Fluevog Shoes & The Crowdsourced Shoe

“We receive over 10 million hits per month. We’ve obtained over 500 design suggestions for new shoes. Which lines of shoes to sell? Yes, over 2,000 contributions. And, the pictures. There are hundreds from all over the world where our shoes are being worn. Our online presence sells as much as one of our retail locations.” Stephen Bailey, Marketing & Communications Director of John Fluevog Shoes, Ltd., recited those facts in a discussion of the company’s online strategy.

How has Vancouver-based Fluevog succeeded in today’s Web 2.0 online environment? Fluevog is practicing the art of the “crowdpreneur” – applying crowd power to an entrepreneurial venture.

John Fluevog founded his company 37 years ago in Vancouver, Canada, and has carved out an international niche for unique, pricy shoes. Fluevog has grasped the potential of the internet for a number of years, because it is ideally suited for a niche player like himself:

A cost-effective online presence allows him to market to an international clientele. But using the internet as a tool has evolved for Fluevog. Following the overall trend from Web 1.0 to 2.0, his company has shifted away from a static list of product information to feature an interactive vehicle that engages its devoted customer base and enhances customer loyalty. How has Fluevog done this?

Fluevog has acted in a crowdpreneurial™ manner. Their site engages customers from the creation of the product, the launch of the product, the sharing of user experiences, and direct interactions with company personnel. The company’s website allows numerous opportunities for consumer input. Through “sourcing” the crowd—site visitors or members—Fluevog allows potential customers to contribute advice, creativity, and information to the company.

Fluevog’s success as an online presence has not gone unnoticed: the site has been highlighted as one of the 10 leading crowdsourcing firms online. Fluevog has successfully integrated crowdpower, and specific elements of crowdsourcing, into the strategy of a conventional retail firm with “bricks and mortar” locations (as opposed to firms that use an online presence as the basis for their formation, such as www.amazon.com did with books). But, what is Fluevog doing in a more specific way to practice the art of the crowdpreneur™.

Fluevog has implemented crowdpower as an online tool in three specific ways. First, there is a program called “VogPopuli—The Voice of the Fluevoger.” This, of course, is a play on the Latin term “vox populi,” the voice of the people. Vog Populi is a forum where the Company poses questions to the crowd. The website explains: “Yes, Fluevogers, you are part of history. This is where Fluevogers from all over the galaxy convene to make their voices heard—and heard, you will be.” The questions posed thus far have included which shoes the company should produce and which magazines the company should advertise in. Amazingly, the company has received over 2,000 responses within a week of asking a single question.

Second, a page called “FlueShots” allows Fluevogers to post pictures of themselves wearing certain shoes. The website explains: Given the variety of Fluevogers out there, we wanted to give you a place to show your face (and your vogs) to celebrate your Fluevogian background.” The photos have come in from all over the world, followed by individuals sharing their travel experiences.

Third, and highest profile, is the “Open Source Footwear” concept: Fluevogers can submit ideas for new shoes. This is the feature of the site that is closest to the nature of crowdsourcing. The website explains the process: “All …you need is that brilliant idea. Even just for part of a shoe – scribble it down and send it to us. We don’t care if it’s on a bar napkin, as long as we can make it out. So, fax it, mail it, email it, bring it in, just get it to us!