Just short of nine years old, Keen — which global head of online and retail Christa Depoe calls “that crazy little bunker-toed shoe” — has become a global brand due to a cohesive, single-platform e-commerce strategy.

This story first appeared in the February 8, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Keen operates via a digital global platform that now ships to 12 countries including Canada, Spain, the U.K., France and Italy, with plans to introduce its “shoe with a solution” to Australia, China, Japan, Korea, New Zealand and Spain in 2012.

“We look at our consumer base as a fan base. We are new and don’t have the history of brick-and-mortar [retailers],” Depoe said. “[And] in 2008, a directorial thought and lightbulb went off, and we realized we had to go digital.”

According to Depoe, everything starts with knowing your brand’s DNA, and from here, Keen opened online access to its fans in a way that was inclusive — of fans, retailers and employees — and incremental (“We want people wearing Keen. We don’t care where they get them from — as long as it’s from an authorized dealer.”)

Perhaps most importantly, Keen has managed to keep its Web site approach cohesive worldwide, sticking with one platform that Depoe maintains is “one effort, one master database and one team.” (There is one global team at headquarters in Portland, Ore., responsible for the master data for the online platform, although localized teams exist in the countries where Keen e-commerce sites operate).

For Keen, the global expansion process started out with a “complexity meter,” which involved in-depth research about the region it planned to enter, followed by building a team and learning the “fun stuff” about the local community. (For example, German consumers like to wear socks with their sandals so a “see [shoe] with sock” option was incorporated on to the site.) Depoe said that “hot coals” — such as cultural differences, taxes, return laws, regulations, logistics and payment methods — also must be addressed per country.

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