Relevance Is the "Sole" of Finish Line's Remarketing

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How the athletic footwear retailer applied its email remarketing tactics to Facebook.



Today's marketers often struggle to keep pace with their multichannel consumers. The intense pressure to be where the consumer is at all times can lure marketers into batch-and-blast approaches. But when marketers don't provide customers with relevance—by delivering the right message, to the right consumer, in the right place, at the right time—they can become out-of-step with the customer journey and miss an opportunity to drive potential buyers further through the purchase funnel. 

Athletic footwear retailer Finish Line partnered with marketing automation platform provider Smarter Remarketer to drive relevancy across channels through its remarketing efforts.  

Finish Line started using Smarter Remarketer three years ago for its automated email remarketing programs, such as for abandoned carts. After growing its audience size and driving more personalization, Finish Line expanded its relationship with the marketing automation provider to more closely monitor customer behavior across channels; for example, through browse-and-abandon campaigns, says Aaron Buchanan, Finish Line's digital personalization manager. 

In one case Finish Line conducted a back-to-school campaign in which the brand tagged its website to monitor how consumers engaged with landing pages designed for specific segments. Angel Morales, founder and chief innovation officer of Smarter Remarketer, describes the landing pages served as digital “lookbooks” containing outfits with various athletic shoe and apparel combinations. Determining which looks and products consumers showed an interest in allowed Finish Line to remarket to them by featuring those same looks in its emails. Buchanan says that this form of remarketing drove a “considerable” lift in conversion for the brand. 

Based on Finish Line's previous success with email remarketing, Buchanan wanted to see if the same tactics could be applied to Facebook advertising. Although Buchanan says that Finish Line's Facebook display ads had performed “fairly well” in the past, he wanted to see if he could make the ads more relevant to consumers. 

So, about nine months ago Buchanan decided to run a test. He looked at specific site behaviors—such as consumers interacting with the women's running shoes and apparel—and  extracted a list from Smarter Remarketer that specifically identified consumers engaged in that category. Then, Buchanan sent that list to Facebook. The social network fed the list into its Lookalike Audience and, based on modeling, extended Finish Line's ad reach to consumers who looked similar, shared similar interests, or liked similar brands. For instance, to promote Adidas's launch of the Springblade running shoe, Finish Line set its Facebook ads to display only to running fans, rather than basketball fans, Buchanan explains.

“A lot of retailers run ads on Facebook and they're not really targeted,” he says. “Our intention was [to] be as relevant and as engaging as possible and [to] honor the experience that customers are already having on our site by continuing it on Facebook so that we have a much more relevant, engaging, and ultimately, more profitable relationship with our Facebook fan.”

Finish Line has seen a “considerable” lift in conversion since it started using Smarter Remarketer to retarget via Facebook, Buchanan says, and the brand is seeing about a nine-time return on ad spend, compared to a  previous four- to six-time return. In addition, Smarter Remarketer was so impressed with Finish Line's use of Facebook that the company decided to build a full Facebook integration suite.

Smarter Remarketer's Morales attributes Finish Line's success to its understanding of “who” and “what.” Because the retailer was able to identify who was looking at its products (e.g., highly engaged running fans), as well as what their actions were (e.g., checking out a new shoe collection online) the brand was able to clearly define its targets and engage in a conversation with them, Morales explains. Having a specific definition also enabled Finish Line to extend its customer base by finding consumers who resembled the specific segments, he says.

“It's the age-old saying, relevance drives revenue,” Morales says, “and it's true no matter where we are.”

Buchanan encourages marketers not to simply use Facebook as a “megaphone” for their brands. Similarly, Morales says that if a brand isn't gleaning success from Facebook, it's not because the social network doesn't work—it's because the marketer isn't putting in enough work for Facebook.

“Facebook isn't about having a conversation about your business,” Morales says. “Facebook is about facilitating a conversation people want to have.”

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