I'm a poor shoe customer for a host of reasons, such as the fact that I often work at my desk in flip-flops and generally wear shoes until they fall apart. So, I'm not a DSW customer, and that is probably a good thing for them. However, watching a presentation by DSW's SVP of marketing, Kelly Cook, recently at the eTail Conference, I couldn't help but be impressed by the fun and energy she and DSW bring to the category, and wondered if all of retailing might take a lesson from them.
DSW is a price-driven retailer, with 338 stores in the U.S. and selling 31 million pairs of shoes last year. They call themselves "America's Favorite Place for Shoes (and to work)," and have 21 million loyalty program members. According to a presentation done for a Jeffries Consumer Conference, DSW carries 400 brands and 2000 styles, priced sharply. Their DSW Rewards program has grown six-fold in the past 10 years. Net sales doubled from 2004 to 2011.
What makes DSW so successful? There are lots of factors, of course, but social media clearly is one. Ms. Cook says their company is all about "shoe love" — they want to get consumers asking, "Where did you get those shoes?" And in order to work at DSW one has to have a true love of shoes, in addition to the proper expertise.
Social media activities include:
Meanwhile, according to The New York Times, competitor Nine West will soon unveil "Channel 9" — www.channelnine.com — which will feature videos on all aspects of the shoe buying/wearing/owning experience. They say they plan to have original video content and entertainment in order to build an online community around the brand. The site will be promoted via live events, taxi ads and digital panels in NYC, along with advertising in fall fashion magazines.
Is community building via social media more important in a category like shoes than it is for most other categories?