Making a Shoe Last: The New Customer Experience is About the Individual

We’ve talked about how buying shoes online is a great metaphor for the unique importance of the trade show: sometimes, replacing the face-to-face with online exchanges just doesn’t work. You have to try the shoes on in person.

So let’s go a bit deeper into this metaphor: how can we make the most of the face-to-face using this idea of shoe shopping? We start by honing in on each individual attendee’s needs—the particularities of each foot, let’s saywhich in turn guarantees a greater ROI. We make a shoe last.

A shoe last is the wooden mold on which a shoe is built. A cordwainer is a luxury shoemaker who makes a different shoe last for each individual costumer’s feet, and uses it to create a custom shoe meant to last a lifetime.


We think of it this way: there is far more long term value in one pair of really well built shoes that will last a lifetime rather than countless cheap pairs that will wear out. In the world of trade shows, there is undoubtedly more value in one life-long customer than a random sprinkling of one-time buyers. Not only that, but you will have a better reputation for providing excellent costumer service, and that word of mouth testimonial is more valuable than any press you could buy.

But this leads us to an important question you may not even be considering: What exactly does value mean to you? And how do you gauge the value of each individual costumer and their experience?

Learning to understand the value of value is essential to making better and longer lasting connections. Long term connections means long-term profits.

The shoe last method means focusing your tradeshow outreach on specific individuals and then designing a unique presentation for each one of them upon arriving at your booth. You are taking advantage of the human experience—that very thing which makes the trade show so valuable. Customers will be pleasantly surprised by your personalized approach, and you can guess where they will bring their business the next time and the time after that.

Furthermore, buying trends among younger generations prove that consumers want to know what they’re buying and where it comes from: they are searching for that value. When it comes to the most important products, buyers don’t want to be foiled by the ambiguity of online sales—not to mention the manipulation: it’s no secret that online shoppers are tracked and their searches fed back to them as fresh ads. Sometimes, the convenience just isn’t worth it. What’s more, the reality is questionable: who writes the online reviews of products? Is it public relations firms? It is employees of the company? There’s no way of knowing. The value is uncertain.

So what are the implications of applying the shoe last method to the trade show costumer experience? It means that the difference between the routine old ways, and this new, custom-built experience is like the difference between going to McDonald’s as opposed to your favorite neighborhood restaurant where you are a regular: the place where they already know your favorite dish, your go-to drink, and your particular likes and dislikes.

The implication is a big shift from a world of mass marketing to and a world of mass personalization. Mass personalization is the future; so why shouldn’t the trade show—an integral part of American commerce and trade—join in the change?