Can the Retailing Industry Take a Lesson on Social Media from DSW Shoes?
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:
- Free Shoes Fridays on Twitter. DSW asks a trivia question and the first ten respondents to answer correctly get a pair of shoes. (I saw firsthand the enthusiasm for free shoes when Ms. Cook gave out pairs to audience members at eTail in the same fashion.) They have nearly 36,000 Twitter followers.
- DSW is active on Facebook, with plenty of two-way dialogue. Each Friday they post pictures of employees with their shoes (just their feet) and customers then post their own pictures and engage in a conversation. DSW has such a following on FB that users defend DSW if other users post negative things about them on their page. DSW has over 692,000 "likes" at the moment.
- YouTube – DSW has a channel where they post extended versions of commercials, highlights of special events, etc. Customers also post "haul" shopping videos on YouTube to show how great their new shoes look and/or brag about what a deal they got. These seem to be especially popular with teenage girls.
- Ratings and reviews are part of their website, and DSW intends to expand those.
- The DSW mobile site is fully functional, easy to use, and includes ratings and reviews, which, at least on the items I selected, were more active than those on the regular site.
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.
- DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse Opens In Fort Wayne, IN – DSW
- DSW Builds Shoe-lover Community with Social Media – Multichannel Merchant
- A Channel on the Web Devoted to Shoes, for Those Who Can’t Get Enough – New York Times
- DSW on Twitter
- DSW on Facebook
- DSW’s YouTube Channel
Is community building via social media more important in a category like shoes than it is for most other categories? Are retailers/brands that cater to young women much more in need of these social executions?