"My Partner Tomasz had a good relationship with the owner of the local Budapester Schuhestores – Mr. Schläwicke – so we decided to simply ask him if we could set up an online shop for Budapester. Luckily, he said yes! We already had very good knowledge (in) e-commerce, and we knew that Budapester was successful as a local player over the past decades."
"Then, in August 2015, we launched mybudapester.com – we were the first online store to focus on luxury shoes for men and women. We started with a huge selection of over 2000 items from high end brands like Gucci, Balenciaga and Santoni."
Matthias, and the rest of the Budapester team, wanted to make their store more interesting to millennials, and to expand their business internationally. Though they weren't – and still aren't – a sneaker store, they wanted to expand their offering to raise their profile in the fashion trade. But who could help? Luckily, they had someone in mind.
"We thought a US superstar like Jason Derulo would be a great opportunity for us. Luckily we had a friend (who) knows Jason Derulo – we got in contact with him and then we started to design one shoe for him... with an artist from Hamburg." And as for the final product? "Jason Derulo... liked the shoe so much that he was wearing it on stage, and everywhere he was traveling."
Hikmet Sugoer needs no introduction to those in the sneaker game. From his recent work on the SONRA Proto 'Wildcats', to the ASICS Gel-Lyte III 'The Sun' back in 2008, his work is legendary in the footwear sphere. So, when Budapester decided to release a limited-run release in collaboration with DHL there was only one man they were going to turn to.
"To me, Hikmet is an icon in the German sneaker culture. He has worked with the biggest brands in the business like Adidas and Puma, and has incredible know-how, so it was only right that we teamed up with him. Plus, he is a really good guy," says Matthias. "Of course we wanted to work with the best for this project. Hikmet knows the game (and) has an incredible sense for high quality and designs."
So, how did Budapester go about approaching him? "(Hikmet had) never worked with a luxury brand like Budapester – that's why we (wanted) to meet him. I was at a Puma SONRA event, and I showed him the Jason Derulo Shoe. He said "Hey, crazy guys! What you did, I like it! Let's do something together." and that was the start of it."
His creation – the DHL 1 – is nothing short of spectacular –not only does it celebrate DHL's 50-year history but it also nods to the future by stepping into the world of sustainable luxury goods. Using the iconic red bag, which DHL uses to help provide life-saving goods in crisis areas, as the toe box of the shoe, and incorporating AviationTag's metal shoe tags, created from parts of grounded DHL transporter planes (an introduction made by none other than Marcus Reckling, MD of DHL Express), the product development strategy was a collaboration in the truest sense of the word. "The idea is to show that luxury can also be sustainable," says Matthias. "For us, this is one of the most exciting projects we have ever had."
The chance to collaborate with DHL Express was one that Budapester jumped at. With an expansion into Beijing in August, plus an e-boutique for the Chinese market to follow, they wanted to make an impact on a global scale – so, who better than DHL?"DHL is not only one of the biggest global companies but also one of the fastest when it comes to deliveries, creativity and decisions," Matthias adds.
And it's not about money, either. With a limited run of 300 pairs available, this collaboration is more about exposure than anything else. "It‘s not always about the profit. I like the exposure... especially when you’re working with a giant like DHL – this is something you don’t do every day... I’m pretty sure the shoe will sell out in a few seconds, so I have to think larger than that. We want to create something that’s bigger than your average shoe. A lot of hype and media coverage and a buzz among sneakerheads and shoe-lovers worldwide would be perfect!"
Is collaboration important for SMEs? "It's beneficial for both partners, and it's always fun to see how other companies do their job... (I think it) is one of the most important things for SMEs "Matthias adds that it allows small business partners and SMEs to use the power and knowledge of the bigger company to grow – and that the bigger company could learn a few things themselves. And the risks? None, really. In this instance, only that they might need more security at the launch.
So, when it comes to collaborating, how do Budapester go about approaching people? "If we have an idea and find a company we think would be right for this project, most of the time I simply approach them – either call them, send an email or a message through LinkedIn". For Matthias, it seems as though there's nothing to lose, and everything to gain, from approaching those who they think are a good fit.
With the launch of the Chinese e-boutique and Beijing office, there were a lot of considerations for Matthias and his team to consider in managing a successful international expansion. When pressed on the most important thing to have, he was clear. Local knowledge.
"You always need a local. Whether it's Austria or Australia."
Translating everything into English and Chinese is just the tip of the iceberg. When it came to China, Budapester had to be prepared. "Even when it comes to the server administration, you are not able as a German company to get listed in China when you don't have a server in China... " adding that "You are not able to launch a (fast) website in China, because the loading time will simply be downgraded from the government."
For a footwear business moving into the nation, there are also the more human considerations. "When it comes to China... the sizes are completely different, because we have normally (have) sizes starting from 35... But the Chinese people they need 33. This is what you must have. If you don't have it you cannot go live there."
And that's not just true of China – differences, Matthias found, exist around the world. Whether it's the product descriptions themselves, the pricing, or even what the competition is doing – not to mention the shipping – you need to be tuned into the local scene. But that's where, according to Matthias, DHL are better equipped than anyone – and "...from our perspective, there is no other logistics partner we want to work (with)." Take a look at our detailed E-commerce country guides for information on global trade.
Before partnering with DHL Express, Matthias is clear on what the biggest issue for Budapester was, "Shipping globally. We had huge problems with the delivery time to non-EU countries like US and China. Sometimes it took more than three weeks until the parcel (was) delivered." Now, with DHL at their side, the story has changed somewhat. "Today we get feedback from, for example, from customers from Los Angeles. They call us two days after they have ordered the item, and ask us if we are crazy, how it's possible that we can be faster than the guys in America."
So, how has DHL Express improved Budapester's e-commerce offering? Well, it's all in the delivery and fortunately DHL Express knows a thing or two about international trade and global shipping. DHL's account manager advised on setting up international payments and shopping baskets, and improved delivery notifications. "Small information like... when ordering now you will receive the (package) tomorrow at 3pm, for example – information which you need... We integrated it on the site, and it gives a big boost (in sales)."
And how about the Website Healthcheck? Did it help? After starting it, Matthias now notes that "80%-95% of all the problems are done, and when it comes to non‑EU countries, we are working on it. We are now the first online store who has integrated the duties and taxes and the express shipping in the price. So, there is no other payment for the customer, and we are still cheaper than our competitors."
It seems like a step-change for the company, so why sneakers? "We are not a sneaker store, as I said, and for us the focus is now really to get (millennials), because the hype is so big... I guess to be different than the other luxury online shops." And for the DHL 1? "...the focus is, of course, the whole sneaker community where you have great Instagram accounts like HYPEBEAST or Highsnobiety, or Sneakers Magazine – which has over a million followers, one of the biggest magazines in the world from Australia. Today, they wrote to us that they will help us promote in Australia, and they really like the idea."
As for other influencers, Matthias has a few names lined up – and they'll be featuring in the exclusive promo video, which will drop just before the shoes do. "Model Mefyou, fashion blogger Dajana, breakdancer Gong Bao... our aim is to show that we have a global team of people from all over the world."
Co-branding marketing can be a tricky thing but in this case, it's all about the teaser. "It's a very detailed shoe – which is more for the sneaker heads in the world. No talking, nothing, you just have the three influencers inside the video, details about the shoe, and a really emotional film."
To back it up, Budapester have plenty in the pipeline. "We have created all the advertising for Facebook, Instagram, GoogleAds, and other channels... and banners on our home page to get every user involved into this project. We are trying to do almost everything we can to make this campaign (run) really well. We have translated everything in English of course, and Chinese too. And, yeah, everything (that's) possible, newsletters of course. We will send out information to all our customers, (and) we've got special collaborations with our partners who will redirect to our site."
And it's not just a digital campaign – far from it. "We started to put some simple small stickers on our packaging too... 50 years (of) DHL, the shoe, and the release date, nothing else. When you see the guy who is picking up the packages here, and you have hundreds of packages with all the stickers on the side, we think that a lot of people will see it – when the guy brings it to the DHL hub, and then it goes all around the world. There are so many connections that we can reach with 10,000 or 20,000 stickers – maybe 100 to 200,000 people which will see this."
After six months of effort, and a team of twenty working on the project, excitement levels are high. And there's one collaboration in particular that Matthias and his team are keen to emulate the hype of – BVG x Adidas' 2019 ticket-shoe. "I have seen the video many times. I was talking about it with Hikmet, what can we do better. It's just... a Berlin company the BVG, yeah – but the video and all the marketing, even the Guardian, the New York Times, everybody was writing an article about it. It was crazy... every time when I see the video, I get goose bumps, because how can an impact of such a collaboration be so big? You cannot pay for such advertising."