Running Shoe "Market Research Findings"

by - Sunday, May 31, 2015

So last week, I mentioned that for my MBA class this summer, I needed to do some market research about people's shoe buying habits.

Hello brand new Mizunos

I'm taking a class on advertising and promotion strategy, and my final project is designing a campaign for a local business. We got to pick the business. I picked the local running store. (I'm sure this surprises no one).

The first part of the project was the market research part. We had to interview 20 potential or current customers of the business to assess attitudes, awareness, etc. of our chosen business and its products. So I interviewed 20 DC-area people and got a ton of interesting feedback.

But I was also really interested in getting a larger perspective on shoe-buying attitudes from other runners, so that's why I reached out to you guys to participate in the research as well.

Several people mentioned they were interested in hearing the "results," and while this is nothing official and in no way scientific, I thought I'd share my "findings" with you all here.

Who Participated:
Running in shorts in November. No complaints here. @mizunorunning #fitfluential
I made it a point to talk to runners and non-runners alike. There was a pretty even mix of males and females. Age range was from 13-68, but I'd say the bulk of the people fell in the 25-45 age range. In terms of geographic location, obviously there was a heavy DC focus, but we had a few West Coast participants (San Fran, LA, Portland), we hit South Carolina, Michigan and PA as well as others I'm probably missing. (Big, big thanks to everyone who so generously took the time to talk to me for this project!)

I broke the research down into a few phases:

  • What Makes Someone A Runner?

  • What Factors Impact Shoe Buying?

  • Where You Buy?

What Makes Someone a Runner?
Beautiful night to break in my new @mizunorunning wave inspire 9s <3 #fitfluential #brilliantrun
Honestly these were probably some of my favorite responses. People had such a variety of answers to questions around this topic. People who classified themselves as a runner tended to say that anyone who went out and put one foot in front of the other was also a runner. People who didn't consider themselves runners tended to think there was a higher barrier of entry to being able to describe themselves this way. I had one girl tell me she probably wouldn't consider herself a runner even when she finished her first half marathon in December. But then my 13-year-old cousin told me a runner is "someone who enjoys moving their legs." Gotta say, I loved that answer.

What Factors Impact Shoe Buying?
Look what just arrived from my friends @MizunoRunning. Absolutely love the color combo! #runchat #fitfluential
I got responses here that were all over the place. Quality of fit and the ability to avoid an injury ranked really high for people who considered themselves runners. But quality of the shoe also ranked pretty highly for the people who told me they weren't runners.

And it seemed almost across the board that price was only a secondary factor when it came to picking out shoes. Almost everyone said they want something that is a good fit, and as long as a shoe falls into an acceptable price range they'd buy it.

I actually thought one of my "non-runner" interviewees summed this up nicely: "It isn't worth saving a couple of dollars for an inferior product."

Where You Buy?
Two totally pain free miles in my brand new @MizunoRunning Wave Inspires! #proof #fitfluential
This is the question that was at the heart of my research. I wanted to find out what makes someone pick a big-box retailer (Dick's, Sports Authority, etc) or an online retailer (Amazon, Zappos) or their local running store.

I heard some great stories about people's shopping experiences. Some of them were horror stories about experiences at big-box retailers (long waits, sales associates who would bring out the wrong shoes, wrong sizes, not be knowledgable about the products, etc.)

Some of them were sweet stories about your first experiences walking into a local running store and having someone take the time to do a proper shoe fitting, make some recommendations and let you try on a variety of styles so you could make the best decision for you.

Since obviously this project is focused on selling people on their local running stores, I was specifically looking for what made them stand out among the other options. These were some of the phrases people used to describe them:

  • Friendly and knowledgable staff

  • Top-notch service

  • More concerned about helping you than pushing expensive shoes

  • Welcoming

One of the things I found kind of interesting from seasoned runners was a trend in shifting to purchasing online. Many of you said you made your initial purchases in a specialty running store, so you could find out which shoe worked best for you. But now that you've been wearing the same style and brand of shoes for years, you've slowly transitioned to more online shopping because it's quick and easy and sometimes you can find better deals. My research is in no way a true representative sample of runners, but I imagine this is something local running stores are probably aware of. If their core customer base is finding better deals online, that's not a good thing for them.

Biggest Take Away:
From runners and non-runners alike, the biggest factor that impacted where you all bought your running shoes was convenience. Was the store close to your house or your office? Could Amazon get something to you with free shipping and free returns if it didn't fit? Did the retail outlet make it easy for you to get in, get out and get on with your life. If it did, most of you said you were repeat customers. If it didn't or you weren't satisfied with the service, most of you did something different the next time around.

I found this research pretty fascinating, probably in part because I'm a huge nerd, but also because I know how I go about making decisions about buying my own shoes, so it was really interesting to hear all the different factors that go into other people's decisions.

Again, a giant thank you to everyone who helped with this part of my project! I hope you found the results at least a little bit interesting, but if not, I'll be back to sharing my regular antics later this week!

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  1. Excellent post!

  2. This was an awesome read! Thanks for sharing. The "what makes you a runner" question was neat to read about. I always have this conversation with people: I get frustrated by "I don't look like a runner therefore I am not a runner." But I am one of the: anyone who runs is a matter what they look like or how far or fast they run.