Let’s take a step back
Kids go through shoes fast. Whether it is from how quickly they grow or how quickly they destroy them, at some point a parent or relative will find themselves inside a children’s shoe store. Shoes & Sox is Australia’s leading independent children’s footwear specialist, founded in 1987 with the mission of putting the best-fitting shoes on the feet of Australian children at family-friendly prices.
Shoes & Sox has enjoyed tremendous success and were acquired by Anchorage Capital Partners in 2015 to compliment Anchorage’s existing portfolio company, Brand Collective. Today there are over 70 locations across Australia including presence in over 40 Myer stores nationwide.
Stepping inside the store
When a customer visits one of their locations, it is easy to get swept away with the overall customer experience. Customers scan a QR code to be put in the queue and schedule an appointment with a Kids Fit Consultant. The Kids Fit Consultants are intensively trained over a 3-month period by senior Kids Fit Consultants and are overseen for 6 months while they work. The training teaches expert fitting of children’s feet, foot development, growing stages, what shoes are beneficial for what purpose, and how to address common foot problems.
As the store posters proclaim, Shoes & Sox loves celebrating milestones. Milestones like baby’s first steps, learning to tie laces and the first day of school. This is a rich, emotional territory for engaging customer experience (CX) and, of course, for a loyalty program to drive even deeper, more meaningful engagement. However, their loyalty program is not mentioned across any of their point of sale and staff only mention it at checkout.
If the store were to effectively sign in customers when they enter, this type of data could allow consultants to acknowledge the customer by name, understand and enquire about a past purchase or offer suggestions or offers on a new purchase based on past activity or preferences. This would be a massive tick to the CX box and fit well with the brand image but the opportunity for meaningful personalisation is entirely lost.
A hop online
The website offers online shopping, in-store appointment bookings, customer account creation or the ability to sign up for the eNewsletter and become a “sole mate”.
For those with a keen eye you can also find the wonderful partners that they work with like Camp Quality, Aspect Australia and Tread Lightly. Charitable and socially responsible causes that are entirely buried on the page.
Signing up to the eNewsletter or customer portal makes no mention of the loyalty program and lacks any real utility or value apart from an initial one-off discount with the eNewsletter.
There is no personilisation or segmentation in the eNewsletter. If you try to update your preferences you are sent an additional email. It links to a form that has none of your previously provided information populated. Being a “sole mate” leaves much to be desired.
Signing up for the customer portal is too complex for what it offers in return. The basic functionality is hardly worth the effort of setting it up and there is no incentive as a customer to do so. It has limited utility and does not mention the loyalty program at all. The preferences captured within the customer portal do not match or synchronise with the preferences you can manage via their eNewsletter.
Try on the loyalty program for size
In the footer of the website there is a link to the loyalty program. You have to be determined to find it. It opens an FAQ style dropdown emotionally titled “loyalty program”.
Clicking on “what is your loyalty program?” expands a list which mistakenly refers to the program as a “Frequently Buyers Program”. It is not a simple program even if they say it is.
Consumers want simplicity. Having to manually calculate your rewards and hold on to 6 slips of paper without losing them and remembering them when it comes time for your 7th purchase is not simple.
Buying online does not make the process any simpler. In fact, it makes it more complex. You receive your shoes and Frequent Buyers Bonus Cards separately in the mail. If you want to redeem your free pair of shoes after collecting 6 cards you must go through the additional step of contacting Shoes & Sox to obtain a unique redemption code. The contact form provides a subject dropdown however none of the subjects relate to obtaining the unique redemption code.
If the shoe fits…
The brand has so much potential for a well-designed loyalty program to deliver value. They have a rich heritage story, a premium and unique positioning in the market coupled with a meaningful partnership network. The skilled staff are already primed to promote the existing loyalty program. The customers who are coming into the store and providing their information are most likely close to a milestone of sorts for the child they are buying shoes for.
A free pair of shoes might provide some incentive to buy again but it is the program itself that is the ultimate letdown in customer experience. From a business perspective, the manual nature of the program and the singular reward are terribly inefficient from an operations and margin standpoint. This is a program that feels barely cobbled together and needs to take a giant step into the digital age in order to try catch up to consumer expectations that have far outgrown this type of mediocrity.