respect, Shopbox actually provides a better experience than a physical store can,” McFadden explains.
“Shopbox always remembers these things and it fills in additional details. In the store environment, people just pick up shoes at random. Someone who is a size 5 might look at a size 7, whereas Shopbox will remember that you are a size 5 when you come back.”
Greenes Shoes is already seeing great results. Since going fully operational on 11 November (both website and mobile) there has been a sharp increase in the number of online sessions and products viewed. Sales conversions for Shopbox users have been roughly three times higher than those for customers in the control group.
Figures don’t tell the whole story, though. “One of the things we noticed is that dormant brands – shoe brands that nobody had bought for ages – suddenly started selling online once we had installed Shopbox,” McFadden explains.
“Typically, these are fabulous shoes but with the poor market, visibility compared with recognised international brands. And that’s normally an obstacle with online sales – people go for the brands they already know. Reawakening the dormant brands is fantastic news for us, because the margins are higher than with the big names, where branding and marketing are built into the retail price,” she adds.
As consumers we have all become so impatient. If we don’t find what we want, we’re off to a competitor. But Shopbox makes the website sticky – there’s far less incentive to go elsewhere. And this will become even more important after Covid-19, when things settle down again and we all have less time on our hands.
It’s just incredible how Shopbox seems to understand retail behaviour and human psychology, and converts this understanding into sales and customer satisfaction.