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Andrea Wasserman, chief executive officer, Sole Society

Rather than presenting historical anecdotes, Sole Society’s chief executive officer Andrea Wasserman  painted a real-time picture of how the three-year-old shoe and accessories company is building a vertical brand in the digital space. “Helping women look and feel chic without breaking the bank is our rallying cry,” she said.

The company was launched in 2011 as a subscription commerce site within the Nordstrom-owned flash-sale site HauteLook, later spun out on its own, then in 2012 moved away from the subscription model. Last year, Sole Society elevated its footwear assortment and launched handbags and accessories, all of which sell on its e-commerce site as well as in Nordstrom stores.

Wasserman cited product as the basis of her brand pyramid, with friendly, direct-to-consumer prices and trend-right styles that can be worn for more than a season. Sole Society delivers 20 to 25 new styles a month and looks are shoppable through various filters, by collection or by head-to-toe looks. Fast and free shipping is a must.

“We’re not looking to be the least expensive or the trendiest, but friendly and fashionable,” she said.

The consumer dictates the product. “She drives us in creating the right product; the whole pyramid is built on her,” said Wasserman, noting that her  priority is serving a targeted customer who knows about the product, loves it and keeps buying it.

In order to give customers what Wasserman calls a “frictionless” experience, the company stays in touch with her via research, e-mails seeking feedback and input from Nordstrom sales associates. Not surprisingly, consumers state style, price and quality as their top three reasons for buying the product.

Terms such as “brand positioning” and “emotional benefits” didn’t come into play until the merchandise was up to snuff.

“We didn’t begin to flesh out the brand until we were solid on the product,” she said. The building blocks around it include design of the user experience, content, social media, service, customer relationship management and acquisition of new customers, where e-mail, social and mobile are key.

She described Sole Society’s brand personality as “perfectly imperfect” and “predictably unpredictable,” which translates to a resource for shopping inspiration and a place to find edited looks and high-low pairings. 

Wasserman noted while there are no immediate plans to open retail stores, “it’s always a fun conversation to have. At the moment, we couldn’t ask for a better partner than Nordstrom on that front.”