April 12, 2024

Skinners: From Crowdfunding Triumph to Amazon – A Journey of E-Commerce Success

In an interview with Michael Pressl, CMO of Skinners, we discussed not only their beginnings on crowdfunding platforms but also their presence on Amazon in both Europe and the USA, where they generated up to 40% of their revenue during their peak months.

About the company

The idea to create a hybrid footwear that combines the comfort of socks with the protection of shoes came to Petr Procházka during his summer job in Norway in 2014. His friend, who was traveling with him, injured his foot in a way that made wearing traditional shoes too painful for him. Using a sewing kit, Petr quickly assembled the very first prototype of sock shoes. To his amazement, he discovered that this style of footwear offered both comfort and freedom of movement. Upon returning to the Czech Republic, Petr, along with Michaela Steinhauser, embarked on developing and producing the first real pairs of Skinners. Today, the company offers three types of sock shoes: Skinners 1.0, Skinners 2.0, and Skinners 2.0 for children. Skinners has achieved success in 120 countries worldwide, and in 2021 alone, it attained a turnover of over a hundred million.

How did this successful project start on the HitHit platform?

"It was quite a challenge," Michal Press chuckled. The main objective of the campaign on HitHit was to gauge the interest in the product. If there was significant interest, our plan was to use this platform to secure the required funding for commencing serial production. With the invaluable support of the HitHit community, Skinners found the footing it needed to embark on its journey.

Yet another pivotal moment was your crowdfunding campaigns on the Kickstarter platform, which yielded over 3 million USD. What impact did this achievement have on your business, and how did you deploy the funds?

The triumph on Kickstarter propelled the company's growth across the spectrum, spanning product advancement, manufacturing, marketing, distribution, and beyond. Moreover, the prominence garnered from this crowdfunding platform significantly heightened Skinners' recognition among a vast array of individuals, encompassing end consumers as well as B2B collaborators.

What was the crucial factor that prompted the decision to venture into the global marketplace?

The turning point was predominantly tied to our triumphant crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. We aimed to sustain the worldwide interest we had garnered and leverage it effectively. Hence, the decision was made to step into one of the most renowned marketplaces, Amazon. Another influential factor was Amazon's potential to accumulate reviews for our innovative and relatively unknown product at the time. Lastly, our objective was to establish proximity to customers in environments where they are accustomed to a familiar and satisfactory customer experience.

Did you introduce your own product on Amazon, and what approach did you adopt to thrive in the intense competition?

At Skinners, we believe in experimentation and assessing opportunities that align with our goals. We didn't formulate a distinct strategy. Roughly three years ago, we made the decision to explore another channel, primarily in the United States and Germany. Our aim was to establish a closer connection with customers and select a trusted and widely recognized platform.

Do you perceive a difference between selling solely on your webstore and selling on Amazon?

Currently, our focus is primarily on sales through our webstore. It's likely to remain unchanged for the foreseeable future in terms of the company's revenue. Last year, before we discontinued sales of Skinners 1.0, Amazon accounted for up to 40% of our revenue in the strongest months, which was significant. With the launch of the new product, Skinners 2.0, we started from "zero" in terms of product listings, which naturally decreased the revenue generated through Amazon. However, we are at the beginning and aim to maximize sales again. Since we also operate in the B2B sector, and our distributors are on Amazon, this channel is important to us in terms of listing ownership.

Do you leverage Amazon's FBA service, and what advantages or disadvantages have you experienced?

Indeed, the Amazon FBA service has proven advantageous for us, primarily due to the parameters it provides that bring us in closer proximity to our customers.

Learn more about Amazon's FBA service here >>

You have been partnering with EXPANDO for the second year. What has this partnership brought you?

The reason we wanted to outsource sales management on Amazon was to leverage all the opportunities Amazon provides to increase sales volume. We also wanted someone on hand who deals with Amazon-related issues on a daily basis, has experience with the platform, and adds value to our business. We considered several companies at that time, and EXPANDO came out on top. EXPANDO is a partner that can effectively help us with specific problems and serves as an intermediary between Skinners and Amazon. It's advantageous for us not to have an internal Amazon team. We simply have someone who takes care of everything, monitors sales performance, watches over our listings, conducts marketing on Amazon, and so on.

What challenges did you encounter on Amazon?

When we started selling on Amazon ourselves, we weren't fully experienced in this area, and Amazon can be quite demanding. We faced issues with product listings and sales monitoring. In 2021, before the Christmas season, our account was even temporarily suspended, but our partner managed to resolve the issue and get it reinstated.

Was Amazon your first choice?

Amazon was our clear favorite from the beginning. It allows us to sell under a well-known brand that customers trust. We also appreciate the standardized sales process, fast delivery, and the FBA service on this platform.

What are your plans for expanding into international markets?

Currently, our focus is not on conquering new markets but on strengthening our position in the existing ones. We are primarily oriented towards the West and aim to gain a stronger foothold in the German, American, and Canadian markets. In Germany, we are already working on an external PR team that will directly target local customers and maximize sales both online and in retail.

“We have indeed focused primarily on the German market, which is the largest in Europe and generates the highest profits. Currently, we are also preparing for the US market, where we have been selling for a while. However, due to transportation costs, the profits are lower. Nevertheless, considering the significant potential we see in the American market, we have made the decision to establish our own warehouses there,” our expert says.

Are your "sock shoes" more popular in terms of sales in the Czech Republic or abroad?

I'll go back to the beginning. Thanks to our inclusion among the top 0.1% of campaigns on the American Kickstarter platform, which exceeded $1 million in pre-orders, we naturally gained thousands of customers from the USA, Germany, and other countries around the world. Consequently, after the campaign ended, we continued our marketing activities in these markets, whether directing them to our webstore or Amazon.

If I compare the USA and the Czech Republic in terms of barefoot shoes, we can say that, for example, a well-known barefoot brand sells only three times more products in the USA, which is approximately 30 times larger than the Czech market. It can be said that the Czech Republic is a barefoot powerhouse. We sell more internationally due to the initial creation of demand and brand awareness on the aforementioned platforms.

What can your customers look forward to in the coming months?

We recently concluded our most successful product campaign to date, the Skinners Walker, on the HitHit platform. Our customers can look forward to the delivery of these premium barefoot sneakers very soon, so they can enjoy the Indian summer. However, our development department is not idle, and in the next year, customers can expect a lot of product novelties in both footwear and sock shoe categories. We'll keep the details to ourselves for now.

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