Atoms founders Sidra Qasim and Waqas Ali: Physical retail makes customers feel like you’re adding value to their lives

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When’s the last time a shoe company made you feel all warm inside? Atoms is looking to do that. Its two founders moved from Pakistan to the United States to craft shoes with a personal touch, not solely in their customization — they come in quarter sizes, and you can get slightly different measurements for each foot since “most people have shoe size difference between their left and right foot,” co-founder Waqas Ali says — but in the hand-written notes and other inviting customer engagement methods.

Sidra Qasim and Waqas Ali joined Shareen Pathak on this week’s episode of Making Marketing to discuss how the couple plans to keep that personal touch as their company grows (it scored $8.1 million in Series A funding earlier this year).

Killing the question
Qasim: “Whenever we ask people what’s their shoe size, they always say ‘uh, 9 or 9.5, it depends on the brand.’ So we wanted to kill that question here, of ‘why we are not able to answer what our shoe size is?’ How can a company offer that type of experience where people know about their shoe size and have the confidence that if a brand introduces a new style, that style would fit them every time?”

Competition is broader than it used to be
Ali: “Since the beginning, we knew that we’re not just competing against shoe companies. I think of an Atoms customer… let’s say she’s interested in buying something new for herself, and she’s thinking ‘should I buy these comfortable shoes or that fancy designer watch?’ So it’s not just shoe versus shoe. It’s ‘who is making people fall in love with them over and over again?'”

The comfort promise
Ali: “After a week, it gets very hard to wear any other shoes. That’s what our promise is. And if it does not become that shoe, then we take the shoes back from you. And then we will talk to you again once we fix things. But right now, that’s been the case.”

Their first pop-up
Qasim: “We are going to do our first pop-up in SoHo. And the idea here is that people come to our store, meet our team, and then the whole experience should feel like somebody is adding value, somebody is serving them. They can also look at where we started — more interactive! And at the end they try our product. We believe Atoms is so special, we have made this product that’s so comfortable, we believe when people will try them, they’re going to fall in love.”

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