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Shoe Carnival Cobbles Up a Retargeting Program

When brick-and-mortar family footwear retailer Shoe Carnival launched its e-commerce site in September 2011, it had a significant problem: It couldn’t target relevant products to potential customers.

“What that created,” says Kristen Weaver, the company’s e-commerce content manager, “was that a customer didn’t have a desire to be a part of our email program.”

In June 2012 Shoe Carnival began using the Smarter Remarketer platform, which includes a segmentation engine that categorizes customers based on their on-site customer journey. Additionally, Shoe Carnival uses Smarter Remarketer’s Merchandiser product, which allows retailers to put specific products into email messages based on customer behavior.  

This is important, Weaver says, because Shoe Carnival runs campaigns based on seasonality, the channel through which the customer arrived, or what the customer is doing on the site. Using this information, Shoe Carnival can retarget customers who haven’t yet purchased.

“If I want to talk to someone based on the fact that they browsed women’s shoes, I can tell them about a promotion every week for three weeks and I’ll retarget them until I get a conversion,” Weaver says. “This helps us get a customer to convert without over-mailing.”

To keep from inundating customers with unwanted messages, Shoe Carnival relies on Smarter Remarketer’s recommendations. The vendor has a repository of experience dating back to 1998, says Smarter Remarketer Co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer Angel Morales, and it initially looked at customer information from companies similar to Shoe Carnival to inform its recommendations regarding email messaging.

“But much as we like to say customers are similar, customers are also dissimilar,” Morales says, emphasizing that each company must undergo a process to form its own best practices. “You’ll want to test and optimize,” he says. Shoe Carnival does so, making adjustments and modifing its rules around messaging based on its own accumulated customer data.   

Though little more than half a year old, Shoe Carnival’s updated email strategy has already been hugely successful. Currently, only 4% of emails sent by Shoe Carnival are run through Smarter Remarketer’s platform. Yet, 29% of revenue from email comes from that retargeting program. “The biggest [metric] we look at is conversion rate,” Weaver says. “It’s 8 to 10% in the campaigns we run. That’s phenomenal.”

Over the next year Weaver plans to ramp up the program. Smarter Remarketer’s technology allows clients to segment customers based on what drove them to the site—such as paid ads or organic search—and use that information in retargeting strategies. Weaver also plans to enhance Shoe Carnival’s post-purchase program. “If someone just purchased a running shoe, we’re creating timelines in our brick-and-mortars to target that customer several weeks later,” she says. 

Finally, Shoe Carnival plans on offering tiered promotions—for instance, if a customer receives an email promotion and doesn’t respond, the retailer can follow up with a more aggressive deal to drive a conversion.

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