Rock/Creek Unites Digital And Store-Based Customer Tracking

Rock/Creek has a lot to gain from learning about its customers — particularly their plans for outdoor adventures. The retailer’s most valuable shoppers are those who are about to “graduate”— set off on a backpacking trip across Europe, hike the length of the Pacific Coast Trail or scale the heights of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Knowing exactly when these trekkers are prepping to leave allows Rock/Creek to supply them with everything they need to enjoy the trip (and hopefully survive to return and buy more products). The total “spend” from these customers easily can reach $5,000 to $6,000 per adventure, including items like specially designed shoes, GPS-enabled watches and emergency communicators.

The traditional challenge, one that Rock/Creek shares with many other retailers, has been the difficulty of linking shoppers’ digital- and physical-world activities. But Rock/Creek has taken steps to both identify its top customers and also to track their in-store activities, using the Connect customer attribution solution from Rock/Creek gains a view of customers across store, online and social touch points, tracking behavioral metrics including:


            • Engagement: The number of customer-driven interactions/engagements;

            • Purchase Velocity: The ratio of purchases to engagements;

            • Sentiment: Ratings and expressed attitudes, tracked over time; and

            • Advocacy: The number of shares, likes and reviews from each customer.

Pilot Yields Store Traffic Data

Rock/Creek ran a pilot program for tracking in-store activity in February 2016. The retailer encouraged shoppers to log in with their email address for free WiFi. In addition, the Engage solution allowed the retailer to track anonymized smartphone activity, whether shoppers logged in or not. Rock/Creek could discover whether these shoppers were new or returning; measure dwell times at specific points in the store; and improve its understanding of traffic counts and movement patterns.

The program yielded email addresses from 85 customers, and Rock/Creek was able to link 47 of those addresses back to its CRM loyalty program. While the results include a relatively small sample size, Rock/Creek was satisfied with the results of the pilot. The arguably low number of emails collected comes from the fact that the availability of free in-store WiFi has not been promoted effectively.

“We did reach our goal with the pilot in terms of identifying interesting customer behavior,” said Mark McKnight, CMO of RootsRated, a consultant advising Rock/Creek on digital engagement and content development. “It was enough to have the retailer want to extend the program to all of its seven stores.”

Among the key findings from the pilot, Rock/Creek learned that omnichannel customers were four times more likely to return to a store than single-channel customers, and that only 1% of known web and store customers engage on both channels. This low level of multi-channel engagement represents an enormous opportunity for the retailer.

Store Interactions Remain Critical

The ultra-valuable, soon-to-graduate customers often can be identified by online activity markers, such as searching for tips on packing a backpack. But Rock/Creek’s big payoff comes when these shoppers enter a brick-and-mortar store and interact with an adventure expert.

“I can sell them the pack online, but if I get them into the store, they can get an expert pack fit or attend a backpacking seminar,” said McKnight in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “The Rock/Creek salesperson can say ‘Yes you need a pack, but when was the last time you were fitted for boots? What kinds of socks are you going to be wearing? For a trip like this you’ll need wool socks, and you’ll need X number of pairs for the length of time you’re going.'”

Rock/Creek, in business for 28 years, employs people who have the credibility to provide this type of advice. Maintaining this level of personal engagement will be increasingly difficult, however, as the retailer expands its real-world geographic footprint. The retailer recently opened its seventh store, the first one outside the Chattanooga, Tenn. area, in Nashville.

“It’s increasingly important that we have that face-to-face feel, that we recognize our customers,” said McKnight. “We also need to recognize that retail is a high turnover business, but that we need the new 17-year-old kid to recognize our best customers in the same way that the store manager who has been there for 10 years does. We are seeking to use all the digital tools we can to not just get more personal and more personalized, but also to do it at scale.”

The solution’s ability to provide a big-picture view of customer attribution is proving helpful, according to McKnight: “Engage is the first solution we’ve used to connect the fact that these people received this email, and that’s what drove them into the store.”

Now that Rock/Creek has gotten a taste of expanded customer knowledge, the retailer wants more. That translates into encouraging greater engagement, particularly among the subset of valuable customers who already visit multiple stores and frequent the web site.

“We know we need to continue to push all these digital tools, particularly in keeping them on the email list,” said McKnight. Potential tactics to accomplish this include:

            • Encouraging more customers to opt in to free in-store WiFi;

            • Adding social elements to in-store events, such as uploading photos; and

            • Running contests, such as having customers send the coolest photo from their current adventure.

Learnings From The Pilot

The pilot program also revealed that Rock/Creek has to improve its online presence. For example, nearly four in 10 (38%) online purchasers never visit the retailer’s home page.

“That indicates they are coming in and bouncing out again from a product page, that they’re not really engaged with Rock/Creek as a brand,” said McKnight. “The challenge is how to draw them in a little deeper and to tell them a broader story.”

Additionally, the retailer’s product pages currently are light on content: “Very straightforward, clean, no nonsense — just the product,” said McKnight. “Rock/Creek has a lot of great content that is revealed during the face-to-face interaction people have in the stores, but digital storytelling is tough for a lot of brands. They’re retailers, not writers. It’s one thing to have it on a blog post somewhere, but another to have the content be relevant and placed correctly on product and commerce pages. That’s the next big step and goal for Rock/Creek.”

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