Finish Line Sprints Toward Customer EngagementBy Samuel Greengard Print
A prominent footwear and athletic apparel retailer tackles customer engagement with a mobile app strategy that connects it with its core customers: Millennials.
The ability to engage with customers effectively and in real time increasingly defines the modern retailer. At Finish Line, which operates about 660 athletic footwear stores in 47 states and an e-commerce site, the bar is set high.
"We operate in an ultracompetitive marketplace," says Danielle Quatrochi, vice president of digital operations. "Our core customers are slanted heavily toward Millennials, and we have come to recognize that we must connect with them in order to evolve as a business."
Because these customers spend a lot of time on their smartphones—about 50 percent of the company's traffic originates from mobile devices—Finish Line "must stay one step ahead of the customer," Quatrochi explains. "We have to understand them on a deeper level and deliver content and offers that are relevant and meaningful to them. The goal is to bolster our loyalty program so we can boost customer engagement and sales."
As a result, the company turned to IBM and its partner PointSource to develop a smartphone app that introduces a number of key features. These include geo-location technology to deliver push notifications and information about nearby stores; real-time visibility into inventory to determine if a specific item is in stock and available for purchase; detailed rewards information; product trackers that can identify new models and discontinued models; and the ability for customers to purchase footwear and other apparel directly from the store's Website, anytime and from anywhere.
In addition, customers in stores can pull out their smartphones and use a bar code scanner within the app to pull up instant information about products. "If you're looking for more detailed information, you can scan an item and view reviews and even videos," she points out.
There's also a feature that allows customers to follow hot product launches and track favorite teams and products. They are able to add the item to a calendar and receive a reminder when the product launches and is available in the stores.
Quatrochi says that Finish Line recognized the need for a robust smartphone app after it conducted extensive customer research, including surveys and focus groups. But the retailer did not stop there. It also conducted research and interviews with store associates. "They are the direct connection with the customer on a daily basis, and they have valuable insights," she explains.
Finally, executives put all the data and information together and began examining a number of key factors, including how to make it easier for customers to track rewards and what content and data drive sales. "We focused on what would be most meaningful for the customer," she adds.
The mobile business initiative is part of the company's growing focus on developing a comprehensive omnichannel strategy, Quatrochi reports. In the end, she believes the app and the overall digital strategy will boost loyalty. The number of customers joining the loyalty program and downloading the app is already on the rise. Finish Line also is seeing higher conversion rates on push notifications than traditional email marketing methods.
"We are delivering a better experience," she concludes. "It's a big win for everybody."
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