February 17, 2017, 10:31 AM

KicksUSA uses exclusives to amp up its app downloads

Shoe retailer KicksUSA sells its most popular products only in the mobile app, driving consumers to download it.

Lead Photo

 KicksUSA shoppers are smartphone-savvy.

The shoe retailer attributes 70% of its web traffic and between 50-60% of its online sales to smartphones, says Virgil Ghic, e-commerce director at KicksUSA.

With such a large mobile audience, the retailer decided to launch an app to cater to these shoppers and, ideally, drive them to purchase even more frequently.  

“The mobile phone is in everyone’s hand most of time.” Ghic says. “It’s the most convenient device. We think that most of our customers don’t actually own a computer at all.” The average age range of KicksUSA’s customers is 24-35, he says.

KicksUSA has about 50 stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and, soon, New York. The retailer launched its e-commerce site in 2013 and generates “tens of millions” in annual online sales, Ghic says.

Many of the footwear products KicksUSA sells are limited releases, in which the manufacturer only releases a certain number of products into the market and retailers have just a small number to sell. This creates “insane demand” for the product, Ghic says.

KicksUSA typically receives  20 to 100 units of such limited releases, across all sizes, and sells out within minutes. A limited release happens about every week, with about one a month being more important than the others, he says.

To encourage shoppers to download the KicksUSA app, the retailer started selling the limited-release products exclusively via its app. The retailer will also raffle off a limited-release pair of shoes, but consumers have to download the app to enter the contest.

“In those situations, everyone is going to download our mobile app just for the chance of getting the shoes,” Ghic says. “We see thousands of downloads instantly.”

The strategy so far has worked as the app has more than 100,000 downloads since its launch in December 2015, Ghic says. Plus, the mobile app generated 10% of the retailer’s online sales in 2016. But, Ghic knows limited releases are not sustainable as a long-term app strategy.

“You cannot grow exponentially by just selling a couple hundred units,” Ghic says. “The rest of the products are where most of the inventory is located.”

KicksUSA’s most loyal customer makes a purchase two to three times a month both in stores and online, Ghic says. The retailer’s casual shoppers, who buy one to three times a year, is the group KicksUSA wants to focus on and get to use the app more, he says.

His first plan of attack is to better market the app. Ghic didn’t want to start advertising the app until he learned how shoppers would use it and the amount of work it would take for KicksUSA to maintain it, he says. Because shoppers use the app regularly and it’s not too much work for KicksUSA’s 20-person e-commerce team to handle, Ghic is ready to promote it more heavily to shoppers.

Currently, KicksUSA notifies shoppers about the app via its website and at the store, but Ghic hopes to deploy a more robust marketing plan this year, he says without revealing specifics.

The retailer also aims to improve segmentation for its marketing emails and push notifications, so a message is tailored to a specific shopper. For example, KicksUSA wants to be able to send a marketing email or push notification about a specific shoe, using behavior data it collects off the website or app. For example, if a shopper looked at red Pumas on the website, KicksUSA would send a smartphone alert about those shoes or similar ones.

Currently, KicksUSA sends 10 to 20 push notifications per month and about 15% of consumers who receive the notifications tap on the smartphone alert to open the app, he says. About 78% of consumers who have the app downloaded have push notifications enabled.

Other future goals for the app include tying together the retailer’s store and online inventory. Right now consumers can use a bar-code scanner in the app to scan the price tag of a shoe while at the store. The shopper can then order the shoes online if the store doesn’t have her size in stock. In the future, KicksUSA wants the app to direct her to the nearest store with her size so she can buy and pick up the shoes there.

KicksUSA used mobile web and app developer Shopgate Inc. to develop the app. It cost $5,000 to develop and KicksUSA pays less than $1,000 per month to maintain the app, Ghic says.

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