French luxury brand Ba&sh just debuted an unexpected category to its chic lineup of Parisian apparel: sneakers.
Called, “The Crush”, the brand’s first sneaker takes inspiration from the chunky silhouettes of the ’90s. Not surprising, as the brand hopes the launch will appeal to Gen Z, an audience of shoppers currently obsessed with the normcore trend—something many brands are tapping into. This marks a change for Ba&sh, which usually targets women in their 20s and 30s. But sneakers have become seriously big business, banking $80 million as of last year to consumers who were mainly under the age of 25.
The Crush will be promoted in a new and equally youthful way as well: Snapchat. Ba&sh paired up with the platform on a new augmented-reality filter that lets customers virtually try on The Crush before buying them. The feature will be promoted across all of the brand’s social channels and via Snapchat’s ads, but can also be provided to customers by sales associates in stores. Interestingly enough, the shoes can only be purchased online, so if a customer virtually tries them on in a store, they’ll have to order them online.
COVID-19 has demanded greater innovation and agility from brands in order for retailers to handle dramatic changes in consumer behavior and supply chain limitations. But even before the pandemic, experts were calling for marketing leaders to extend and mature their mobile and digital commerce capabilities to align with customer expectations, according to Gartner’s recent report on the topic. But while Ba&sh’s new sneakers are meant to kick up excitement from Gen Z, they won’t be competing with athletic brands like Nike and Adidas, two labels that already boast both iconic sneakers and virtual try-on capabilities of their own. Instead, the brand hopes The Crush, which is handmade leather and comes in a slew of muted tones, will go toe to toe with luxury sneakers from labels like Gucci, but for a significantly lower price point of $295.
Notably, The Crush will be part of a limited edition drop that the brand then balanced via a digital raffle one day before release, hosted on its site, to get a better sense of which consumers were most interested in the product. AR solutions can also help bridge the new gap created by the pandemic and help lower the chances of an abandoned digital cart. Finally, making the exclusive shoes online-only places an emphasis on digital that brands of all backgrounds may want to consider leaning into.