Van & Stuyvesant is an online destination for sneaker news and culture. The brand was started in the spring of 2017 after, founder, Kurtis Van Stuyvesant returned home from an Italian vacation. This ecommerce store is Kurtis’s first entrepreneurial endeavour, inspired during his travels through Italy. Since launching, within one year Van & Stuy generates revenues around $10,000 monthly, largely credited to the recurring business from repeat customers.
Background on Van & Stuyvesant Sneakers and Streetwear
Scout: Thanks for taking the time to share the story of Van & Stuy. The purpose of this email interview is to educate our readers on setting up profitable online stores. I understand this is your first online business or any business for that matter. What inspired you to start here?
Kurt: I started the business because fashion is my passion, and has been since I was a kid. Putting together clothes is an innate gift of mine. Today I’m still very much in love with the streetwear culture. I think that’s why I started Van & Stuy. It was also the result of a trip to Italy which got me into a creative mindset.
S: Which ecommerce platform do you sell on and why?
K: Shopify is my go-to e-commerce platform. Shopify makes it easy to service the global economy of customers. I picked Shopify over other competitors because it’s user-friendly.
S: When you first launched Van & Stuy, did you have an audience to sell to right away or did you build your audience as you went? How have you continued to build your customer base over the years you’ve been in business?
K: When I first started my store, Van & Stuy didn’t really have an audience. I turned my personal Instagram into my business page and the rest is history. I grew my following for Van & Stuyvesant by hiring a social influencer. Our current social influencer is an emerging artist and now in talks with Bad Boy Records, and Cash Money Records. The musician has helped with a lot of traffic on my Instagram. I offered the social influencer an exclusive pair of sneakers and in turn, he was willing to help with the brand. Till this day we have a fruitful relationship. Social media content is the biggest contributor to the success of the brand. Customers are engaged by our weekly blogs post, interviews, and photo content. To drive traffic, we post never seen pictures of highly coveted sneakers with celebrities and are one of the first to announce release dates for sneakers. Email automation also helps drive traffic to the brand by weekly updating customers of new products at Van & Stuy.
My criteria for content is determined by two factors: viewership and analytics. Analytics helped us decide when to post to our content for viewership. Viewership helps us determine which countries are interested in our products, and the age group to retarget for new customers. Because of growing traffic for the store, Van & Stuyvesant decided to hire a media team to manage our social content, on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Twitter. In conclusion, to answer your question I would say email marketing, testimonials and social content drive the most traffic for the brand. This strategy has helped us grow our brand. Today Van & Stuy is viewed heavily, and as a result, our products have been shipped in 30 countries and six continents.
S: How have you approached your marketing strategy? What role does customer experience and customer support play in your marketing model?
K: I approach marketing through a heavy Instagram presence and great branding of our products. Great branding is critical to our business model because streetwear and sneaker culture revolve heavily around the brand and the story behind the brand.
As far as our story goes, the customer experience and customer service is a core part of that. We have a high retention rate and it’s because we focus our marketing on the customer and their experience.
S: The streetwear market is well saturated with other brand name businesses, how do you make your products stand out in the market? How do you differentiate yourself from your competitors like Stadium Goods?
K: Van & Stuy curates the best streetwear on the market through extensive research and hiring the best talent to work for us. Education and passion are why our brand has the best talent. We hire the best talent by recruiting mainly from ivy league universities and recruiting with the can-do mindset. Our recruiting process is very tenuous, and we want only the best. Van & Stuy is better than competitors because we are willing to beat any competitors’ prices. The customer is our focal point. Happy customer and brand loyalty align with the company’s mission and purpose. Van & Stuy honors loyal customers with free product for our newest lines. Often repeat clients enjoy free sneakers because of our brand loyalty program. To date, our customers have been very happy with this marketing approach.
And because of our approach we enjoy a 33% customer retention rate. We stand out with excellent customer service and great product. We go above and beyond to satisfy our customers both nationally and internationally.
S: Which marketing channels do you find the most lucrative (your own social media, working with influencers, email marketing, referral marketing, paid advertising, etc.)?
K: Email marketing and social media are the most lucrative sales channels for Van & Stuy. These channels help us develop a meaningful relationship with the customers. However, we just hired our first social influencer last week. Social influencers are people who have a strong following on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. We wanted to give our brand a person the customer can identify with. In the future, the company’s strategy may change. But email marketing and Instagram are our sales channels focal points at this point.
S: How did you make your first 10 sales? 100 sales?
M: We made our first 10 sales through in person and referral. To be completely honest, my circle of friends and college networks helped launch the brand. After starting the company one college friend decided to call his friends after receiving his first pair of rare Air Jordan 1 Shoes. To date this one customer has bought 8 pairs of sneakers from us. The company marketing strategy is geared around retention and high customer execution. We then made our first 100 sales through the website and our Instagram page. Van & Stuy’s Instagram hashtags drive a lot of traffic to the site for the brand. The hashtags and content post from Instagram’s helped us build our strong following and a lot of sales.
Tools to Grow
S: What’s the best tool you use to stay organized with Van & Stuy?
K: The skillsets I’ve learned at my accounting and consulting job helps me stay on top things. I’m an accountant by trade so excel sheets are second nature to me. Before launching the company I have also worked in consulting for seven years. Consultants must be very organized because of client demands. No two days in consulting are the same with deliverables and clients. Excel and outlook are the tools I use daily with Van & Stuy. It’s important to stay organized. Through organization we can effectively manage the customer expectations through calendar deadlines. Often, customers want to know the status of their package because they want to wear our products to important life events.
S: Of those apps you’re using, what core tools or resources have you used to grow Big Brain that you wholeheartedly recommend?
Scout helps us recover lost revenue from the store and stay in contact with customers and potential customers who interested in buying our product.
Raven is great because if anyone is on my store and wants me to call them back, Raven alerts me and I can get on the phone with them with a press of a button. This apps helps keeps our customer service top notch.
The NSB app helps target the exact the city and location of potential customers.
The app Kite helped us customized our merchandise for our new women’s and kids streetwear line coming in the fall.
Recovering Abandoned Checkouts
S: When it comes to managing cart abandonments, how do you use Scout to engage directly with customers and recover revenue?
K: Scout helps me manage my abandoned checkouts by establishing relationships through email and SMS text messages. Sometimes all it takes is an email to reach the customer and aid them with the purchase. Scout reminds me when I need to do something and enables me to do it right away. It helps me execute.
S: What kind of impact has recovering abandoned carts had on your overall revenue? Has it been a successful use of your business’ time and resources or is it something you could manage without?
K: Abandon checkouts are customer interested in buying products from your store. We want to identify why a customer might decide not to buy through Scout’s abandoned checkout alert. Recovering abandoned checkouts are a great use of my time. It shows that people are interested in our products. For example, through talking to abandoned checkouts we learned we need to clarify our product descriptions. A sound product description helps increase buyer awareness. This study has been fruitful for Van & Stuyvesant. It also helps with revamping and aligning strategy for growth.
S: What advice would you give to other business owners when it comes to recovering their abandoned carts?
K: My advice to other business owners is to simply reach out to your customers and develop a 1 on 1 relationship with them. This is the best way to earn their trust, because if you think about it, the reason someone abandoned their checkout is because they lost trust somewhere through their buying process.
Lessons and Advice
S: What’s your business’ biggest challenge right now?
K: Keeping customers happy is the constant struggle for any business owner. We overcome these challenges by staying engaged and constantly accessing the customer’s needs, but it’s a challenge.
S: What’s your business’ biggest success to date?
K: My biggest success is the retention rate of the customer. I knew Van & Stuy was on to something when a new customer bought seven different pairs of sneakers through a three-month interval. These are the result of the great product, excellent customer service, and shipping execution.
S: What’s the best advice you’ve been given in regards to business?
K: The best advice I’ve given in business is to always be prepared for what’s next. Always research and study the market. Research allows to your critically focus on the market your and new customer acquisition. Which in return help your company grow to the next level.
S: What advice would you give to entrepreneurs just starting their first business?
K: The best advice I would give to a new e-commerce entrepreneur is stay engaged with the customer. Entrepreneurship is very demanding but rewarding. The reward comes after solving the initial problem for customers and new clients. Constantly creating value for customers is the difference between business and great business.