Super Shoes Gives Boring, Irrelevant Print Ads the Boot

A personalized, data-driven print campaign saw a 6.9 percent conversion rate.

Thanksgiving weekend's record number of 103 million online shoppers lured by email discounts and targeted social ads proves that marketers must step up their print advertising if they want to maintain a successful multichannel marketing approach.

Customers expect brands to show them products and services that fit their needs, regardless if it's through a digital channel or print. Super Shoes, a retailer that sells more than 200 shoe and apparel brands in 40 U.S. locations, is one such company that is taking steps to better meet its customers' expectations with targeted print ads.

Headquartered in Maryland with stores located across eight states, Super Shoes carries footwear for a wide range of activities from construction work to lounging on the beach. And even though many shoppers have embraced digital communications, the majority of Super Shoes' customers still prefer to receive direct mail products like postcards and catalogs.

"We have an email database, but our customers tend to respond more to print," says Matthew Willard, marketing director at Super Shoes. "We had also been collecting a lot of customer information and even segmented it to identify motivating factors in purchase decisions, but it was hard to capitalize on that information since our ability to customize our print campaigns was limited."

In order to more effectively target customers with relevant, timely offers, the company set out to update its marketing strategy, systems, and procedures. Earlier this year, Super Shoes expanded its existing partnership with Quad/Graphics, a print and digital media provider, to help integrate its data points into an automated, personalized direct mail program.

Quad/Graphics added a layer of attitudinal behavioral attributes to the retailer's existing data to provide insight into what motivates a consumer to make a purchase. Super Shoes uses the data to develop targeted images, copy, and offers. The retailer also streamlined its imagery and text assets by moving its creative resources into a central database with a standardized keyword labeling system.

Next, Super Shoes worked on customizing its direct mail campaigns at scale. Using QConnect ADF, a web-based marketing automation application, the retailer created a template with variable content such as the customer's name, imagery, and messaging. The software automatically incorporates assets, messaging, creative templates, and segmented consumer data to create personalized direct mail products, Willard explains.

"The end result is every piece is unique to the recipient," he notes. "The system lets us take into consideration past purchases and a psychological profile that shows one consumer might be driven by fashion trends while someone else is driven more by savings, and we can include imagery that fits where we think they are in life."

The company also tested customers' responses to different mail formats. It turns out that an oversized postcard is the preferred format versus a newspaper insert or a glossy catalog. Willard attributes this finding to the notion that "our customers prefer simplicity. They don't want to flip through something to find out if the product fits their needs or what the offer is. They want to know if it's for them and what it costs."

Armed with these insights, Super Shoes has boosted its conversion rate which it attributes to the customized mail campaigns. As an example, Willard points to a two-week campaign that ran this fall promoting men's casual shoes. The company created eight different versions of the mailer and customized it according to customers' purchase histories as well as demographic and psychological profiles.

The retailer also produced a generic version of the campaign that ran concurrent to the customized version. The company tracked the results through barcodes on the mailers and saw a 6.7 percent conversion rate from its customized postcards that were redeemed versus a 2.5 percent conversion rate from the generic offers. "Because it [the campaign] was so targeted," Willard notes, "and so representative of the recipient, it tripled our success."