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Guide to growth: How Crocs became the ‘go-to’ shoe during the pandemic

Image of an Asian woman holding a pink pair of bedazzled Crocs shoes.
In 2002, Crocs introduced the world to one of the most unique brands that anyone had ever seen: they were different, and it made some people uncomfortable. Now, hundreds of millions of shoes later, they are a world leader in innovative casual footwear for women, men, and children.
When COVID-19 hit, Crocs—like so many companies—was significantly impacted. Their response was to take care of their employees, their customers, and their fans. They launched a program for health care workers called “Free Pair for Health care” and gave away an astounding 860,000 pairs of Crocs.


At the onset of the pandemic, the first impact was on Crocs' retail stores. They had to shut down their entire store base in North America and Europe, so they focused on supporting their retail and corporate employees around the world. Then, as an organization, they quickly shifted to what they could do to help, and what they had at their disposal to help make an impact.

Driven to make a difference

In March 2020, Crocs launched the “Free Pair for Health care” initiative, a 45-day event during which the company donated 10,000 pairs of Crocs every day to exhausted frontline health care workers caring for COVID-19 patients. “Health care workers have been part of our consumer base for years, and we thought the best way to give back was again to give them the footwear they needed on the front lines,” said Adam Michaels, Chief Digital Officer at Crocs.
The health care campaign was an enormous undertaking across the U.S. (United States), Canada, and Europe that required building a platform that could fulfill orders, communicate with customers, and handle up to 500,000 daily visitors to the site—all while maintaining enough inventory despite scaled-back production due to the pandemic.   This developed into a massive daily ecommerce event experience that required extensive collaboration and coordination across many teams in the organization.  

Crocs intensified their digital-first strategy during the pandemic.

The pandemic prompted Crocs to intensify the digital-first strategy it embarked on about five years ago. Recognizing that people were working remotely from home, consumer behaviors were changing and moving online, and ecommerce shopping was on the rise, the company ramped up its operations, sales, and marketing efforts on digital channels.
The use of Microsoft Teams enabled their employees working remotely to collaborate and maintain productivity, quickly share designs and documents, provide input, host ecommerce and sales events, and make decisions in real time.
Crocs also invested heavily in digital marketing channels, including paid search, and increased the investment with Microsoft Advertising to target customers who might not have previously bought Crocs online.
“Paid search is one of our most important digital advertising channels. Customer acquisition is, like for many brands, a huge part of our current and go-forward strategy and paid search allows us to target and grow our customer acquisition efforts, more than any other channel. We leverage paid search to find more consumers, and that has been one of our highest-performing channels from a ROI (returns on investment) standpoint. Paid search is one of our highest-performing channels globally,” said Michaels.

In addition to paid search, the Crocs team looked to display and native advertising as another key tactic to leverage as a top of funnel and customer acquisition channel.

Michaels added, “I do think display plays a pretty big role, probably more so as a top of funnel activity in terms of how we're prospecting and building it from a customer acquisition standpoint. It plays a critical role in that consumer journey and getting people to engage with us, and then we may target them again through paid search through email or through different channels. But I think from a top of funnel perspective, display is an important channel as we think about overall customer acquisition.”

“The return we saw through Microsoft Advertising accelerated during this time. When we saw the increase in return, it really gave our team the confidence to invest more budget. And we were seeing that return in a relatively short amount of time, which not only helps us with an immediate benefit in the quarter, but also, we believe is bringing consumers into the brand,” said Michaels.

Images of a young mixed race man standing, holding a white pair of Crocs shoes that have assorted decorations, which include the words "Crocs" and "Kicks," and a sitting black woman who has vitiligo and is wearing numerous necklaces, bracelets, and white Crocs shoes.

Crocs’s brand manifesto is “Come As You Are.”

As a brand, Crocs is committed to respect, equity, and inclusion, and they have developed a brand manifesto of “Come As You Are.” “It was created because we realized that as a brand, we were different, and we were unique and there were lots of fans around the world that resonate with that feeling. We celebrate all diverse kinds, and we stand with what we call all ‘one-of-a-kinds’ every single day. Our shoe is an incredible canvas to create whatever it is that you're feeling for the day,” said Heidi Cooley, Head of Global Brand at Crocs.

We believe that our brand momentum has never been stronger around the world. We're seeing positive trends from an eCommerce performance perspective, and most importantly, we're building incredible goodwill with fans that believe in our vision. They too believe that everyone should be comfortable in their own shoes.

The Crocs team achieved extraordinary results in 2020.

  • Crocs's digital-first strategy contributed to a reported record third-quarter revenue of $361.7 million, with digital sales up 35.5%.  Overall sales of Crocs were up 48 percent while U.S. retail footwear sales were down 20 percent in 2020 over the same period in 2019.
  • Microsoft Teams enabled one of the fastest project turnarounds Crocs had ever executed, allowing the company to give back to a group of loyal customers during a challenging time and boost the brand’s equity.
  • Power BI (Business Insights) gave Crocs faster access to their data so their teams could make better decisions at every level.

Check out these stories and interviews with Crocs executives about how the company donated its iconic footwear to health care heroes during the pandemic and was able to survive and thrive during challenging times: