Got the product, now how to get sales

Hi guys! The core77 boards have always been a great place to get feedback, and I’m in need of some. I’ve developed 3D printed shoes that are comfortable, look good (in the eye of the beholder but generally positive feedback) and are durable enough that I dare sell them.

But having the product is only the first step. Making that product profitable, now that’s a whole 'nother ballgame. There are too many ways to approach this, and I’m pretty low on funds by now, so I’ve got to do this smart. Hopefully some of you can point me in the right direction!

I currently have a website for sales and general information about the shoes, while I use to generate interest and post updates.

My current main goals are:

  • increase sales
  • find a business partner who is skilled in growing sales

I have already spent quite a bit of time gathering my thoughts, and those can be found in a gdrive document here Feel free to comment within the document.

So my question to you all is, how would you go about this? What will give the greatest return on investment? Do you know anyone who’s done a similar thing successfully?

The closest I was to your situation was when I was looking at going fulltime for designing and fabricating studio furniture. Unfortunately the distribution channels and my strategy don’t align in any way, so I am sorry i cannot be of further help.

I do wish you the best in your endeavours. And no matter the outcome, please try to enjoy the ride, it will be unique.

And who can resist a face like this? :smiley:

very cool! don’t have much in the way of advice but i’m curious how much the process drives the cost? some years back i remember seeing similar shoe samples being built by (#alliterativecombostacking!) a factory the way crocs are with i think some kind of a 2 piece mold? even though all the molds were really expensive , the shoes could be cheap because the shoes were so simple, didn’t require much labor, and i think the duty cost was either really low or none at all; beyond the crocs themselves, it didn’t quite catch on…i think if you figure out what the main pain/selling point(s) the product is meant to address/communicate it would help you figure out where & who you should target; kinda like you stated you have the product, so right now it is a cool idea but is it a business? and is that business a brand??

seeing as this looks to be a made to order type ting, who would your partner be selling to? how long does it take to print out a shoe? do you have to clean up/polish the print(s)? how many of these can you make a day? is that more or less than your optimal peak production? what has been the feedback from customers so far?

A few notes:

  1. Understand how you will scale, if you setup a system that allows unlimited orders, can you fulfill those orders?
  2. Personally, your price point deters me alot. I can get a pair of really nice shoes for the same price that can be re-soled and last for a very long time.
  3. Better photos on your website will probably help alot.
  4. Understand your true value proposition, if its customization can you do it well with a reasonable turnaround time? Does this customization result in a higher price? Should the quality and visual elements be brought to a higher level to adjust to this price increase?

Yay, replies!

Thanks for the well-wishes iab!

junglebrodda, in my case speed drives the cost. The lack of speed in this case. To print flexible materials dependably, slow and steady wins the race. My current machine can print about a pair per day. But my intention for this is definitely not mass production. As you say, the shoes will be made to order, and I would be fine with staying a niche player. The only reason I’m doing this is because I love doing it and nobody else seems to have found a way to make it work yet. On top of that, the production process is also much ‘cleaner’ and the shoes are fully recyclable into new printing material. As for who my partner would be selling to, the role would be about growing sales. That might be through a pop-up shop, a showcase post on hypebeast, a kickstarter campaign or something else entirely. Thanks for chiming in, I really appreciate it!

AVClub, great notes!

  1. Scaling will ideally be slow and steady. The ideal situation would be to grow with about an extra machine per month, which equals about twenty pair per month. I’m not interested in following the current ‘start-up method’ of raising heaps of money and growing as big as possible as soon as possible.
  2. I hear you, but then we are discussing product market fit. A sneakerhead will buy a new pair of shoes every month. I’m looking for relatively affluent fashionable customers who see my shoes as an eco-conscious stylish alternative to similar products. Someone who would also like to have a somewhat unique pair of shoes. Out of curiosity, what would you consider a good price and associated alternative product (ie, what would you consider similar shoes to mine)?
  3. Totally agreed man! I need way more and better pics and video.
  4. It is hard to define the value proposition with few similar products on the market. NikeID and miadidas come closest and they charge similar prices. My turnaround time is about two weeks. The customization does affect the price in my case, but I could also charge a flat fee. Still mulling that over.

Great responses all over, thanks for taking the time to type it all out. Anyone else want to chime in?!

Hi Philippe,

You got me interested in your shoes so I tried to use your website to build a pair to order. That did not lead far.

Something like that would be cool:

But I got stuck about here:

To shell out 170 bucks for something experimental I’d have to be able to fully (or at least a nearly) tailor them to my taste.
Where can I select the textures (layers)?

I wish you luck in finding a business partner and improving the experience.


Furniture and shoes do cross at one place, etsy. No reason that wouldn’t generate a portion of sales, although you have to eat their fees.

I think my price issue is the price vs. product life. I believe on your site it says on average they last about 6 months with regular use, where a shoe priced similarity or less (in the case of the Adidas example) could last much, much longer. I have boots that I’ve been wearing for 5+ years and cost nearly the same. The truth is i’m probably not the target market so take what I say with a definite grain of salt. With the value proposition question, I think what I am really getting at is what separates you into a small niche so its not as easy for the big companies to crush you immediately after you’ve put alot of time and money into work and buying machines. I would be interested to see if you could buy off the shelf soles that may last much longer and give you a trusted name to fall down on like Vibram or something. I must also add, I am not really a big shoe guy, so take that for what its worth :slight_smile: Good luck!

Hi mo-i! Thank you for the interest, and yeah, I hear you on the website. A big part of that is that it is really hard to offer a modular product through shopify (or probably other website services). Not only is it quite an undertaking to create all the the possible combinations in a smart way, you also run into presentation issues and limitations in the systems one works with. For example, shopify only allows 100 variants per product. So I’m left with finding loopholes. On top of that, I’m doing it all myself and I’m far from a website developer. Another thing is that I just love working on the shoes, so development tends to outpace website upkeep. :unamused: The gaiters on the instagram image you posted, are a new addition that I’m still figuring out.

For a shoe with textures, you would need to go here originally:, which would then take you to a google form to record your choices. But there is not a whole lot of feedback on how your choices make the shoe look, nor is the pricing very clear.

I’ve since found a product builder plug-in for shopify. It’s still very much in development, so I’m again looking for loopholes to make it work, but it does improve the shoping experience. The current builder is still a work in progress, but please give that a try and let me know your thoughts:

I’d love for you to become a customer, and as a designer I think you’d be able to tell me what you’d like in a shoe, so just email me if you’d like something specific.

iab, yes, etsy is definitely an option, just wondering if and how that dilutes brand perception and work focus. Then again, sales is sales.

AVClub, dude I really appreciate the come back! Thanks! To be honest, I don’t know yet how long they last. My first wearable shoes were printed in September so that’s how long I’ve been able to test them. I do wear them daily, and the 6 months is a conservative guess based on my experience with the material. If used by someone with several pairs of shoes, worn in rotation, I’m thinking they’ll do just as well as converses.

I hear you on the value proposition! To me, this mostly equates to the appeal of the design though. I won’t ever be competing with big brands, but I think there is space for a nicely designed, eco-conscious lifestyle sneaker.

As for outsoles, the 3D printed TPE is really quite good. It’s not the sole of my shoes that wears out, it’s the layers delaminating in areas of high wear (ex. toebox). Also, gluing an outsole to the current shoe instantly makes it way harder to recycle.

Now who’s going to point me at someone who’s successfully trodden a similar path as I have in mind? :smiley:

First off, I’m a huge fan of this project. Please keep that in mind when I say the following:

Now for a couple of pieces of tough love. One on the very beginning of the consumer decision process, and the other on the very end.

  1. At the very start I read “Home growing the future of footwear” … this puts me off right away. Do I really want to pay this much for something “home grown”? and can something “home grown” define the future of footwear? When I think of home grown i think of something visually crafty and this is visually techie. I recommend with going with something more like the following:

Advancing the future of footwear through made to order, custom built, 3d printed footwear.
Redefining footwear by rapid manufacture of shoes to your exact specifications.
Using 3d printing to custom make footwear to your exact specifications.

  1. The picture of you is also a little intimidating. Knowing you through core77 and instagram I know it suits your personality, but think this is the first time someone is introduced to this concept and to you. You want to imbue them with confidence and trust. I would go with a more conservative picture of yourself.

Lastly, it was said before, but I think upping the photography would help. For the casual street shots, check out the Sartorialist as a reference: Some good backgrounds with a little shallow depth of field goes a long way there. Then I’d hire a photographer to do a few really good studio shots. You would be surprised what you can get from a professional photographer for a reasonable cost.

Hope this all makes sense! I love the experimentation, and I think converting this idea into a business as an individual is very challenging no matter what! Another way to do it would be to not focus on scale and just take individual orders to start. A lot of bespoke craftsman work this way and charge handsomely for that level of service.

Thanks for sharing Yo, I am digging those photos.

yo, no one does tough love better than you mate! :slight_smile: It’s a huge compliment to have your attention. As for your comments, none of them are new, but they carry extra weight coming from someone with your experience:

  1. Yes, I hear you. Since the start of this project, I’ve been torn with marketing it as a one-person, crafty project and a more professional brand project. In the end, so far, it is just me, with all the limitations that brings to the table. But I guess it’s time to make a choice, so I’ll take your lines into consideration and get rid of home-grown. This also ties into my last line of this message though, about which route is best for me. And on that note, what are your thoughts on me offering 3D printing filament? That too might send a wrong message.

  2. Ok, heard this one a lot too. Consider it done. But aiya, where’s the appreciation for ‘different’ gone nowadays…

Photography, check! Love the sartorialist! I am currently dependent on my phone’s camera, but I’ll ask my professional and amateur photographer friends for a hand.

And I’d actually prefer going the bespoke craftsman route. I guess the website doesn’t convey that huh? Hmmm, that is definite food for thought. Thanks again for chiming in, I need all the help I can get!

While I understand your pov, and I don’t know the shoe market in any way, shape or form, I think it should be that picture or no picture at all.

This is a new company brought up by the little guy, not some corporate goliath trying to be hip. The picture used is genuine, and that is what I think is important to the success of any startup. Phony can sustain a brand for only so long. That picture can be a great representation of the brand, and while I agree there can be risk with it, there also can be reward.

I would make sure everything aligns to the “mad scientist” value proposition. I personally think you have a good start, but it is something that should always be in the design process and go through a lot of change in the early years.

I think the “Mad Scientist” positioning is another great way to go. I love that idea actually. I’m not getting that though in anything other than that one pic. You could carry that through everything, the branding, proposal put your photoshoots with beakers filled with plastic 3d printer material, calipers. Giffs of the 3d printer in action. Play it up. Make it a story. Make it so people share the website.

Another good way to go. Again, play this up though. Show images of yourself measuring peoples feet with a denim apron on. Get the branding to align with that.

What I get from the current branding and website with lots of 3d renders is clean and designerly. Even the name, Fused, is very trendy designer sounding. Just make sure all of the elements align, from the design of the product itself to the brand mark in the upper right corner of the site. Tell one story.

It will never be perfect, nor should it be, but I think the presentation can be more aligned to your vision. Look for ways to minimize cognitive dissonance.

I see it as a modern twist in his site. It isn’t the stereotypical Frankenstein, black with lightning. But the picture with the white background, tinkering with a technology not associated with finished shoes, the ability to concoct your own “secret” formula for finished good. That’s the vibe I got. I see it there at 50,000 feet, but you are probably right there needs to be more in the details. I would just hate to see the details go all Frankenstein.

Yah, doing it tastefully is the trick.

it is interesting to see the different perspectives/takes, didn’t really consider the branding angle…mad scientist, bespoke craftsman either could definitely give a little more flavor to the site, does it really need to be consistent? both would add/convey something interesting but not necessarily at odds with the other…though assuming a good/thorough representation of either, how much would it change the perception of what is actually on the site? would either make people more likely to go in on a kinda expensive proposition? should what is being sold, customizing a product, be tied to a “personal brand” at all? why not create multiple personas to showcase what is possible?

A few thoughts.

First off, cool, concept and congrats for getting out there and actually making something!

  1. …That being said, it seems to me, it’s obviously more an experiment or personal project since you seemed to launch something without the foundation of business case/plan, marketing plan, etc. Which kind of confuses me the now questioning for sales. Is this a business or something for fun or exploration?

  2. Product wise, I think you have something interesting, but visually I’m not sure if feels as contemporary or “designed” as it could be. Look at the Adidas Futrecraft stuff or any of the recent sport lifestyle trends and compare level of detail, shape, materials, colors ,etc.

  3. Branding wise, as mentioned I don’t think there is good alignment between what you are offering (product/service/experience), your personal brand and the story. The name and logo is very tech/big brand, but the product is mid level refinement and reads more like a student project, and your story and craft are more experimental and if anything art-based.

If you are more interested in the bespoke hipster look, this is an all together different direction.

Checkout for example the Shoe Surgeon-

  1. To also consider in all this if you are looking for a better business opportunity and brand position, is the target market. WHO is buying it? WHY are they buying it? This will affect everything from price point to design style, to brand, colors, look and feel etc. Right now I would wonder who would want this? It doesn’t look premium or aspirational, it’s not really on trend fashion hype beast/lifestyle, it’s maybe art or something in the hackerspace?

    Hope this all helps. I’ve been working in footwear for 18 years and have been working on creating a modular footwear brand for the last 3 years so know the space very well. It’s a difficult thing to balance something new for the sake of something new with fashion/lifestyle and also technology. Mostly I believe the tech needs to be a means to an end (a way to get the look/fit/uniqueness you want ie. NikeID), or something so different it’s aspirational in and of itself (ie. Adidas Futurecraft). Anything in between is kinda a deadzone or a gimmick.


Yay for more insightful responses. This conversation is making me explore different directions, and unfortunately I’m the kind of guy who needs to feel out what works best for me. Great!

Pity we’re not focusing on sales hacks for the up and coming though. Who thinks I should try a kickstarter campaign? :wink:

And just a heads-up, I think I might have gone a bit rambly further along. Sorry!

With regards to what has been discussed so far, the common ground seems to be my struggle to decide on making FUSED either a ‘company’ or a personal ‘brand’. For example, up til now, when the company speaks on the website or instagram, I use the ‘we’ form and tone down the language used. I feel all this might make it easier for potential customer to trust that they will get a good product. But I’m also someone who hates faking anything. Thus I try to be upfront on the website about FUSED being a one man business. Mixed messages much?!

The faking also ties into the personas mentioned (mad scientist, artisan), I don’t think I’m comfortable with theatrics. The current website design and language tone is a good representation of who I am, and I am up for fleshing that out more with quirky and eclectic styling of future lifestyle photos.

Put in other words, on the one hand:

It will never be perfect, nor should it be, but I think the presentation can be more aligned to your vision. Look for ways to minimize cognitive dissonance.

On the other:

mad scientist, bespoke craftsman either could definitely give a little more flavor to the site, does it really need to be consistent?

I’m leaning towards the latter but it is all a balancing act. Then again, as designers we like everything polished, but that shouldn’t stop us from working with unfinished prototypes to get things going.

And Richard, you are another designer whom I have great respect for. I love the designs you’ve done for Skora. And as can be expected, you are asking great questions!

  1. You are right, this all started as quest. I needed to find out if I could print shoes, and in the process, if a product designer with a 3d printer can attain financial independence. Feetz is doing it in silicon valley start-up style, but I felt their shoes were not really attractive (I still don’t). I found a brand called Prevolve, with my same development approach and a two year head start, but they hadn’t made much headway yet. So I saw an opportunity, to develop a product and a production technique on a modest sum, and possibly be just ahead of the curve and in a position to surf it. Something that I’m sure many a product designer has wanted to do at some point.

It really is that simple. Business cases and marketing plans are great, but if you don’t have a working product, what’s the point? That probably sounds naive but all I’ve done is product design, not business development. And I had a healthy dose of confidence that if I could get it to work, the shoes and production method would be intriguing enough to merit further development with outside help. That’s where I’m at now. I do think it is a business, but maybe not a BUSINESS. lemme ask you, is it not possible to make a profit while experimenting and having fun?

For example, If I stay a one man brand, I break-even at about 30 pairs/month, which sounds achievable. I’d then like to cap production at 50 pairs/month and keep it there.

Or I might want to grow a bit more, up to 200 pairs/month, with a small office and two employees.

Is there any good reason to grow bigger in the first couple of years? Please do call me out and educate me, a life of contract jobs does not prepare one well for running a business.

On that note, the Shoe Surgeon is a great example of a route that feels more natural to me than a bigger business, and one I hadn’t thought of until now. Thanks!

  1. As for the product quality, and knowing the materials I’m working with, I’m ok with doing ‘low res’ designs that clearly show 3D printing artifacts. For now. With my entry-level printer, there is a sort of machine signature, making each shoe slightly different. I also take pleasure in making the shoe as one piece, with minimal post-processing and the ability to easily recycle the shoe after it’s worn through. If we are talking future production methods that show promise for a more sustainable model, this is definitely one of them. But currently, it’s still a crude tool, which too me has it’s own charm. Also, chasing the refinement that a production big brand shoe has, would probably kill my enthusiasm. And regarding the big brands, I’m sure all the best concepts are being kept a secret because doing just a 3D printed midsole seems a bit of a cop out to me, considering the toys they get to play with.

  2. That said, you make an excellent point here. I do aspire to give potential customers the same security and service as a big brand. My product is a Model T compared to contemporary shoes (same comfort though, promise). And I would like to keep the experimental nature of the current quest. You’re going to tell me I can’t have it all and be successful, right?

  3. Hah, so true! I originally thought my target market would be sneakerheads. They regularly buy new shoes, seem swayed by innovation and want to stand out. I was wrong though, most of them are incredible brand loyal and don’t really want to stand out. I’m now leaning towards techwear personally, but I’m taking January to figure out what FUSED will be, so if you have any target market suggestions, I’m all ears.

Regarding those modular shoes, Miix much? I am looking forward to the launch! :slight_smile:

I’d like to second the photography comments above. Also some good lifestyle shots would go a long way.

To be honest, none of the designs really “inspire” me to pursue a purchase at $170. I would take the opportunity to really design some unique looking shoes that take advantage of 3D printing - Design details that you wouldn’t be able to get otherwise. If the shoes were more surface/texture rich and there was a better transition between the “outsole” and upper I would be all in for a pair.

I would love to see designs built for “casual” vs “Outdoor” as well as some unique themed offerings. Why not print a shoe that looks like something completely different?

The customization is the ticket here - Building a nice custom builder is going to bring it home for the user experience.

The shoe is a blank canvas - Play that up!