Deckers, the parent company of Uggs, puts its boots on first-party data
Return on ad spend (ROAS) isn’t as valuable a performance metric as many marketers think.
Richard Russell, vice president of omnichannel marketing at Deckers Brands, has made it his mission to “dissuade people from using return on ad spend as the ultimate metric.”
“When you get too excited about ROAS, you start funneling too much marketing money into people who will already buy your brand and not people who may or may not buy your brand,” said Russell, a 10-year veteran. years at Deckers, which is the parent company of several shoe brands, including Teva, Hoka, and Ugg (unofficial shoes of female celebrities and students from the early 2000s).
Take brand search, for example. Branded search queries are often credited with driving sales, although many of those sales aren’t incremental. Which is logical, since these people show that they already know the product.
“The fact is,” Russell said, “most standard media metrics are fool’s gold.”
walk the walk
Decker’s response was to reorient its marketing strategy to focus on first-party data as a more effective way to prospect new customers.
It’s been a journey, though.
Although they’re making a comeback this year — Cher has a pair — Ugg boots’ popularity waned in the 2010s after trending strongly through the 2000s, followed by a plateau in sales.
“Oprah loved Ugg, and there was huge demand — they basically sold out — but then customers stopped coming to our business like they had before,” Russell said. “We realized we had to review everything we were doing.”
Around 2015, Deckers worked with multiple agencies, each of which ran their own poster campaigns and used their own advertising technology. There were different DMPs in the mix, multiple DSPs – it was messy.
“All were optimizing toward people most likely to buy a pair of Uggs or Hoka shoes using return on ad spend as a gauge,” Russell said. “But these were all people who had already purchased or lookalike audiences that weren’t attracting new people.”
About five years ago, long before Google set an expiration date for third-party cookies in Chrome, Deckers found its bearings and began investing in a strategy to connect its customer data across touchpoints. for Ugg and other brands in its portfolio by centralizing on Google’s marketing stack and partnering with Jellyfish, a programming-focused agency and Google Cloud Partner.
Deckers now uses Google Analytics 360 to monitor how visitors interact with its websites, build audiences and run automated smart shopping campaigns (soon to be replaced by Performance Max).
Deckers also uses BigQuery, part of Google Cloud, to get a more unified view of shopping behavior and spot consumer trends. For example, Deckers was able to grow its fledgling apparel business in part by analyzing event data from its website to learn more about multi-purchase customers.
“All of this gives us the best chance of tracking consumers across devices and across multiple media channels so we can nurture them,” Russell said. “If we know, for example, that a person has watched an ad on YouTube to the end, we know that they are interested and that we can recontact them in the middle of the funnel to bring them to a conversion. “
Consumer confidence has always been important, but has proven to be even more important during the tumultuous COVID-19 pandemic.
In March 2020, stores closed and Deckers was forced to close its e-commerce distribution center in California.
“We had virtually no income, so we started saving money,” Russell said. “But then very quickly we saw that there was a demand for slippers, since everyone was stuck at home.”
Since Deckers already had its proprietary data house, it was able to adapt quickly and spot the new opportunity to capture market share. And company management didn’t hesitate to start spending and stop holding, Russell said.
“It’s something we couldn’t have done if the people in our C-suite didn’t believe our investments would have a positive outcome,” he said. “And that’s why we were able to make this big effort.”
Building a sustainable first-party data strategy is as much about a company’s culture as it is about engineering and implementation.
“It requires the whole organization to understand what you’re doing and how you’re going to do it,” Russell said. “It’s a big part of any digital transformation.”