7 minute read

How DSW Creates Compelling Omnichannel Experiences

Since opening their first store in the early ‘90s, DSW has become a leading footwear and accessories retailer with over 550 stores in the U.S. and Canada and a strong digital presence. Over the years, retail’s constant innovation and competition has left other discount shoe brands (ie. Payless) in the dust, but DSW’s ability to understand and evolve with their customers’ needs has kept them in the game—and their highly personalized omnichannel approach to shopping has made all the difference.

I recently sat down with Erica Hermosilla, DSW’s Senior Manager of CRM & Loyalty, for a fireside chat at eTail West on the ways in which they create engaging cross-channel experiences that keep their “shoe lovers” loyal. Catch our full conversation and additional insights in our webinar recording here.

Keep reading below for:

  • Digital and in-store strategies to improve cross-channel personalization.
  • How DSW deepens and retains relationships with their VIP loyalty members.
  • Their advice for creating compelling, consistent customer experiences.

And with that, let’s get started:

What are your team’s top priorities for the year ahead?

We’re really focused on enhancing personalization and creating unique and engaging experiences for our customers. We have over 26 million DSW VIP loyalty members, and we don’t want to treat everyone the same way. We’re looking to provide relevant messaging at the right time, in the right channel—and we want to create more 1:1 personalization moments with our customers on a regular basis.

"We have over 26 million VIP loyalty members and don’t want to treat everyone the same way. We want to create more 1:1 personalization moments on a regular basis."

What challenges have you faced at DSW around personalization, and how are you tackling these challenges today?

We’re very fortunate in that we have a lot of data on our customers, but sometimes having a lot of data can also pose challenges. For example, how do you make that data actionable? And how do you present it to your customers in a relevant way?

We needed to focus on bringing together the right people, tools, and processes so we could build personalization into our everyday campaigns more easily. Our partnership with SmarterHQ was a really great addition to that toolkit and provided us with the capability to bring personalization into the everyday initiatives that we send.

What strategies are you leveraging right now to better understand customers across touchpoints?

We are a customer-centric organization, and we like to take a more holistic view of the shopper. We already have the transactional data about where and what she’s buying, but now we’re focusing on identifying and layering in her behavior across channels. For example, what is she browsing and what is she most interested in on our site? We’re now taking that behavioral data and marrying it together with the transactional data. Our focus has been on continuing to build that holistic view of the customer at every step of her journey with us.

"We already have the transactional data about where and what she’s buying, but now we’re focusing on identifying and layering in her behavior across channels."

Speaking of customer-centric organizations, what have you done as a team to allow yourselves to be successful in this approach?

For us, it goes back to the foundation of our loyalty program. A consistent aspect is that the customer has always been the focus for us. Then this past year, we relaunched our loyalty program, and as part of that, we moved onto the Google Cloud Platform, which has enabled us to market to our customers in real time and provides that instant gratification customers expect nowadays.

Consumers are blurring the lines between online and in-store more than ever. Our Omnichannel Reportfound that 90% of consumers regularly browse online and purchase in-store. How are you enhancing the in-store experience—and how do you keep that experience cohesive online?

This is a big topic and an important one. Enhancing our DSW mobile app is a big focus for us—we want the customer to be able to bring that digital experience into the store with them, at their own need. In addition, we’re also looking for ways we can effectively market with that cross-channel data. For example, we have geo-targeted app notifications. If you’re in close proximity to one of our stores and you have an available reward or offer, we can ping you and remind you to visit us in the store that day.

We also like to incorporate transactional store data into our digital campaigns, so if you purchase something in-store, we can email you and ask you to review it online. Or, if you’ve added that Kelly & Katie sandal to your cart on DSW.com, but then we notice you purchased it in-store, we won’t mistakenly send you an abandoned cart email because you’ve already completed the purchase. It’s ensuring we’re taking all of those different points of store data and online data, and making sure we’re building them into our campaigns in a strategic way.

"We're focused on taking all of those different points of store data and online data, and making sure we’re building them into our campaigns in a strategic way."

Now let’s talk customer loyalty: How do you engage DSW VIP members and grow those crucial relationships?

It goes back to the two priorities I mentioned around personalization and creating engaging experiences. When we relaunched our loyalty program last year, we really wanted to build more of an emotional connection with our customer. We didn’t want the program just to be about points and different tier statuses—so last year we introduced our shoe donation program, where you can bring new or gently used shoes to any DSW store and donate them for loyalty points.

To take that program one step further, we recently introduced the opportunity for our customers to win a service volunteer trip with DSW and our shoe donation partner Soles4Souls, to join us in giving back to communities. Those are the types of ways that we are looking to engage our customers.

On the personalization side, I think about it in a couple of ways. I think about the mass marketing communications we send out and how we can pepper in those little moments of personalization. We sent an email last month letting our customers know that we collectively donated over one million pairs of shoes since our program launched. But in each email, we alerted the customer of how many they donated specifically. We like to make those mass marketing communications relevant to the customer in some way.

In addition, we send emails that are truly personalized for each customer. One example is our VIP annual savings statement email. VIP members recently received an email telling them how much they saved by shopping at DSW last year, and that was tailored to each individual customer. We also shared some fun tidbits about where they shopped with us and how many times—we see really good engagement on these types of emails.

"When we relaunched our loyalty program last year, we really wanted to build more of an emotional connection with our customer."

Last but not least: innovation and competition. How does DSW compete with brands like Amazon and plan to evolve to continue to meet consumer demand?

In order for us to stay relevant and deal with any competition, there are a couple of things that come to mind. The first one is setting time aside to ideate, innovate, and think differently with your teams. This sounds like a simple concept, but with how busy and crazy our schedules get, it’s easier said than done. We purposely set time aside to think about where retail or technology is going and what that means for our brand specifically.

The other thing that’s important to us is talking to our customers and leveraging customer insights. I keep going back to when we relaunched our loyalty program, but a lot of the components we put into place were based on feedback that we heard from our customers. Utilizing feedback is now a foundational element in many of our initiatives. We get their input on how we’re doing and where we can do things better. If we come up with new and different ideas, we test them in front of customers and see what they think. As long as the initiatives are relevant to them, customers are going to give you some solid feedback that your teams can then turn into actionable and successful campaigns.


Thank you for taking the time to speak with us about DSW, Erica! You can catch more of our conversation in our webinar here.

Want to learn more about how in-store and online shopping behaviors and preferences have changed? Download our Omnichannel Consumer Report.