Skechers Takes Steps to Revamp E-Mail Efforts

Skechers USA Inc. is overhauling its e-mail program, aiming to leap from interactive marketing's equivalent of the Stone Age to the leading edge of customer contact strategies.

To date, the footwear merchant has communicated with the owners of the 350,000 e-mail addresses it has on file, 250,000 of which are customers, only via text e-mail — and not very often.

“Currently we're communicating by way of these text messages about every two months,” said Geric Johnson, vice president of direct marketing, Skechers, Manhattan Beach, CA. “We want to bring that closer to six weeks on regular communication and then [integrate] special events and special offers into the program on a somewhat more frequent basis, based on the profile of the customer.”

The company's current outbound e-mail marketing goes through Skechers' corporate server, Johnson said. As a result, he has had access to little reporting information, such as open and click-through rates.

“The simplest thing, like a weekend sale, I can't conduct that right now,” he said.

To remedy this, the company has implemented application service provider RightNow Technologies' new outbound e-mail marketing technology. Dubbed RightNow Outbound, the service is a module of RightNow's customer service product and can integrate data from both sources.

As a result, marketing and customer service representatives all will have access to the same transaction history on any given customer, representatives of RightNow and Skechers say.

“There's a lot of data from the customer service side that can be integrated into the outbound product,” Johnson said. For example, he said, Skechers could send a special offer to people who have called customer service with sizing problems and acknowledge the customer service issue in the pitch.

About 60 percent of the names in Skechers' e-mail file are also in its 1.2 million-name postal file, Johnson said, adding that multichannel customers spend about 15 percent more than their single-channel counterparts.

Skechers' average order is about $65. Also, its profit margins are fairly high, resulting in leeway for offering specials, Johnson said.

“What we're shooting for is meaningful communication,” he said.

Skechers' customer service/outbound marketing initiative is expected to debut in the next several weeks.

Skechers' move also represents an ongoing shift in how marketers view customer service, according to customer acquisition and retention consultant Ruth Stevens.

“Customer service is [traditionally] seen as a cost center, something to be strangled,” said Stevens, proprietor at eMarketing Strategy, New York. “It's only recently that people are waking up to the fact that resolving a customer problem actually creates a more loyal customer and an opportunity for the sale.”

As a result, she said, marketers increasingly are experimenting to convert customer service data into marketing opportunities, and to train call center people to upsell.

“People are recognizing that in the spirit of customer service, you can actually upsell effectively,” she said.

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