October 14, 2010, 8:19 AM

Test before you text

Tread carefully with text message marketing, says Steve Madden’s president of e-commerce.

Lead Photo

Andrew Koven

Steve Madden Ltd. revealed this week the numerous ways it is engaging and conversing with customers using text messages. But like anything new, the shoe manufacturer and retailer said it has to crawl before it can walk and walk before it can successfully run with text message marketing.

Andrew Koven, president of e-commerce and customer experience at Steve Madden, told the audience at Internet Retailer’s Mobile Commerce Forum 2010 that the company is testing SMS (short message service) and MMS (multimedia messaging service) text programs that offer discounts, product information and loyalty programs at six Steve Madden retail stores. It also promotes SMS text message prompts into print ads, on shoeboxes, product tags and receipts, and in in-store signs. A primary goal at this point, Koven said, is to build a mobile database that helps the company know more about its customers.

For example, in-store signs ask shoppers to text the words “JoinSteve” to an SMS code to receive exclusive offers and the chance to win a $100 gift certificate. A message returned to the shopper asks her to follow a link to a site where she can enter personal details such as her name, ZIP code, gender and birth date, and also select which types of text communications she wants to receive. Other text programs being tested are designed to appeal to customers interested in communications other than discounts. For example, by texting the word “Neon” to an SMS code a shopper receives a 30-second music video clip of a featured artist—who just happens to be wearing Steve Madden shoes in the clip.

Koven said the firm is trying to find the right mix of frequency and content value. “We believe, exponentially more so than when sending e-mail marketing, that it is important to exercise extreme care when sending text messages. We want to get people to the point where they feel really good about making that purchase from us,” he said.

At this point, the results are hard to gauge. He says the company is gathering feedback from store employees who ask customers about their text interactions with the brand. “Today there are not a tremendous amount of guidelines measuring text. The only way we can look at is this: We ask. We observe. We ask about what they are interested in,” he said. He added that while he can’t precisely measure the results, he believes the company is seeing a higher level of engagement and an improvement in sales.

He said delivering a better customer experience will ultimately help sell more Steve Madden-branded products, and that text messaging is just one way to do that. “We’re trying to put more of our product on people’s feet and handbags on shoulders,” he said. “Obviously we are doing that by driving more site and foot traffic and getting more people engaged with our brand.”

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