Customization has taken off in footwear. With technology making the process increasingly simple, it’s a great selling point: Adidas now offers shoppers the option to customize the fit of their shoes through 3D printing, and Farfetch allows customers to design their own luxury sneakers online.
Now, Nordstrom wants in on the game. Earlier this year, the retailer started letting women design their own shoes, with trial customization studios in six stores. It appears to have been pleased with the experiment, because it’s decided to officially invest in the startup that developed the customization technology.
The startup is called Shoes of Prey. Its latest round of funding, which totaled $15.5 million, includes Nordstrom and a handful of investment firms, led by BlueSky Venture Capital. That brings Shoes of Prey’s total funding to $24.6 million, according to a press release.
The startup, which just relocated to Los Angeles from Sydney, says more than 5 million customers have designed shoes on its site since its founding in 2009. The process entails selecting one of 12 different shapes, then specifying the height, material, and color of the shoe.
Base prices run from $159-$249 AUD ($115-$180), and for an extra fee, customers can also change the width of shoes, or even order each shoe in a different size if your feet aren’t exactly the same. It takes about three weeks for Shoes of Prey to produce and ship the shoes.
Nordstrom believes letting shoppers customize products is a new frontier in customer service. “With personalization becoming more important to how the customer views good service, it’s important for us to find opportunities to stay increasingly relevant,” said Scott Meden, Nordstrom’s executive vice president and general merchandise manager of its shoe division, in a statement.
To that end, the department store has been playing the role of tech venture capitalist as it tries out new forms of retail. Last year, it bought Trunk Club, which has customers fill out a style profile and then sends them clothes that they have the option to purchase. It also bought flash-sale site Haute Look a few years before that.
But Shoes of Prey could offer something neither of those ventures did. Like other department stores, Nordstrom has struggled lately, as foot traffic has fallen and competition from other outlets, notably Amazon, has increased. It may be hoping Shoes of Prey gives shoppers a reason to walk into its brick-and-mortar stores again.