Customer Stories

Payless expands its global reach with VTEX ecommerce

Andreea Pop
Andreea Pop January 25, 2021
Payless expands its global reach with VTEX ecommerce

Payless, a footwear retailer that barely needs introduction, has been delivering great styles and value for over 60 years. But as retail suffers irreversible changes due to the onslaught of the internet exacerbated by the pandemic, even veterans need to adapt to meet the current times. Payless ushers in this new retail era with a modern vision – an omnichannel approach, touting an ecommerce website experience to boot. 

Brand history in brief

Since its founding in 1956 in Topeka, Kansas, Payless has grown from a family-owned footwear distribution business to a giant footwear manufacturer and retailer, with more than 4,000 physical stores on American territory. Additionally, extensive brick-and-mortar operations in Central and Latin America handle 450 brick-and-mortar stores scattered across 21 countries, and franchises in Southeast Asia and the Middle East round up the retailer’s arsenal. With its value-driven and on-trend shoes, Payless is the go-to footwear solution for families everywhere.

Today, Payless’s commitment to put the customer first prevails. This goal translates to addressing consumer wants and needs by reaching them where they are – online. Thus, Payless is now dedicating its attention to ecommerce to ensure a smart, bold comeback in the US market and a show of force in Latin America – both initiatives powered by VTEX. 

The need for a powerful ecommerce website

Aiming to become the digital leader of the footwear sector, Payless officially relaunched its ecommerce website in the US in August 2020, announcing its presence to a database of over 60 million users. In October 2020, Payless LATAM launched two ecommerce stores in Ecuador and Guatemala, with El Salvador, Honduras and Peru in the Q1 2021 pipeline. The rest of their markets are gradually following suit in the near future. 

Each brand-new ecommerce website found a home on the VTEX Commerce Platform, which is powered by Amazon Web Services (AWS). Payless chose to partner with VTEX thanks to its highly agile technology, which will also allow the retailer to reach future growth for the years ahead. 

“The decision to migrate to VTEX was based on its adaptability. VTEX would allow Payless to continue its growth based on omnichannel. The possibility of adapting –  and adapting fast – was an incredibly important factor.”

Diana Cardona, Ecommerce Manager of Payless LATAM

However, Payless is not embracing ecommerce to the detriment of brick-and-mortar retail. After all, the footwear industry will always present a propensity to in-store shopping: the size, color and level of comfort can all be easily verified on premises, without the hassle of returns and exchanges. As such, Payless’s digital commerce aims to bolster its traditional retail through the means of omnichannel. 

“We are betting on the omnichannel approach, because we want to take advantage of our 450 stores with good locations. Many people select the shoes in ecommerce, but prefer to go to the store to try them on, where they tend to buy additional items.”

Justo Fuentes, CEO of Payless LATAM

The wonders of omnichannel

Omnichannel is the perfect strategy for a brand that, above all, aspires to offer a great shopping experience. Not only does omnichannel enable more buying options for the customer, but it also eliminates all friction between channels. For instance, Payless LATAM initially plans to ship 100% of their orders from the stores, therefore drastically reducing order delivery times. Other added benefits to the customer will be reflected in a more efficient Customer Service, a more diverse inventory and the ability to score Payless Club loyalty points across all channels. Given Payless’s main target audience is families, such a seamless experience will bring much-needed convenience into their footwear shopping.

“It will not matter if the customer is contacting Payless through the website or through social media or by going to a store or by calling on the phone. We are all about providing them with a great experience.”

Diana Cardona, Ecommerce Manager of Payless Latam

But the advantages of omnichannel are not one-sided. On the contrary, Payless stands to gain plenty of operational efficiency due to their unified view over inventory, which will cut unnecessary logistics costs. This is of also utmost importance for Payless’s strategy to open 300-500 physical stores over the next three to five years in the US, with the first set for spring 2021 right in the home of Payless’s new headquarters, Miami. 

Bold ecommerce website targets

The new management of Payless estimates that, in five years’ time, 40% of its sales will come from ecommerce, a figure which will be further boosted by selling on ever-growing marketplaces such as Amazon. Payless plan on exclusively dedicating 30% of their collections to ecommerce, further persuading customers to buy online. 

The giant retailer also intends to diversify its product offering, ensuring a good range of items no matter the season and no matter the market trends. Against the backdrop of a macroeconomic crisis triggered by the global pandemic, in which discretionary spending is deprioritized, the inexpensive shoes Payless is renowned for come as the perfect value proposition to budget-conscious customers. With an upgraded brand portfolio supplied by collaborations with instantly-recognizable brands, designers, influencers and high-profile figures, the trust gap between customers and ecommerce that plagues the industry will be bridged. From there on, the only way to go is up.

“The role of brands for ecommerce consumers is more relevant than for brick-and-mortar consumers. When you don’t offer the option to touch and try the products, the only thing giving credibility to your merchandise is brands.”

Justo Fuentes, CEO of Payless LATAM

Unsurprisingly, success is already showing: since the launch of its ecommerce website in the US, for instance, Payless has seen a steady MoM increase in its sales, withstanding peaks and valleys of demand even after the big retail season. Moreover, between August and November 2020 the growth rate amounts to an astonishing 500%. 

Slowly but surely, Payless is reinventing the way we shop for shoes, with VTEX showing the ropes of powerful ecommerce. 

“There’s no clear leadership in terms of ecommerce in the shoe business, which means there’s an opportunity for Payless to be the first one, to be the best one.”

Justo Fuentes, CEO of Payless Latam
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