“We are dual headquartered, in LA and in Hong Kong. For us, it’s all about bringing an unparalleled experience for our customers to shop with trust for all their sneakers and apparel needs,” Ross Adrian Yip, co-founder and COO of Kicks Crew, told Inside Retail.
Expansion on the cards
Yip believes that with the support of additional funding, Kicks Crew will continue pushing the boundaries of best-in-class experiences for their customers through the development of a community beyond an e-commerce experience.
“Whether you’re seeking what to wear, how to style clothing, or equipment tips for budding athletes; we want Kicks Crew to be your place to go as an inclusive community to always find the style you’re seeking,” he said.
Yip explained that around 70 per cent of its customers are in the US, while almost 90 per cent of its sellers are from the Asian region.
“While focusing on the US, we’re also looking to expand our direct-to-consumer model to break into the Asian market, specifically Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia. We have the advantage of being able to easily scale and focus on building our brand within these markets that are a large focus for us.”
Prior to its series A funding round, the company had already grown its community to more than 900,000 individuals worldwide.
“Whether you’re in the United States or APAC, a Yeezy drop is going to create demand and will bind global styles together,” pointed out Yip.
Accessibility is the mantra
In the case of the APAC region, Kicks Crew is enabling multi currencies and language localisations that will be implemented later this month.
The brand is focused on making sneakers more accessible to consumers. From deadstock OGs, the latest collaborations, or general releases with sizes that are hard to find, the company is focused on offering stock across a wide range of prices, styles and sizes.
“We believe that it should be easy for everyone to find the perfect pair of kicks, rather than feeding into an industry that is built off limited offerings and fluctuating price models. Our business model is built on accessibility,” said yip.
By partnering with authorised retailers globally, the company can avoid issues relating to low inventory levels or unavailability of certain sizes.
“To date, we haven’t noticed any effects on sales due to the supply chain issues and inflationary pressures. These pressure points have had more of an impact on the resale community than our business as we continue to focus more on the everyday shoe for consumers,” said Yip.
Yip explained that supply chain issues and inflation have had a slight effect on the high-end resale market, which has been left with extra inventory and customers with less spending drive. As this market is built off demand for low supply, there has been a drop in resale prices.
“However, our business is positioned away from the high-end resale market and 80 per cent of our customers are purchasing products released longer than 30 days prior.”
Unlike more high-end sneaker marketplaces, Kicks Crew customers are not purchasing limited edition products in the hope to re-sell them, but rather to just buy their favourite sneakers. This in turn has helped the company to maintain steady sales throughout these uncertain times.
In July, the company transformed its backend system to help scale its business globally, by minimising friction within the buyer’s journey, driving revenue and reducing fraud.
According to Yip, fraud is a major issue in the sneaker industry, and the brand is always looking for ways to reduce its exposure to inherent risks in the marketplace.
“The technology helps to assess customer trustworthiness within an average of 400 milliseconds, approving genuine transactions, and rejecting fraudsters.”
He explained that in this effort to reject fraudulent payments, sometimes genuine customers can be falsely flagged, which results in a loss of customers to the business.
Moreover, he feels this is where the importance of having a trustworthy payment system is integral, as the brand is working across global markets and needs to be finely tuned to local market nuances.
Trends in the marketplace
When it comes to customer’s purchasing patterns and browsing behaviours in the sneaker marketplace, Yip noted that most of the popular styles on its platforms often follow the global mainstream platforms.
“Currently, the Womens’ Nike Panda Dunks, New Balance 550’s and the Nike x Jacquemus collaboration are some of the top trending shoes on the platform that align with these global trends,” he said.
Kicks’ customer base is built up with one of the highest female-to-male ratios, with 43 per cent of its customer base being female.
“We see lots of sales towards staple sneakers like Converse Hi-Top Chucks, and Nike Air Maxs that are worn as staple everyday kicks,” he said.
Interestingly, Yip is closely observing developments within the Web 3.0, metaverse and non-fungible token (NFT) space. He is quick to point out that the company is looking at this space from the point of view of community-based networks and not from a transactional perspective.
“We are interested in building communities, so case in point, we can look into how Web 3.0 can support the creative economy, so maybe someone who generates user generated content gets Kicks Crew points, or something like that,” he said.
The big picture
Yip has been at the helm of this company for 18 months and he has had his fair share of trials and tribulations.
“We’ve definitely made mistakes for taking risks, and we have the scar tissue to prove it, and I think as a startup, you are supposed to make mistakes as quickly as possible, but at the lowest cost possible.”
He feels that the cost of errors allows one to iterate quicker and find suitable product or market fits to attract customers.
“We have to be agile with our experiments, and make sure they don’t turn into expensive mistakes, but more importantly, for startups like us, the hiring process is key to ensure we get the right people in to take our company to the next level.”
Yip likes to bring in team members with about seven to eight years of experience, and values those who are not afraid to speak up, handle the work themselves and are proactive.
“These are the kinds of people that are hardest to find in the market. But if you can score one of them, you can be sure they will be a great fit,” he noted.
As a C-level executive, Yip admitted that he can’t be expected to have the answer to every problem, so that’s why finding the right people is key.
“Investing in them, empowering them is the way forward, because If we tried to do everything ourselves, we’re not going to go very far,” he concluded.