LONDON — After maple syrup and smoked salmon, outdoorsy casual wear from Roots ranks among the top souvenirs for visitors to Canada.
Yet the fashion chain — which counts 120 locations across the Great White North, in addition to its 104 stores in Taiwan and five in America — is a recent convert to a multichannel marketing approach, initiating the transformation less than five years ago.
James Connell, vice president of e-commerce and marketing for Roots Canada Ltd., said digital now impacts about 60 percent of its total revenues. “Actually, during this holiday season, the number reached upwards of 80 percent,” he noted. He also credited its online activities for fueling double-digit increases at Roots — in-store and online — amidst more subdued retail growth in Canada.
The company found that customers who browse online before a store visit spend 44 percent more once inside the walls, while those that interact with e-mails — a key Roots communication tool — spend 143 percent more.
Mobile users browse 14 or more items before making an in-store purchase, Connell said, noting that the tool speeds more high-ticket purchases such as leather goods. Prior to the digital foray, customers might have “visited” a product in-store several times before committing.
Social media campaigns are also powerful drivers. Roots invites celebrities to make store appearances, coverage of which on Tumblr and other media fuels sales of items worn by, or displayed behind, the personalities. Die-hard fans might visit the actual store to pose beside the same fixtures. “So it becomes a mini selfie booth all on its own within our stores,” he said.
An appearance by Luke Bilyk, star of the Canadian TV show “Degrassi: The Next Generation,” was particularly successful, with the young actor also featured in Roots’ online look book, Connell noted in a follow-up interview.
In another online/offline link, Roots puts up signs in its stores flagging top-rated online products, which bumps sales of those items by about 20 percent in-store.
Connell stressed that consistency is key across communication channels, highlighting a campaign promoting its fleece jogging suits under the #sweatstyle banner that encompassed bloggers in outdoor campaigns and an online contest in which customers voted on staffer selfies in relaxed mode.
Connell made his presentation alongside Perrine Masset, digital agency services manager of PFSweb Inc., which helps multinational brands expand their online presence and provides omnichannel commerce solutions.
She explained that Roots initiated its online thrust with e-mail because it is efficient, cost-effective, traceable and ideal for automated marketing, noting that between 60 and 80 percent of e-mails dispatched by the brand are opened on a mobile device.
Still, Masset estimated that only 40 percent of retailers have a multichannel strategy in place due to a variety of factors, including a lack of resources and organizational structures that relegate teams to silos. “For most of our clients, online and offline don’t really talk to each other yet,” she said.
Another striking statistic: Only 16 percent of big companies have tools in place to leverage big data, with less than 10 percent of small companies equipped to do so. Masset said companies that don’t exploit digital capabilities risk falling short of expectations, citing an IBM survey suggesting 80 percent of customers feel that brands don’t understand them as a person.
Roots plans to open a new 600-square-foot retail concept this summer in Manhattan’s hip NoLIta district, which Connell described as a “gallery” concept showcasing a tightly edited assortment and brand collaborations. The unit is to function as a “brand beacon in the PR perspective for the online market.”