Sneaker Shop Targets Trendsetters with Personalization

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Villa Inc. has taken an atypical path in the highly competitive clothing and footwear market. Rather than concentrate on suburban malls, the company targeted urban areas, offering consumers fresh, hip styles. And as it looked to increase sales in its e-commerce system, the clothing supplier shunned traditional recommendation solutions in favor of a personalized selection system, a decision that saw its online revenue double.

Villa was founded as Sneaker Villa Inc. in 1989 and is based in Philadelphia. The business started off selling footwear only: basketball, running, training, and casual. Jason Lutz, now CEO, joined his parents' two-store operation full time after graduating from college in 1995. Eventually, the retailer added boots to its footwear line and branched out to apparel, including pants, shorts, shirts, sweaters, sweatshirts, T-shirts, tank tops, and jerseys; and accessories, such as eyewear, electronics, bags, and watches. The privately held enterprise now has about 100 brick-and-mortar locations and an online operation.

In early 2014, the retailer looked to expand its online presence. Old-school approaches to e-commerce were ineffective; Villa's customers tend to be trendsetters, not followers, says Patrick Walsh, vice president of e-commerce at Villa. The firm wanted an innovative strategy, something other than recommending products based on "people who bought this also bought that" or showcasing the most popular items. And it wanted to mimic its stores, which offer vibrant, highly visual experiences that lead customers to desired items. Shoes are displayed in well-lit display cases, and apparel is strategically placed.

Like most Millennials, Villa consumers connect to the online world mainly with their smartphones. For all e-commerce sites, this preference presents challenges: The small screens can create a frustrating user experience that results in low conversion rates.

After scanning the market for a solution, Villa opted for Reflektion Inc.'s 1 to 1 Personalization platform, which powers brands like Converse, the Walt Disney Co., and Uniqlo. Founded in 2012, the San Mateo, Calif.–based predictive analytics start-up, backed by investors such as Intel Capital and Nike, helps retailers convert shoppers into customers.

Reflektion's cloud-based product aims to improve the mobile shopping experience by displaying individually relevant products, which Villa can deduce based on how visitors browse, click, search, and, ideally, purchase. Attributes like gender and brand and colorway preferences are all accounted for in Reflektion's product presentations.

And as Millennials are accustomed to quick access, Reflektion's 1 to 1 Instant Visual Site Search displays merchandise in real time. For instance, as soon as a customer types in the name LeBron, visuals of preferred styles and colorways of the sneaker line appear alongside the text. Reflektion boosted Villa's search functionality to include embedded images, so as users browse, the right product is potentially one click away instead of several.

After deploying Reflektion's 1 to 1 Personalization platform, Villa saw huge improvements: The retailer's conversion rates rose by 46 percent, search engine revenue increased by 78 percent, and online sales doubled year over year, according to Villa's Walsh.


After implementing the Reflektion 1 to 1 Personalization Platform, Villa saw:

  • a 46 percent rise in its conversion rate;
  • a 78 percent increase in search engine revenue; and
  • its online sales double.

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