E-commerce is quickly becoming a focus for KeenFootwear.com in order to control its brand message. Keen sits down with Internet Retailer at NRF 2018 to explain why it re-platformed, the secret behind its 28% growth in holiday sales and its future strategy.  

Footwear retailer Keen relaunched its e-commerce site in hopes of making its online sales climb.  

Less than 10% of Keen’s sales are via KeenFootwear.com, but direct-to-consumer is a growing portion of its business and it’s “still maturing,” John Evons, vice president of global digital commerce for Fuerst Group, told Internet Retailer at the NRF 2018 conference in New York City this week. Fuerst Group is the parent company of Keen and backpack retailer Chrome Industries Inc.  

When factoring in sales of Keen products via its website, retail wholesale partners’ websites (such as REI.com) and sales of its products on Amazon.com, 40% of Keen products are sold online, Evons said.  

Previously, Keen used a custom-built back-end e-commerce platform from a software provider local to the retailer in Portland. Evons decided, for several reasons, to switch to e-commerce platform and service provider Salesforce Commerce Cloud. For example, the retailer now has quick and easy access to new website tools without having to build them itself, such as updating to an HTTPS secure protocol or Salesforce’s Einstein artificial intelligence tools for shopper data, Evons said.

“Salesforce rolls out seven to 10 new versions of its applications on a yearly basis,” Evons says. “Salesforce rolls them out so we don’t have to test those things. That happens behind the scenes.”

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Simultaneously with the replatform, Keen and Chrome also updated its front-end design and user experience with digital design agency Basic.

The retailer began the process of switching its site in January 2016 and relaunched its ChromeIndustries.com site in November 2016, and KeenFootwear.com in May 2017. Keen Canada launched in October 2017 and Keen Europe and Japan is expected to launch in March, Evons said.

So far, Evons is pleased the results. For the fourth quarter 2017, sales at KeenFootwear.com increased 28% year over year, which is outpacing industry growth, he said. U.S. online sales for November-December were up 14.7% year over year, according to Adobe.

In addition to the new platform, Evons attributes Keen’s surge in holiday sales to having more consumers connect with the charity aspect of its brand and become a Keen “fan,” he said. During the height of the holiday season, Nov. 20-Dec. 24, Keen donated $5 to poverty-fighting charity Mercy Corps for each footwear purchase on its site. The retailer donated $212,625, Evons said.

Before the holiday season the retailer ramped up its paid search spend, and that led to an increase in traffic from paid search. However, the retailer also found that having an HTTPS site (which signals to the consumer the site is secure and an element that Google includes in its ranking algorithm), helped boost its organic search ranking and subsequently led to an increase in traffic from organic search results, Evons said, declining to give specifics.

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More than 50% of KeenFootwear.com’s traffic comes to the site via a mobile device and that share is growing, Evons said. He is excited about this because a main part of the user experience upgrade was to focus on mobile. Keen changed from having a separate mobile site to using an adaptive form of responsive design, which formats the size of the website to the consumer’s device while also displaying unique content for each device.

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The goal is to increase Keen’s mobile conversion rate to be at least half of what its desktop conversion rate is, Evons said. Right now, its mobile conversion rate is about a third of its desktop conversion rate, and about 27%-33% of Keen’s sales are via a mobile device, Evons said.

The retailer plans to increase mobile conversions, in part, by adding mobile payment buttons Apple Pay, Pay Pal and Google Pay to its desktop and mobile site in the coming months. Keen has not had these quick checkout buttons before because of the custom-built nature of its previous platform. 

Payment buttons will allow shoppers to checkout right from the product detail page, and cut down the number of steps to purchase a product. Because the payment process is often the biggest pain point in mobile shopping, Evons expects this to decrease the time on site and increase mobile conversion, but only to an extent.

“I don’t expect mobile to get to the same parity level as desktop, at least not in the next 18 to 24 months,” Evons said. A mobile shopper uses her device on the go to do quick research, such as looking at reviews or finding store hours, so a mobile consumer’s intent may not be to buy, he said. 

The on-the-go nature of mobile shoppers is also why the retailer wants to update its site to make it easier for shoppers to pick up where they left off from their last browsing session, regardless of the device they are on, Evons said. The retailer is still working on how to achieve this but plans to use data via logins and the channel in which the consumer entered the website, such as email or social media.

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Evons wants to build more momentum around the Keen brand and have a more unified approach to its messaging across its wholesale partners. It plans to launch products called “Only at Keen” on its website and have those product launches go live first on its website and in its stores. Then at a planned future date, those products will go live with its wholesale retailers, Evons said.

“The ‘Only at Keen’ program is an opportunity for our direct-to-consumer channels to take the lead on launching new initiatives to our fan base, thus providing a launch moment for our brand, engaging our fan base with early access to new products,” Evons said.

Overall, the switch to a major e-commerce platform “allows us to focus on the e-commerce site, user experience and how we are going to innovate,” Evons said.

“Salesforce gives us levers to pull. It may not be clear which levers we should pull,” said Evons, but that’s what the retailer’s new talent is charged to do. Keen now has a six-person technology team, including three full-time developers, two full-time quality assurance employees and a director.

The new platform and new user design cost more than $1 million, said Evons, who declined to comment further on costs.

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