Although the pandemic story Skechers tells is similar to other retailers—a seismic shift to online shopping as its retail stores were closed—the way the shoe retailer tapped into its customer reviews is what sets it apart.
Most consumers never considered buying shoes online, so Skechers USA Inc. had to pivot and find a way to give consumers the confidence to make their purchases, says Tim Lakin, ecommerce merchandising manager. After the merchant upgraded its ecommerce platform in Q3 of 2020, it focused on enhancing its product content with customer reviews as the centerpiece.
“Having an active feedback area dedicated on our site really helped out,” he says. “A dedicated fanbase and lots of reviews—that takes the place of the in-store experience.”
During the height of the coronavirus pandemic, Skechers had a 700% year-over-year increase in ecommerce orders from May through June. The retailer credits much of that to its customer reviews—powered by ratings and reviews platform PowerReviews.
Skechers.com has more than 340,000 product reviews with an average star rating of 4.6 out of 5, along with more than 8,000 customer images shared. Plus, in the U.S., Skechers has reviews for 87% of its products with an average of 18.8 reviews per product—content that consumers have interacted with on more than 2.3 million occasions, the retailer says.
Replatforming in a pandemic
To better tap into customer reviews, Skechers needed a better ecommerce platform. Before the pandemic, Skechers used to pay its ecommerce site little to no mind, Lakin says. “If we happened to sell some shoes online, great,” he says.
Skechers was using a homegrown system in which it had to do everything manually. The retailer relaunched its site on Salesforce Commerce Cloud in August 2020 to create a more versatile, robust website, Lakin, says without disclosing the cost of the replatforming. The retailer started the move in February 2020.
“It’s a lot of work to merchandise every page, but our site looks better and performs better than ever before,” he says.
While its online sales have leveled off after the surge in the summer, the retailer is still growing its ecommerce business. The retailer went from ecommerce representing about 5% of its total revenue to about 15% at the end of 2020. During the summer, however, its ecommerce business represented close to 100%, Skechers says.
Skechers’ ultimate goal is to get to 30% ecommerce representation, although its stores are still doing well, Lakin says. Overall, Skechers grew its online sales 250% in 2020. To compare, its online sales grew just 60% in 2019, he says.
The retailer’s conversion rate also improved as it focused on reviews. In early 2020, its conversion rate was about 2.5-3%. “Conversion is never super impressive, but that was pretty good for what it was and we didn’t have a lot of exclusive products. We were content with what we had,” Lakin says.
Just like its online sales, its conversion rate skyrocketed from May through June to about 25-30%, he says. It slowed down after that but continues to stay elevated from where it was pre-pandemic after its replatforming. Its conversion rate now remains at about 6%.
“If you double your conversion rate in a year and keep it there, I’d say we’re doing pretty well,” Lakin says.
Why customer reviews are important
With the new platform, reviews have taken an even more prominent role on Skechers.com. For example, some product detail pages now feature headers that describe a shoe’s fit as many consumers are new to buying shoes online or are new to Skechers. “We try to give them as much peer content to get their right size. People who wear this normally fit into this,” Lakin says.
Skechers fields reviews by sending post-purchase emails, a strategy that usually works. But Lakin says many customers are excited to talk about the shoes.
It also uses customer reviews to gain ideas about new products, features and sizes to its shoes. For example, Lakin says most shoe retailers don’t provide size 10.5 shoes for women, but shoppers highly requested it. So, Skechers began to sell size 10.5 women’s shoes and now shoppers are “buying them like crazy,” he says.
Another example is that shoppers wanted to know whether or not shoes were machine washable. The shoe retailer then wash-tested every shoe in its collection and found that many of its shoes were indeed machine washable. Given the interest from consumers, Skechers added a “washable” button on its product detail page for shoes that fit the bill.
“It was such a nice feature we didn’t even know existed,” Lakin says, “It was already there, but we didn’t see it as an opportunity to market to.”
As Skechers heads deeper into 2021, its main goal is to continue capitalizing on customer reviews and enhancing its product detail pages. That means adding more icons that describe the shoe features and product images and highlighting customer input.
“A really nice review base can do just as much as something like augmented reality,” Lakin says, “It’s not the company telling you, it’s the other people telling you, which has more creditability.”
In addition, Skechers hopes to continue enhancing its online presence, such as by adding more online-exclusive products, in hopes to capitalize on consumers growing more comfortable shopping for shoes online.
“We have to keep it going. We’ve had one year of explosive growth and we have to keep it going,” Lakin says. “If we want to simulate our success, we need more exclusive products. I like to pull in weird, unique products because they do well online. The more things like that we have—and it might not be a bread-and-butter product—but it’s a nice way to expand conversion.”
Skechers is No. 621 in the 2020 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000.