Allbirds Business Model In A Nutshell

  • Allbirds is a New Zealand-American footwear and apparel company founded in 2016 by Tim Brown and Joey Zwillinger. Former soccer player Brown got the idea for the company after noting that sports footwear was over-engineered and needlessly flashy.
  • Allbirds makes money through the digital sales of its footwear. Unlike many other brands, the company sells its shoes direct to consumer (DTC).
  • Allbirds operating costs tend to be higher because the company uses high-quality materials that align with its environmental values. To offset this cost and maximize profitability, the company uses innovative distribution and production methods.



Origin Story

Allbirds is a New Zealand-American footwear and apparel company founded in 2016 by Tim Brown and Joey Zwillinger.

The idea for the company came from Brown, a retired pro soccer player who had worn many footwear brands throughout his career and had not been completely satisfied with any of them.

In a later interview, Brown noted that “footwear had become overdesigned, over-logoed, overly bright – and you’re overwhelmed by the amount of choice.

Brown then set out to make a simple sneaker made from wool, abundant in his homeland of New Zealand. After a two-year partnership with a research firm, the first pair of Allbirds sneakers was developed.

In 2014, the release of the range was funded through a Kickstarter campaign which raised approximately $119,000.

During the next two years, Brown worked with Zwillinger to refine the shoe further.

The brand was officially launched in March 2016, with the pair investing heavily in marketing to espouse the sustainability, quality, and comfort of wool footwear. Two years after the launch, the millionth pair of Allbirds shoes were sold.

In addition to casual sneakers, the company now sells other footwear including running shoes, socks, and flip flops. The company also recently released a line of activewear consisting of biker shorts, moisture-wicking t-shirts, and high-waisted leggings.

Allbirds filed for a Nasdaq IPO on August 31, 2021, with the company valued at around $1.7 billion.

Image Source: Allbirds Prospectus

Allbirds revenue generation

The Allbirds Product Catalog (Image Source: Allbirds Prospectus)

Allbirds makes money through digital sales, with estimates suggesting this source accounts for nearly 90% of total revenue.

To maximize profit margins and minimize costs, Brown and Zwillinger opted to sell direct to consumer (DTC).

Many footwear brands choose the wholesale model instead, where shoes are sold to a retailer who must then sell them to consumers for a profit

By removing the middle man, Allbirds can sell its shoes at a higher price.

Image Source: Allbirds Prospectus


The DTC model is important to the success of Allbirds as a company that preaches environmental stewardship. This is because high-quality, sustainable products tend to be costlier to produce.

To offset the cost of sourcing high-quality wool, the company uses innovative production and distribution methods.

This is perhaps best exemplified in the choice of raw materials. While most footwear brands use countless materials for hundreds of shoe styles, Allbirds uses just four materials for every pair of shoes it manufactures.

This enables the company to focus on products and features the customer actually wants. Relatively few raw materials also allows the company to purchase quantities in bulk and receive discounts.

If nothing else, the success of Allbirds has demonstrated that it is possible to build a business that is both financially viable and environmentally friendly.

Distribution Strategy:

  • Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) Model: Allbirds primarily employs a direct-to-consumer model, selling its products directly to customers through its online platform and physical retail stores. This approach eliminates the need for intermediaries and allows the company to control the customer experience from end to end.
  • Retail Stores: While DTC online sales are a core component, Allbirds also operates brick-and-mortar retail stores. These stores provide customers with an opportunity to experience the products in person, try them on, and receive personalized assistance from staff.
  • Global Expansion: Allbirds has expanded its distribution globally, reaching customers in various countries. This expansion includes both online sales accessible worldwide and the opening of physical stores in key markets.
  • Wholesale Partnerships: While the DTC model is dominant, Allbirds has selectively entered into partnerships with retailers to expand its reach. These partnerships involve selling products through established retail channels.

Marketing Strategy:

  • Sustainability Focus: Allbirds places sustainability at the core of its marketing strategy. The company emphasizes its use of eco-friendly materials, such as wool and renewable resources like sugarcane, to create its products. This sustainability focus resonates with environmentally conscious consumers.
  • Comfort and Quality: Allbirds highlights the comfort and quality of its footwear and apparel. Customer testimonials and reviews often emphasize the comfort factor, contributing to the brand’s reputation.
  • Brand Messaging: Allbirds communicates its brand values and mission clearly through its marketing. This includes a commitment to simplicity, comfort, and sustainability. The company often uses minimalist branding and messaging to convey these values.
  • Innovative Materials: Allbirds leverages innovative materials and technologies in its marketing. For instance, the use of merino wool and eucalyptus fibers is prominently featured in product descriptions.
  • Collaborations: Allbirds has engaged in collaborations with other brands and organizations, creating limited-edition products or initiatives. These collaborations generate buzz and attract new audiences.

Organizational Structure:

Allbirds’ organizational structure is designed to facilitate its operations and growth:

  • Founders and Leadership: Tim Brown and Joey Zwillinger, the co-founders, play pivotal roles in leading the company. Tim Brown, with his background as a retired soccer player, brings a deep understanding of the footwear industry.
  • Management Team: Allbirds has a dedicated management team overseeing various aspects of the business, including operations, marketing, finance, and product development.
  • Product Development and Design: A team of product designers and developers is responsible for creating innovative and sustainable footwear and apparel.
  • Retail and Sales Teams: The company employs staff in its physical retail stores to assist customers. Additionally, there are sales and distribution teams responsible for online and offline sales channels.
  • Sustainability and Environmental Teams: Given Allbirds’ strong focus on sustainability, there are teams dedicated to sourcing eco-friendly materials and ensuring sustainable practices throughout the supply chain.
  • Marketing and Branding: Allbirds has a marketing and branding team that crafts messaging, manages advertising campaigns, and cultivates the brand’s image.
  • Retail Expansion: For the expansion of physical retail stores, there are teams involved in selecting locations, store design, and day-to-day operations.
  • Global Expansion: Teams focused on international expansion handle market research, compliance, and distribution logistics.
  • Innovation and Technology: Given the emphasis on innovative materials and technology, there are teams responsible for research and development in this area.

Key Highlights

  • Allbirds Overview:
    • Allbirds is a footwear and apparel company founded in 2016 by Tim Brown and Joey Zwillinger.
    • The idea for the company came from Tim Brown’s dissatisfaction with over-engineered and flashy sports footwear.
  • Revenue Generation:
    • Allbirds primarily makes money through the digital sales of its footwear.
    • The company employs a direct-to-consumer (DTC) model, selling its products directly to customers rather than using a middleman or retailer.
    • This DTC approach allows Allbirds to sell its shoes at a higher price, contributing to higher profit margins.
  • Origin Story:
    • Tim Brown, a retired soccer player, founded Allbirds after being dissatisfied with existing footwear brands.
    • He aimed to create a simple sneaker made from wool, abundant in New Zealand.
    • Allbirds developed its first pair of sneakers through a two-year partnership with a research firm.
    • A Kickstarter campaign in 2014 raised funds for the initial release of Allbirds sneakers.
    • Brown and Zwillinger continued to refine the shoe, officially launching the brand in March 2016.
    • Marketing focused on the sustainability, quality, and comfort of wool footwear.
    • The company expanded its product range beyond sneakers to include running shoes, socks, flip flops, and activewear.
    • Allbirds filed for a Nasdaq IPO in 2021 with an approximate valuation of $1.7 billion.
  • Sustainability and Innovation:
    • Allbirds emphasizes environmental stewardship and sustainability in its products.
    • High-quality, sustainable products typically come with higher production costs.
    • The company uses innovative production and distribution methods to offset these costs.
    • Allbirds focuses on using just four materials for every pair of shoes, allowing for bulk purchases and cost savings.
    • Despite the challenges, Allbirds demonstrates that it’s possible to build a business that is both financially viable and environmentally friendly.
Value PropositionAllbirds offers a compelling value proposition for its customers, including: – Sustainability: Providing eco-friendly and sustainable footwear options. – Comfort: Offering comfortable and lightweight shoes made from premium materials. – Simplicity: Emphasizing minimalist and timeless design. – Innovation: Using innovative materials like merino wool and tree fiber. – Transparency: Demonstrating transparency in materials and production processes. – Versatility: Creating versatile footwear suitable for various occasions. – Ethical Practices: Ensuring ethical manufacturing and supply chain practices. – Customer Engagement: Building a community of environmentally conscious consumers.
Core Products/ServicesAllbirds’ core products and services encompass: – Footwear: Designing and manufacturing sustainable and comfortable shoes. – Materials Innovation: Developing innovative materials like merino wool and tree fiber. – Accessories: Expanding the product line to include accessories like socks and insoles. – Retail Stores: Operating physical retail stores and showrooms. – E-commerce: Selling products through an online e-commerce platform. – Customization: Offering limited customization options for select products. – Sustainability Commitment: Incorporating sustainability into the brand’s DNA. – Customer Experience: Providing a seamless and user-friendly shopping experience.
Customer SegmentsAllbirds serves a diverse range of customer segments, including: – Eco-Conscious Consumers: Attracting consumers who prioritize sustainable and environmentally friendly products. – Fashion Enthusiasts: Catering to individuals who value both style and sustainability. – Comfort Seekers: Appealing to customers who prioritize comfort in their footwear. – Online Shoppers: Engaging with consumers who prefer the convenience of online shopping. – Innovative Material Users: Attracting those interested in products made from innovative materials. – Global Reach: Extending products to consumers globally through online sales. – Millennials and Gen Z: Appealing to younger generations interested in sustainable fashion. – Footwear Enthusiasts: Engaging with those who have a passion for footwear.
Revenue StreamsAllbirds generates revenue through various revenue streams: – Footwear Sales: Earnings from the sale of shoes and accessories. – Retail Store Sales: Income from physical retail stores and showrooms. – E-commerce Sales: Revenue from online sales through the official website. – Customization Options: Potential income from limited customization offerings. – Sustainability Products: Earnings from products emphasizing sustainability. – Partnerships and Collaborations: Income from collaborations and limited edition releases. – Global Expansion: Potential revenue growth through international expansion. – Brand Loyalty: Building brand loyalty and repeat customers.
Distribution StrategyAllbirds employs a strategic distribution strategy to reach customers: – Online Presence: Leveraging a strong online presence through the official website. – Retail Stores: Operating physical retail stores and showrooms for in-person shopping experiences. – E-commerce Platforms: Selling products through third-party e-commerce platforms. – Partnerships: Collaborating with other brands and retailers for wider distribution. – Sustainability Focus: Emphasizing sustainability in marketing and messaging. – Community Engagement: Building a community of environmentally conscious consumers. – Limited Edition Releases: Creating buzz through limited edition product releases. – Global Reach: Expanding into new markets to reach a wider customer base.

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