Ask a Retailer: Deckers Outdoor Corporation

May 22, 2014

With more consumers, competition and channels, e-commerce is only growing more complicated and overwhelming. Sometimes, all you want is a frank conversation with someone in a similar position to ask them for advice.

Welcome to that conversation.

Our new series, Ask a Retailer, will seek to share insights from e-commerce retailers across various verticals.

This first instalment features Katherine Romero from Deckers Outdoor Corporation, a successful footwear designer of brands like UGG® Australia and Teva. Katherine brings a unique perspective to maintaining multiple brand identities online — and talks about the channels that have been most successful for Deckers so far.

DeckersHi, Katherine. Before we get into the specifics of Deckers’ branding and marketplace strategies, tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s your role at Deckers?

Hi. I’m senior marketing manager of e-commerce, in charge of new customer acquisition for each of our Deckers brands. Deckers owns seven globally known footwear brands, some of which include UGG® Australia, Teva and Sanuk. Our brands operate in the luxury, fashion, outdoor and lifestyle footwear space.

I oversee SEO, PPC, marketplaces, affiliates, comparison shopping engines, display and content marketing and, through these channels, drive new customer acquisition.

What’s your goal for Deckers as a brand?

We have many goals for each of our footwear brands, both domestically and internationally, online and offline. Specific to my function, building each of our brands in the digital space is my primary goal. Through building our brands and growing brand awareness online, we’ll drive new customers to our websites, into our flagship and outlet stores and to our retail partners’ stores and sites.

What made you want to start selling on Amazon? Why have you focused exclusively on that marketplace?

What’s the number one way consumers research products, regardless of whether they ultimately purchase on or offline? They search for it. Obviously that means the big search players like Google and Bing. But broadening out one ring further, we’ve found that also includes Amazon. That search box at the top of Amazon is a key product-discovery tool for any brand that wants to build its brand online. We can reach consumers who are searching for our specific brands, but we can also reach consumers who don’t know what brand they want yet. For example, maybe a consumer only knows they’re in the market for slippers and doesn’t yet have a brand preference. We have the opportunity to introduce the UGG brand’s line of slippers to consumers through that search box.

Another advantage is Amazon Prime, which creates extreme consumer loyalty to Amazon, to the point that Prime customers may only shop from brands available on Amazon. The way we see it, if you don’t have your brand on Amazon, you’re not reaching a very important segment of online shoppers.

Is Amazon important from a brand reputation standpoint?

Yes, we also view Amazon as an important reputation management play. We want to maintain the brand positioning that each of our brands has worked hard to achieve. If we’re on Amazon, we can influence and help correct incorrect images and missing or incomplete product descriptions.

We’ve focused exclusively on Amazon to date, as we haven’t had brand-appropriate, compelling reasons to extend to other marketplaces. That said, we’re taking a hard look at a few other select marketplaces that have come to us with significant offerings to grow new customer acquisition while maintaining each brand’s positioning.

UGGIn addition to your own presence on Amazon, various other retailers sell your products on Amazon and other marketplaces (eBay, Zappos, etc.). How do you ensure brand consistency?

It’s not as difficult as you might imagine. We provide many tools for our retail partners to ensure a visually seamless experience for the consumer. There are places each retailer can go to get our latest creative, have custom creative developed and pull product images and information.

What sort of success have you found with Amazon Product Ads? Do you find that consumers would rather purchase from the brand manufacturer than a reseller?

We love Amazon Product Ads! For one, it’s a strong direct response marketing channel for us — we see a great a conversion rate and return from them, which is obviously a fantastic thing for us. But they also allow us to extend our brand to consumers who don’t know about us yet. We can introduce our brands to shoppers who are early in their purchase process and are open to learning about who we are.

It’s rare that you find a channel that can both create brand awareness and drive conversions all at the same time. So yes, love, love, love Amazon Product Ads. Same with Google Product Listing Ads (PLAs) — all the same applies there, and that’s another key channel for us.

TevaCan you tell us more about your Google PLA strategy?

Our PLA strategy is equal parts direct response and brand awareness. In the direct response realm, we have high expectations that this channel will drive strong conversions, especially as PLAs take up more real estate on the search engine results page. We’re seeing more clicks go to PLAs than our pay-per-click (PPC) ads and organic listings, which also still convert very well for us. To drive those high conversion levels we expect, we’re continually optimising the data feed quality and bids to ensure that consumers are reaching the intended product for their query.

It would be easy to set it all up once and let Google decide which products to show, but Google doesn’t know our business as well as we do. Often the PLA algorithms Google uses to decide page placement don’t align with what we’d like. Tight control is critical for us.

As far as using PLAs to drive brand awareness, because PLAs are so visual, we can introduce consumers to products that they typically wouldn’t expect from us. For example, many consumers know UGG for the iconic classic sheepskin boot. Not many know that UGG also carries handbags, apparel, men’s footwear and items for the home.

The same is true with Teva — we have the iconic Teva sandal, but we also carry hiking boots, casual shoes and fashion boots. PLAs allow us to invite consumers into those extensions and experience the full brand online.

Are knockoff or bootleg versions of your products a concern from a branding perspective?

Yes, for our UGG brand we have many fake sites spinning up counterfeit products. And being on marketplaces like Amazon and having a healthy relationship with eBay’s trademark team helps us make sure our customers only get the authentic product. Marketplaces end up being very beneficial to our brand.

Katherine, we appreciate your sharing this peek behind the curtain into the day-to-day vision for Deckers. We wish you and Deckers all the best in your continued success.

Read about Deckers and their e-commerce success in this case study, or hear more from them directly in this video.

How to Avoid or Fix 10 Costly Amazon MistakesFor more information on Amazon and specific ways you can maximise your presence there, download our eBook How to Avoid or Fix 10 Costly Amazon Mistakes.