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Talking Shop: Going The Extra Mile With Side Kicks

When your average customer is willing to drop thousands of dollars for one pair of shoes, it’s worth keeping them around. Keeping this in mind, U.K.-based premium sneaker brand Side Kicks decided to prioritize its customer retention strategy. 

In the sneaker re-sell market, Side Kicks works with sellers and end consumers to offer rare, limited-edition shoes without carrying an expensive inventory. In a competitive market where demand consistently exceeds supply, founder Mo Farhadi knew they would have to operate differently to stand out. 

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“A lot of companies in this space don’t really fight to win over customers in the long term because they know that customers need the shoes from them rather than the brand needing the customers to buy the shoe. We want to focus on volume, customer loyalty, and retention for the long term.”
– Mo Farhadi, Founder of Side Kicks

Combining a VIP program with experiential rewards 

Most luxury brands want to preserve their image as elite brands by limiting discounts, sales, or reward programs. However, when used correctly, a VIP rewards program can set you apart from competitors in the eyes of your customers. And that’s exactly what Side Kicks has done. 

The premium sneaker brand operates in the luxury re-sell sneaker market. With limited editions often costing thousands of dollars for one pair, it’s clear that customers value the exclusivity and status that comes with the product. Side Kicks recognized early on that their industry was unique in that customer demand will always supersede supply. 

The challenge then became figuring out how to retain customers long-term. The solution?

A VIP loyalty program packed with unique, exclusive, experiential rewards that customers value. The program has three tiers that customers can reach—Golden after spending £2,500, Diamond after spending £7,500, and Onyx after spending £15,000 in a calendar year. 

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“Other companies in the industry don’t offer any type of program. So offering anything is impressive to customers because they’re just not used to it,” shares Mo.

Here are five unique benefits of Side Kicks’ VIP program that have allowed them to achieve an 8% returning customer rate and an 85.5% customer account creation rate in just four months. 

1. Exclusive free products as tier welcome gifts 

While it is a transactional reward, free products still work exceptionally well in luxury industries. Side Kicks noticed how popular its branded crew socks became. Taking this learning, it rewards its Gold members with its Essential Pack of socks. Diamond tier members are gifted a care package of a branded hoodie, crewneck, beanie, trucker hat, and colorful socks, as well as their choice of one free clothing item. Onyx members receive one free pair of shoes upon entry (within limits), making it the most valuable welcome gift of all. 

Side Kicks offers customers free branded socks upon entry to a new tier.

These gifts are small tokens of appreciation that immediately signal to customers how valued their loyalty is. 

2. Access to the in-store VIP room

Does anything scream exclusivity more than a literal exclusive VIP-only room? We think not. 

An image of the Side Kicks store. It shows a white wall filled with dozens of sneakers on display.
Side Kicks grants VIP members access to a private room.

Side Kicks gives its VIP members access to this private lounge when they reach the Golden tier. This access incentivizes in-store visits, vital for a brand with a constantly rotating inventory, and enhances the customer experience while shopping. 

3. Deposit-free private shopping sessions

Depending on their tier, VIP members earn 1, 2, or 3 private deposit-free private shopping sessions throughout the year. And the inspiration for this reward came from a unique circumstance. 

While the store was closed for renovations one day, Mo was greeted by a customer knocking on the window asking to take a photo of a pair of shoes. The team agreed to let him come in for a quick picture, but the customer began browsing. After reiterating that the store was closed, the customer picked up a $750 shoe and asked to buy it. Twenty minutes later, the customer had spent over $10,000 USD on a day the store was closed. 

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“We couldn’t believe it. We don’t think he would have spent as much had other customers been around him. He could shop in peace and quiet, browse, Facetime his family members, show them the shoes, and ask for advice. This started the idea of offering private shopping sessions as a reward.”

4. Invites to VIP-only events and celebrity media days

Some brands have become more of a lifestyle than a store. That’s the goal for Side Kicks. “We don’t want to sell the products; we want to sell the lifestyle. But to get into that lifestyle, you need the products,” Mo shares. 

One of the best ways to create a thriving brand community that wants to live your brand’s lifestyle is through online and IRL events. One of the most unique experiential rewards Side Kicks offers is access to events with famous U.K. rappers or football players. These create hype, and getting exclusive access gives customers even more incentive to stay loyal because it’s a benefit they can’t get anywhere else. 

Side Kicks also plans to launch media days where celebrities come into the store for private shopping sessions that will be filmed and posted. Its Onyx tier members can request attendance at these media days to meet the artist or celebrity. 

“When we do promotions with rappers or sponsor events, we don’t even show them the shoes. We show them the branding, we show them the people behind the brand, and we show them the celebrities. The customers see the shoes, but it’s very subtle. The product comes at the end. The product is the key customers need to enter the lifestyle, feel part of the community, and feel cool. You don’t sell the product; you sell the coolness.”

5. Valuable personalized gifts for Onyx members 

As a high-end luxury sneaker brand, Side Kicks' top VIP customers spend at least £15,000 annually. With a customer value that high, the perceived reward value needs to match. 

Side Kicks plans to offer its best customers personalized gifts as a thank-you for their loyalty. They’ve been toying with gifting Onyx members a personalized Tiffany and Co. jewelry item engraved with their initials. We don’t know about you, but we'd be keen to stick around if a brand ever gifted us that. 

Through the personalized customer data they collect, Side Kicks also plans to give customers branded chocolates for seasonal events like EID for Muslims or Christmas for Christians. 

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“Many customers will ask us if they are the highest spender and if they are still the highest spender. It’s a status thing to them that we never expected, but here we are.”

On top of these valuable, personalized gifts, Onyx members receive a personal shopper. This shopper will help them get access to the products they want before they become available to the broader customer pool, making it an invaluable benefit in a market based on scarcity.   

Stepping into luxury with an experiential VIP loyalty program 

With over 2000 orders, $400,000 in revenue, and a thriving brand community just months after opening its doors, it’s clear Side Kicks is doing a few things right. By disrupting the traditional approach to customer retention in the resell sneaker industry, Side Kicks has made a name for itself. 

A big part of its success comes from its unique VIP loyalty program. As customers spend more with the brand, they earn a variety of exclusive rewards:

  • Tier welcome gifts and products
  • Access to the in-store VIP room
  • Deposit-free private shopping sessions
  • Invites to brand events and celebrity media days
  • Personalized gifts for top-tier customers. 

If you have a luxury brand and think a loyalty program will hurt your image, think again. Take a page from Side Kicks’ book and build a custom loyalty program that works for your customers. 

VIP programs are vital for luxury brands

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This originally appeared on Smile.io and is made available here to cast a wider net of discovery.
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