Amid pent-up consumer demand for boots and booties, DSW is taking full advantage of the fall season, and it’s doing so with a variety of tactics. From working with Jennifer Lopez to TikTok stars, the retail chain has been busy showing consumers how to wear specific shoe styles, where to wear them and what’s on trend.
Beyond that, new opportunities have emerged for the business, such as the booming sneaker category, which DSW chief marketing officer Julie Roy calls a big area of growth that the company has been capitalizing on this year.
Here, Roy discusses influencer marketing, DSW’s popular VIP Rewards channel and how COVID-19 has changed the way the retailer connects with consumers.
WHAT IS YOUR MOST SUCCESSFUL MARKETING STRATEGY AT THE MOMENT?
JULIE ROY: “One of the areas that we’ve been leaning on is what we call ‘borrowed authority,’ which means leaning into other individual partnership outlets that have great authority. So Jennifer Lopez is one — leveraging her, her social network and her authority in that space to drive new customers to DSW in a relevant, authentic, exciting way because her product is just so amazing.”
HOW DO YOU BALANCE THE USE OF MICRO-INFLUENCERS AND BIG-NAME CELEBRITIES?
JR: “We want to make sure we’re partnering with people who have already shown an organic interest in DSW. Micro-influencers tend to be more converters. They have much stronger engagement rates because their following is so specific.”
WHICH SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS PERFORM BEST FOR YOU?
JR: “Our strongest is Instagram. We know what works there. We have expanded even more on Pinterest. It’s a platform that we’ve been on for several years but have leaned into more heavily over the past year. And then TikTok is new-ish to us. We did our first experimentation last July and found a ton of success. It surpassed our expectations, but it’s a little bit [less impactful] because it doesn’t have the shop ability that Instagram and Facebook does — though they’re working on that, too.”
HOW HAS YOUR STORYTELLING EVOLVED, GIVEN THE CURRENT STATE OF THE WORLD?
JR: “We used to plan eight months out and we’ve essentially cut that in half. COVID-19 was a component of that, but there have been many other instances where you can plan for some initiatives and then you also need to be nimble and adjust. Candidly, we were going to lean into fall, but as we started getting into August, the Delta variant came around, so we had to ease back. That’s where agile marketing and listening to what customers are saying and how they’re dealing with life [comes into play]. There’s still the fact that you need to refresh your wardrobe, but it’s probably not that return-to-work [message] that we were initially thinking would be a big opportunity for us.”
AS MORE PEOPLE CONTINUE TO SHOP IN-STORES, AS WELL AS ONLINE, HOW DO YOU PLAN TO GROW DSW’S VIP PROGRAM?
JR: “We have one of the longest loyalty programs in retail history, which is amazing. In 2018, we relaunched it, and it’s about fostering both transactional loyalty with our customers, getting them to come to DSW first, but also gaining their emotional loyalty. We have opportunity to drive awareness for new customers coming in and making sure they’re enrolling in the program, and making sure they know how easy it is to join. That’s the key. Q2 was our highest acquisition quarter ever in the history of DSW, which is pretty incredible.”
HOW WILL YOU CAPITALIZE ON THE EXPECTED HOLIDAY BOOM THIS YEAR ?
JR: “For holiday, we will have a group of celebs and influencers help demonstrate how DSW is making holiday shopping easy. We think that’s a tremendous opportunity, not only in terms of digital, but holiday shopping is going to be starting early. And there’s going to be a lot that finishes in stores with the last-minute countdown, which we definitely saw last year and will be even more pronounced this year. And for when we transition out of the boots and into sneakers, there is a great opportunity for us around that awareness, whether that’s for running outside or for running errands.”