Best foot forward with Salesforce - the new world of retail according to Shoe Carnival and Crocs

Stuart Lauchlan Profile picture for user slauchlan June 16, 2022 Audio mode
Two leading footwear retailers spoke at the recent Salesforce Connections event about how they're creating more personalized experiences for their customers.


Make the easy things easy.

A simple, but powerful ideology from Deb Hannah, SVP of Marketing and Corporate Communications at US footwear retailer Shoe Carnival.

Founded in 1978, the company now has 377 stores around the US. One of the firm’s USPs has been its limited time promotions  and specials, announced over a microphone in store.

It’s all about delivering ‘wow!’ moments, according to Hannah, speaking at the recent Salesforce Connections conference in Chicago. What’s a ‘wow‘ moment? Hannah explained:

Moments for us are often little things. We're not solving world peace, we're selling people shoes. But you can do that in a way that makes having your kid outgrow their shoes more fun, connecting them with their next size, reminding them, 'Hey, you might want to check to make sure that your kids haven't outgrown their shoes'. It's little things like, I can go on the website, I can look at my local store and know that the exact size and color combination that I want is there.

Then there's all the little games that we play. We're a carnival, a true carnival, so [we have] little moments where we also collect zero party first party data where we can have these games with our customers.

The most famous manifestation of this 'games'' philosophy is the firm's roulette wheel which can be found in all the physical stores. This offers discounts of varying amounts depending on where the wheel stops when the customer spins it. Hannah explained: 

It's a little discount. It's 2,3,4 or 5 bucks. It's about the joy of spinning it and there's really nothing more fun, especially when you get a little kid. It makes this really pleasing clacking sound that you can hear throughout the entire store. It's just a tonne of fun and brings a little bit of that carnival essence to life.

That’s all good stuff, but, in common with most of the retail sector, Shoe Carnival found itself with its physical stores shuttered  during the pandemic. The challenge then was to replicate that unique shopping experience to a virtual world. To meet that challenge, the retailer tapped into Salesforce Customer 360 for Retail.

This delivered a number of key benefits as online revenue surged 3x as the physical stores closed down. Chatbots were added to, lowering manual chat intervention by over 90%, which in turn reduced costs and enhanced customer service productivity as agents were able to access customer history and loyalty within Salesforce.

All of that taps back into Hannah’s comments about making things easy:

The hard thing about the work that we do is that if you're wasting your time on stuff that doesn't matter, you can't make time for things that do. You really want to grow a business, you really want to connect to a customer. If you want to know how many Adidas customers you have, you write a SQL query and you go make a sandwich and you wait a little while and maybe your counts came back. Maybe that's time to upgrade right? We're really looking at Salesforce for that real time view of the customer. We can go in, we can pull counts, we can build campaigns for different segments. It's going to be a real game changer.

She added:

One of my favorite things about retail is that human beings have been selling things to each other for millennia, but this idea of digital transformation is only a few decades old and we're all still working our way through. How do we get to know our customer better so that we can create those wow moments for our customers?

It started for us several years ago. We're a long term Commerce Cloud customer and then Service Cloud. We had outgrown our modern tech stack. Things were difficult to implement, a long time to market, and we spent months actually on requirements. What exactly do we need this tool to do? What data do we need? How do we think about what experiences we want to create for our customers so that we can bring those to life? So in January we implemented Loyalty, CDP and Marketing Cloud.

Croc rock

Footwear also featured elsewhere at Connections in the colorful shape of Crocs, which is using Service Cloud to deliver automated service cases across all service touchpoints, Marketing Cloud for personalized marketing journeys, Commerce Cloud to connect everything from shopping to shipping,  and Tableau to understand its data.

According to Chief Digital Officer Adam Michael, the commitment to the Salesforce platform stemmed from a need to adapt to meet customers where they want to engage with the retailer. He recalled:

Back just a few years, we had a very channel-driven strategy with a pretty narrow focus on, which worked fine for us at the time, but as the brand and the company have grown, our approach had to evolve to a much more customer-centric one that relies on a variety of digital touchpoints.

Over the last couple of years, we've launched dozens of marketplaces around the world. Like many brands, we've embraced social channels... both from a brand standpoint, but also commercially. We launched an app here in the US late last year with augmented virtual reality. We'll be rolling that out globally.

All of this had implications for corporate strategy, he added:

We really realized that for us to be successful, we have to create compelling, personalized experiences on the platform that are relevant to our consumers, regardless of where they live. Our partnership with Salesforce...allows us to see the customer across all these different touchpoints and then to leverage the data behind it to better understand who our consumer is, how to service them better, how to target them better, and to do it with speed and at a global scale.

Personalization is one of the defining characteristics of Crocs themselves, with customers able to customize their own footwear to fit their personalities. Michael said:

There are so many different colors, patterns, graphics. We really think that Crocs, unlike almost any other footwear in the world, give you the chance to personalize and to have a chance for self expression unlike anything else. So starting with our Jibbitz charms, that's an incredible way to do that.

But we're also launching a brand new customization program that will start with B2B, where we're talking to companies, schools, universities, teams, where you can actually apply your logo, your team colors to your own crocs, and really connect with employees, students, athletes in a way we never had before.

As we think of the future, we certainly see a B2C offering coming to do that. I think it's just a remarkable opportunity to further connect with our customers and our fans.

A grey colored placeholder image