Sneaker fever

The curious buying behaviours of sneakerheads

Who are our most valuable users? What keeps them up at night? How can we change what we’re doing to serve their needs better? These are some the questions that we are busy trying to answer. This blog post is about the latest data we have collected and how it’s going to affect our next moves.

In recent years, sports footwear has become one of the most dynamic segments of the global fashion market, with y-o-y growth outstripping that of apparel consistently since 2008. Last month there were as many as 63 highly anticipated sneaker releases at Foot Locker alone, with many of these selling out instantly only to reappear hours later on eBay and sneaker trading forums for many times their retail price.

After launching our e-commerce business several weeks ago, Jack, Jasper and I have been feeling the effects of this ‘sneaker fever’ first hand. Not only have the majority of our most engaged users and customer conversations been generated from sneaker forums and sneaker dedicated Facebook groups, but our sneaker focused mobile app install ads have generated a click-through-rate that is on average 3x the rate of our non-sneaker based ads.

This has provided us with validation that our offering is finding its feet within the sneakerhead community, and that by focusing our efforts on this niche we can significantly reduce the cost of driving traffic to our platform — positive findings to say the least! However, Jack, Jasper and I were keen to learn more. So last week we put a survey out to the community to find out how these guys go about shopping for their sneakers.

The response was many times better than we could have expected. In just two days 458 people had completed our survey with 302 of them submitting an email address to learn more about our platform.

Here’s what we found :

Both the rate and scale of sneaker consumption is phenomenal. Just shy 40% of our respondents had purchased a pair sneakers within the last week, with the median respondent owning as many as 13 different pairs of sneakers. However, as the histogram below demonstrates, the distribution of sneaker consumption is vast.

Number of Sneakers Owned

x=no. of sneakers y=frequency

Given the spread of the data, Jack, Jasper and I felt it wise to split it up into octiles, as opposed to the conventional quartiles, to perform further analysis. Remarkably, we discovered that the uppermost octile of our respondents own 53% of all the sneakers possessed by those that responded. N.B. all charts hereafter display our findings as a percentage of the total number of responses.

Total Sneakers Owned / Octile

It seems that the same power law that applies to startups appears also to apply to sneakerheads! But who are these ‘power buyers’? What shopping behaviours do they exhibit? And how should we go about defining them? To answer the last of these questions we compared sneaker ownership with our most recent purchase data to look for signs of habitual consumption. Here we found that there was a strong positive correlation between the number sneakers owned and the recency of respondents’ last sneaker purchase.

Respondents that had purchased sneakers within the last week / sneakers owned

However, because some sneakerheads have been in ‘the game’ longer than others, and thus own more sneakers, it would be wrong to assume that all our ‘power buyers’ are located in the uppermost octile of the data set. Given the dramatic spike in the likelihood of recent purchase once a sneakerhead has moved into the sixth octile, we decided to treat these three uppermost segments as our power buyer cohort (PB) and then proceeded to compare this cohort’s purchasing behaviours with the rest of our data set (!PB).

Here’s how the two compare:

Percentage of sneakers collection purchased on release day

As one might expect, the power buyers are on the ball when it comes to release day. Remarkably, they are more than three times as likely to have purchased all of the sneakers they own on the so called ‘drop date’.

Percentage of sneaker collection purchased second hand

This chart shows that power buyers are also significantly more likely than their counterparts to have purchased a pair of sneakers second hand, with 73% of power buyers compared with 53% of non-power buyers acquiring at least some of their collection in this way. This suggests that when our power buyers do miss the drop, they are significantly more likely to hunt down and acquire the sneaker they are looking for even if it means paying a premium.

Source of inspiration for last sneaker purchase

In this chart, the striking difference between our two cohorts is their level of intent. Whilst power buyers tend to actively search for new sneakers on sneaker blogs, eBay and, our non-power buyers are inspired in more passively e.g. by what they see others wearing or what they come across in a store. Meanwhile, Instagram is undoubtedly the most effective channel at driving sales for both groups.

Device Preference

Here there is somewhat less deviation between the two cohorts. However, we suspect that the slightly higher propensity of power buyers to shop on a mobile device (smartphone/tablet) is related to their tendency to purchase sneakers the moment they are released, particularly as midnight releases have become the norm for UK based sneaker retailers.

Shopping Behaviour

As well as confirming our finding that power buyers are more likely to buy sneakers the moment they drop, this chart also tells us that the prospect of picking up a bargain holds little appeal amongst sneakerheads. This largely mirrors Experian’s fashion segment research into high spending young males, who it found make purchases to gain status and only consider price an issue when it is too low.

Most annoying aspect of buying sneakers

And finally, what makes the average sneakerhead tick. Unsurprisingly, availability and high prices come top of the list, with resellers snatching the lion’s share of the hatred - presumably for their role in reducing availability and driving up prices! Meanwhile, finding a sneaker in the right size and managing the difference in sizes across brands are issues that are more likely to affect non-power buyers - power buyers are possibly more aware of some of the tools available and less likely to miss out on their size given their tendency to cop on release day. On the other hand, our power buyers are more likely to be afflicted by the tiresome experience of acquiring sneakers the moment they drop, from competing with bots (robotic tools used to make rapid purchases) and websites crashing to camping outside a store the night before release day.

It’s safe to say that after this exercise we have a much firmer understanding of who our most valuable users are, how they go about buying their sneakers and the nature of the problems they face. This has helped us tremendously in determining which features to experiment with next and the marketing channels to focus our efforts on. So keep an eye out for some big changes over the next few weeks!

Whilst we’re by no means experts in conducting surveys, here are a few of the things that helped us out:

  • Reading the Mom Test. This book is the bible as far as customer conversations are concerned. It helps you to ask the right questions in the right order.
  • Thanking respondents for completing the survey and asking them how it could improve it for future respondents. It’s quite possible that you’ll have missed out something important or obvious.
  • Grabbing people’s attention with an eye catching image when you’re promoting your survey. It works.
  • Using a service that presents your survey in a conventional manner (Google Forms/Survey Monkey). Typeform may look nice but doesn’t convert as effectively.
  • If you’re using Survey Monkey, don’t be afraid to upgrade your plan. Providing you complete your survey export all the data within 14 days you can cancel the subscription and receive a full refund.
  • Using R, Python or whatever programming capabilities you have at hand to manipulate and analyse the data. This will save you a lot of time.
  • And lastly, as polite as it may seem, we would advise not to bother contacting the admins of the groups/forums you’re targeting. From our experience, this approach takes too long and they almost always say no!

Many thanks for reading our first blog post. If you’d like to know more about LASU or follow up, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line on or comment below. Cheers!