As far as memorable early milestones go, buying my daughter’s first pair of shoes has got to rank up there. The wonder on her face as she looked at the shelves of bright, pretty shoes; my joy at imagined future shopping trips; the anticipation of pushchair-bound freedom; the sense of responsibility at needing to encase and protect her precious, baby soft feet – not too tight, with enough flexibility.
Moments like this are a gift for brands looking to find ways to build meaningful and lasting connections with consumers. A key opportunity to provide both practical help and emotional empathy can create a powerful first impression that leads to long term brand preference. But treading carefully is vital. Do it right, and brands are welcomed for their contribution. Do it wrong, and encroaching on a treasured moment will more than wrong-foot you.
So I was naturally intrigued when, having measured M’s feet, advised on the style of shoe, and helped us to select a cute pair of Hush Puppies, the shop assistant carefully wrote out a card with M’s shoe size and when she would next need re-measuring, which also invited me to send off M’s details to receive a little gift from the brand.
A missed opportunity
A short time later I received a plain white jiffy envelope through the post. On opening I found a plain green plastic adult-sized shoe bag. No cover note. Not even a compliments slip. Instead of taking the opportunity to validate, prolong and support my happy experience, I had been sent something which appeared to be cursory, half-hearted and, to be honest, totally irrelevant.
When we next came to measure M for shoes, she became the proud owner of a pair of lovely Start-rites.
One of the frustrating things here is just the size of the opportunity Hush Puppies passed up on this occasion. As any parent knows, kids’ shoes don’t come cheap. At this age they’re around £25 a pop. And given M’s feet need measuring around 4 times a year, and there are summer shoes, trainers and winter boots to consider, I must have spent (heck!) at least £125 in just the 12 months since that first pair (In fact, 2011 research commissioned by Sheila’s Wheels home insurance cover found that British parents fork out an average £190 on their child’s shoes every year). And then think of all the mummy friends I might have recommended them to as well. Not to mention the years of pre-school and school shoes ahead of us.
A little thought goes a long way
But the really frustrating thing is just how simple it would have been to get right. Here are some ideas for how the people at Hush Puppies could have done it so much better:
- A bright, colourful address label on the front of the jiffy envelope
- A friendly, personalised ‘Hello’ message, hoping M is enjoying her exciting first pair of shoes
- A little gift to preserve that special memory:
- A ‘my first shoes’ photo frame or keepsake box
- There are so many nice shoe bags out there; it’s what Not On The High Street.com is for
- Crayons – everyone knows shoe boxes make great trains / toy beds / post boxes / space ships
- Something to acknowledge her knew-found mobility.
- Some practical advice about looking after her shoes – or more importantly her adorable feet – would have been most welcome
- Email or text reminders when her next measurement was due
- A money-off voucher for that all-important next pair
- A prompt / incentive to like them on Facebook and let my mummy friends know
Surprising and delighting isn’t rocket science: recognising how I feel about something, sharing that joy with me, being genuinely helpful. In short: being human. That’s all consumers really ask for from brands that want to engage with them. And in return they may reward your first hello with their lifetime loyalty, and become your strongest champions.