Brian Lee starts to tip his Hail Mary hand with new redesign, celeb deals, and price points

By Sarah Lacy , written on January 16, 2013

From The News Desk

ShoeDazzle's returning CEO Brian Lee is trying to pull off a turn around as seemingly impossible as the company's fall from grace last year. And as we first reported on PandoDaily, his biggest moves are coming this month.

Step one was cutting out bad costs incurred by the short-lived tenure of Bill Strauss. As we reported in December, Lee did that pretty rapidly -- bringing the company back to cash flow positive in November.

Meantime, he was almost pathologically experimenting with different deals, emails, offers, and ideas to reengage the once loyal users who had no reason to come back to the site once Strauss cancelled all their memberships.

Now, a bucket of new features and ideas are aimed at bringing the early magic back to the company: Most notably giving women a reason to regularly come back to the site again. Those close to ShoeDazzle are already calling it a contender for the come back of the year.

Here's where it stands:

  • Last week, the company announced a partnership with celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe. While it may seem like sort of a "Okay, who doesn't have a celebrity tie in?" yawner move, it's important to remember that celebrity was one of the three main things ShoeDazzle was doing well, that Strauss dismantled. So, at least, symbolically it means something. 
  • Over the last week, the company quietly rolled out the new version of its site that has a cleaner user experience and is more mobile friendly.
  • A big new feature on that site is something called "Today's Fix," which is aimed at getting women to come back to the site regularly again. Again, in the good old days of ShoeDazzle, they did this, because they had a monthly credit to spend. Today's Fix will offer new products at low price points, with free shipping. Those products will be available after that day, but not with the discount and free shipping perks.
  • The company is planning to launch a new mobile app, focusing on "Today's Fix."
  • ShoeDazzle continues to experiment with pricing. Early on a selling point was that everything was $39.95. Strauss threw that out, and there were bizarre and arbitrary prices for items that made little sense together. If you charged me $40 for knee-high leather boots last month, why are boots that look about the same now $80? Lee is cleaning that up. The ShoeDazzle brand price will go back to $39.95. 
  • That doesn't mean that everything on the site will be $40. ShoeDazzle will be adding inventory from known third party brands like Chinese Laundry, Nine West, and Steve Madden at different price points.
  • ShoeDazzle will also introduce new brands on top of the "ShoeDazzle" brand. Each in-house brand will have a set price point, in $10 increments. In other words, there will be a $49.95 brand, a $59.95 brand, a $69.85 brand and a $79.95 brand. My understanding is the price goes up based on the higher production cost of the shoe, whether that's embellishments, construction, or use of certain molds.
That's what's out there so far. Coming by the end of the month is something else... something big, the company says, that will be the coup de grace of all of these smaller moves. If I were a betting woman, I'd say it's some creative return to the subscription model that doesn't alienate women who don't want to pay every month.

Think about it: Why else the dogmatic return to the $39.95 price point for the ShoeDazzle brand and introduction of new brands pegged to consistent price points? If you are shopping ala carte a consistent price point doesn't particularly matter. The reason the company deviated was largely because subscriptions were gone.

But perhaps I'm not being creative enough. I'm talking to Lee next week about whatever it is.

On the whole, ShoeDazzle is clearly in a better state than it was in September when Lee took back over. That's obvious just from the financials. But there is a also sense of vision and focus again. All of these moves -- whether I like them all as a consumer or not -- speak to the same push: Re-engaging ShoeDazzle's community of shoppers, who came to the site for more than just an ecommerce experience, whether that was celebrity tie-ins, timely deals, or the content angle of the site.

By the time we sit down with the somewhat elusive Lee at our May PandoMonthly in LA, there should be enough data points to see if it's actually working.