People typically see their possessions as extensions of themselves, so they jazz up everything they own—laptops, mobile phones, cars, etc. Shoes are no exception. There are shops that allow buyers to customize their own shoes, giving the new owners a sense of pride that they have created their own unique design that reflects who they are.
Bont, the world’s largest producer of handmade speed skates, is a forerunner in footwear customization. Long before the arrival of customization websites such as NikeID, Bont was already creating skates according to customer specifications in 1975. Its founder, recreational speed skater Inze Bont, used to paint the base of every pair of ice speed skates that he made by hand.
“It was a labor-intensive process that he could only make two pairs per week,” shares son Alexander Bont, who spent seven years on the Australian short track team before joining the family business and now heads the company as its CEO. “Whatever the customer wanted they received. We were the pioneers of custom sports footwear.”
A leader in skate technology, Bont introduced the use of fiberglass, Kevlar, carbon fiber, Velcro, heat moldable resins and thermoplastics, and invented heat moldable boots, among many others. More than any other manufacturer, it is the brand associated with World champions, Olympic champions, and the World Inline Cups. It produces inline and ice skates, roller skates and cycling shoes.
In this Q&A, Alexander Bont reveals to Freelancer.com how Bont is taking footwear customization to the next level in this high-tech age.
Bont has always been at the forefront of innovating sports footwear. How did this online customization concept come about?
With the introduction of websites in 1996 I made our first product customization HTML page that used layers of gifs to allow customers to visualize what their boot would look like. As we added more and more options, it became too much work for us to keep the page updated with all the new leathers and other materials that customers could choose from so we just went back to a simple form. But, we always wished it was more advanced and allowed our customers to be able to see what they were purchasing.
This new customization feature is more advanced.
With our new page, customers can not only see how their new skates or shoes will look, they can see them in different environments and select different colored components to complement the boots. It is by far the most extensive project of its kind. The MyBonts project was made in HTML5, which is slower to load than Flash, but it will work across all platforms, including Apple, which was very important to us with so many customers now ordering via mobile devices.
To develop this project the freelancer had to create 10 different views of each product, have up to 20 different colors and up to 23 different options in a single product. The material colors needed to be replicated accurately and the parts needed to be layered and positioned perfectly for it all to work. As the customer goes through to stage 2, the site works out the customer’s foot size by the customer’s foot length and width. The order is sent to the shop’s sales representative for processing via a drop down menu.
What prompted you to outsource the customization feature?
I searched online for a company to make this site for us and we were quoted EUR 60,000 per product to digitally scan and make this page for us. I wanted up to 15 different products so it was WAY too expensive. So I found a freelancer who could make the app for eight products for USD 8,000. I also paid another company for the renderings, which was another USD 8,000. I had eight products made for a fraction of what it would cost a normal company to make a single product. The difference in price was staggering.
Was it a challenge to find the freelancer with the right skills to do the job?
Not many freelancers have the experience in doing what I needed. Ideally, I wanted one who had already made a similar type of website to save me time and money from having to build one from scratch. Freelancer® recommended this freelancer to me and he did have experience and he had a perfect score for his feedback.
What do you like about Freelancer.com?
We are able to undertake many jobs such as making promotional videos, posters, banners and more that as a small company we would not otherwise be able to afford. Without Freelancer®, we would probably stick with one magazine ad per year but with Freelancer® we have been able to create amazing videos at an affordable price. Even the MyBonts’ logo was made by another freelancer.
So far, how has the feedback been? What’s next for MyBonts?
The feedback right now is just from a few skaters that we have asked to test the site for us. They say the boot thing is a lot of fun to play with, the app is “out of this world” in that they can see the boot from all angles, add wheels and plates.
We are launching MyBonts as soon as the new web site for each product category is ready. Cycling has already launched and quad skates and inline skates will launch in March. This site will be available to shops so that they can place their orders, and to customers so they can order directly from Bont.