FN Summit: Jonas: Firms Should Step Up Digital

While footwear CEOs and marketing executives agree strong digital messaging is extremely important, new research suggests companies may not be harnessing their full digital potential.

“It is clear that new tools, channels and technologies are having a major impact on the footwear industry,” said John Jonas, founder and CEO of The Jonas Group, a search firm. “But we haven’t yet made the necessary internal adjustments to take advantage of all the digital marketing opportunities.”

Jonas reported findings from a study that polled CEOs and marketing executives from 64 footwear brands and retailers. The survey, presented in partnership with Footwear News, was based on an earlier study by Econsultancy that identified best practices in digital marketing across industry sectors.

What’s holding footwear companies back from digital progress? According to respondents, the top challenges included a focus on short-term revenue targets, as well as difficulty identifying the correct priorities, garnering the necessary senior management buy-in for investment in staffing and training, and finding staff with suitable skills. In fact, only 22 percent of respondents strongly agreed that their board or senior leadership had a good grasp of the potential of digital channels for their organizations.

Still, 84 percent of respondents reported that at least one person on their marketing staff was dedicated to digital marketing. Of these, 20 percent had more than five people dedicated to digital.

“Overall it appears that the footwear industry is dedicating a smaller percentage of marketing spend to digital channels than the cross-industry norm,” Jonas said.

Still, 10 percent of companies surveyed are dedicating at least half of their marketing and communications budgets to digital channels.

Jonas pointed to a lack of integration between online and offline marketing efforts as an impediment to digital success, and noted that 20 percent of footwear companies surveyed strongly agreed their digital channels are fully integrated into their annual planning and budgeting processes. This was a marked difference from the 33 percent found in the multi-industry study.

The top digital trends making an impact in the footwear industry were social media marketing, device proliferation and behavioral targeting, all of which were expected to rise in significance. Social media was also the top growth area for staffing and training, followed by email marketing and mobile marketing.

Of the social media platforms utilized, Facebook was further touted as the most effective channel, while Twitter and Pinterest ranked second and third, respectively. F-commerce, while not to be completely discounted, was judged to have the least impact of all listed trends.

As for how footwear companies are coordinating their social media efforts, more than half of respondents reported their social media capability is housed within their marketing department, with 36.5 percent of companies employing social media specialists. In some cases, footwear companies are relying on their customer service teams to engage in social media (with 13.5 percent of votes), while others outsource it altogether (15.4 percent) — both of which are more prominent in footwear relative to the multi-industry study.

So how should footwear companies break new ground with revamped digital marketing? Jonas highlighted the best practices suggested by Econsultancy: Create a clear mandate for change, identify key metrics for success and earmark a percentage of budget for digital marketing experimentation.

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