Crocs Takes on Competitive Footwear Market
There are very few products that have such wide and universal appeal as Crocs. From collaborations with the likes of musician Post Malone, and fashion house Balenciaga, to partnerships with style influencers around the world, Crocs is part of a small handful of nostalgic and iconic brands that has been elevated into the realm of ultrahip and modern. However, the company still operates in one of the most cutthroat verticals. Footwear brands are particularly savvy at cultivating loyal and dedicated followings—cementing their cultural relevance at breakneck speed. With so many options on the table for consumers, the brand experience has now become just as important as the shoe itself.
Crocs has been selling clogs, sandals and other footwear for nearly two decades. They have long prided themselves on knowing who their customer is and what makes them tick. But what sets the brand apart is the granularity in their approach. Before it became table stakes to drive marketing decisions off of deep and comprehensive data, Crocs embraced AI and analytics technology early and have made incredible strides as a leader in the category of Customer Experience Management (CXM). As an Adobe Experience Cloud customer, they have tapped into a suite of analytics, personalization and advertising tools—ensuring they have a deep understanding of customer needs and preferences, and using this to activate the right content, at the right time.
A common struggle for marketers is having a single source of truth in data. Different teams, each responsible for different parts of the customer journey, have distinct ways of capturing and interpreting customer signals; the variability is a hinderance to efficient decision-making. Crocs took this to heart when building the foundation of their customer experience strategy. They understood the intricacies of how users engaged the brand, with people coming to owned properties (Crocs.com) but also a wide network of reseller sites. At the same time, people are engaged via different marketing channels across social, email, advertising and more. Their data foundation was architecture with this in mind. Not only were all customer signals fed into one central decisioning-engine, it was paired with second- and third-party data sources to further refine the picture of how users were engaging across digital and physical channels.
The data became the activation point for any activity that could improve or streamline the consumer experience. In the simplest form, it meant that two customers, at different stages in their relationship with the brand, would each be surfaced content that was specifically tailored. A group of brand loyalists would receive personalized content around Jibbitz (a charm that consumers use to personalize and accessorize their Crocs) for instance, while prospects can be targeted with content on known celebrities embracing the product. These small, nuanced touches are critical in a world where acquiring and retaining customers is won in the milliseconds.
Embracing AI and machine learning
A key part of Crocs’ ability to make critical decisions based on data is their adoption of latest AI and machine learning technologies. Like most brands, capturing the data is not an issue—the problem is that there is far too much of it. With so much customer activity moving online, from research and inquiries to final purchase, brands are dealing with an avalanche of data now. No company can hire enough human talent to effectively take this on. By embracing AI, Crocs was able to supplement human talent with tools that automated cumbersome processes and uncovered insights that would’ve gone unnoticed otherwise.
A great example is their ability to detect statistically significant anomalies in real-time, through Adobe Sensei-powered capabilities in Adobe Analytics. As an online retailer, customers take a lot of steps when interacting with channels like the website, such as initial product research and comparison. Through AI, Crocs has a pulse on everything that happens across individual webpages and platforms. If there is a broken buy button, or a glitch on a specific Web browser, they can quickly fix an issue that could easily cost millions if left unaddressed. In other instances, the team might see an unusual spike in a new style of shoe and take immediate action to ensure that inventory levels can support the unexpected demand.
Retail will get more complex
The last holiday shopping season proved that retail is finally now multi-faceted. Consumers are embracing different ways to shop, from growing “click and collect” adoption and more mobile buying, to evolved showrooming. Brands now have to create a common thread across all these different areas and deliver an experience that feels consistent and relevant. It makes data strategy more critical than ever before, as teams now have to stitch together a view of the customer and marry that with personalized content.