Crocs: why these ugly shoes sell like hotcakes and what it means for UX

Your app might have the best user interface (UI) on the market, but if your product team knows ‘just enough’ about your core users’ wants and needs, you missed the target.                        

But, don’t worry. We’ll go over lessons learned from Crocs’ market strategy and include prompts at the end to push your digital product strategy to the next level.    

Some staggering figures                

Take a deep breath and take this information in: Crocs (CROX) is a billion-dollar company. The somewhat ugly, aggravatingly bright and squishy shoe with holes. The company behind it has been on the stock market since 2006. That is just four years after its first release. They managed to sell more than 100 million pairs and generate $986 million in revenue in 2022.    

Though the company stock nosedived during the 2008 recession, it came back strong by redirecting its energy: it tapped into its huge market through the power of segmentation. We will cover that and more in this case study about how the need for comfort can be a driver of growth. Get ready: we have some notes to take.    


The founding story    

To my surprise, Crocs were inspired by a spa shoe picked up in the province of Quebec, Canada. Coloradan Scott Seamans and his two childhood friends were sailing, enjoying the fruit of their labor. Seamans wanted his mates to invest, so he asked for their honest opinion. They were his worst critics, calling out the ugliness right away. However, when they both tried them, their outlook changed. They couldn’t believe how comfortable they were. Nearly six years later, the manufactured clogs were worn by everyone and their mom: celebrity chefs, former presidents, and even John Cena? Business was booming and soon, companies like Balenciaga and Taco Bell wanted a piece of the pie.    


Years of tumult            

Despite of its success, Crocs’ popularity came with drawbacks. As the brand soared, animosity grew between the founding partners due to board disputes and lawsuits. Adding to the misery, 2008 came knocking like a bad landlord and retailers couldn’t keep their promises. Crocs’ owners had to do everything in their power to keep the show going. And that is exactly what happened.                

The company took control of its distribution, invested in e-commerce and its own stores. They analyzed their buyers and segmented them into three groups: low-income, middle-class and high-income consumers. Using that data, they created more than 300 new products. They cared enough to notice how women loved their high heels but tended to suffer through the pain. So, they designed a new line of comfortable, wedge shoes.    

As Crocs worked on their branding, its direct-to-consumer sales skyrocketed. Instead of drawing attention to its visual weakness, Crocs were now ‘fun’ and felt ‘like clouds.’    

“There is also a massive market for comfort. Comfort is luxury 2.0.”    

Finally, the secret: but is it really?


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The landing page of the Crocs haters blogging community                


In reality, there is a lot to love about Crocs. They are light, comfortable, cheap, non-slip, customizable, breathable and practical. Despite ferocious haters dedicated to their destruction, millions of Instagram users continue to sing their praises.    

There is also a massive market for comfort. Comfort is luxury 2.0. Think about it: you wear your Crocs during work shifts, while grocery shopping because who cares, while playing with your kids on the beach or while grooming your dog. Plus, the pandemic drove its sales through the roof. It’s guaranteed: no one is interested in your feet when you’re on a Zoom call.    


How the need for comfort translates to UX    

They may look odd to some, but the team managed to garner a positive connection between the shoe and potential buyers. Now, Crocs are associated with family, joy and relaxation.


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SSENSE. Crocs clogs, Art Attack, 2023                


When we transpose the Crocs story and comfort to user experience (UX), we get three keys: segmentation, personalization and seamlessness. I am now passing the mic to anyone building stellar technology products. How do you ensure your users intuitively understand how it works? Think about that single mother buying a pair of Crocs for her child. She’ll help him the first time, but soon enough, he will be able to wear them himself. How does your product make people’s lives better and how do you customize it around their habits, motivations or even learning styles?              

We encourage you to incorporate these prompts in your next product strategy team call. They come from our UX Success and App Onboarding decks to guide solo founders and product teams to build engaging, trust-building digital products.    

In the end, you may daydream about that luxurious yacht overlooking the sunset, but deep down, we know: there is nothing beats sipping a drink in your backyard on a summer evening with feet gently tucked in effortless, unassuming Crocs.    

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