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Master class in digital marketing with Crocs

December 2020

Crocs exceeds customer needs during COVID-19

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 make the world comfortable with the most delightfully comfortable shoes in the world.

When COVID-19 hit, Crocs like so many brands, 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 Healthcare and gave away an astounding 860,000 pairs of Crocs.

Stephanie Worley, Global Brand Marketer at Microsoft Advertising, had the opportunity to talk to Crocs Chief Digital Officer, Adam Michaels about how the company responded and not only survived but thrived during this unprecedented time.

Stephanie Worley Microsoft

Hi Adam, it’s great to talk to you today. We are inspired by the Crocs story and eager to learn more about how Crocs responded when the pandemic hit and how your company pivoted to serve your global employees, your customers, and your fans around the world. Can you tell me what happened to your business at the onset of COVID-19?

Adam Michaels

Obviously when it hit, the first impact was to our retail stores and we essentially shut down our entire retail store base in North America and Europe. Our focus was on our employees and ensuring that we were doing the right thing for our retail and corporate employees around the world. Then as an organization we quickly shifted to what could we do to help and what we had at our disposal to help make an impact in our community.

Crocs logo

Stephanie Worley Microsoft

How did you support your employees?

Adam Michaels

Ensuring that we were providing our teams the level of support that they needed, we leveraged Microsoft Teams probably more heavily than we ever had in the past to stay connected and collaborate. We were able to address questions on people's minds — everything from what was going on, working from home and what the company was doing to protect employees. It was really an invaluable asset for us during that time and has continued to be.

Stephanie Worley Microsoft

What was your approach to staying connected with your consumers?

Adam Michaels

With stores closed, the only way to really interact with Crocs as a consumer was digitally through our websites around the world and some of our retail partners. Consumers shifted to Crocs.com, and many of those consumers hadn't shopped online with us before. We already had a strong digital presence, but it certainly accelerated that shift dramatically during Q2. Our team became focused on e-commerce operations, engaging consumers and fulfilling their orders.

With stores closed, the only way to really interact with Crocs as a consumer was digitally through our websites around the world and some of our retail partners.

Stephanie Worley Microsoft

And you came up with a very powerful program to give back to our frontline health care workers. How did that idea come about?

Adam Michaels

It started as individual employees were getting requests from their friends who were nurses and doctors. As that was happening, we were also having conversations at a leadership level, asking ourselves how do we give back to that community, and how do we engage with that community in a meaningful way?

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. Especially as our products are easy to clean and easy to get on and off, it just made so much sense. There was a need that we could uniquely fulfill and the best way for us to impact as many people as possible was through digital and leveraging our website so we could interact directly with the consumers. Rather than trying to do it through bulk donations at hospitals, it was the quickest path to market and allowed us to really get something stood up very quickly and start getting shoes out to the people in need.

Healthcare workers at a Children’s Hospital

Healthcare workers at a Children’s Hospital

Stephanie Worley Microsoft

That's amazing. I understand your team was able to build the program in something like four days from concept to launch. Can you tell me about that? That's an incredibly fast time frame.

Adam Michaels

Yeah, it was. It was probably one of the fastest turnarounds we've had for really, any project, especially of that magnitude. I think a key for that was Microsoft Teams. We went from concept to designing, building, and deploying that program in really a matter of days.

Nobody was in the office at this time, so without Microsoft Teams, we probably wouldn't have been able to do it. We were able to get through the design phase very quickly and then handed over to our development team. There was a large group of people that had to understand what was happening, and so leveraging Teams to communicate and share information with a broader group was critical. That way our digital marketing team knew what was happening right when it was launching, and what their role was.

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.

Stephanie Worley Microsoft

When you launched that campaign, how did you get out in front of health care workers so they knew that it was even something that they could engage with?

Adam Michaels

Yeah, it's a combination of sources. We really used almost every digital channel we had at our disposal, from email to search to social, and engaged with the health care community.

Crocs Classic clog with personalization

Crocs Classic clog with personalization

Stephanie Worley Microsoft

Obviously, you did a very good job of that because the response you received and the number of pairs of shoes you gave away was incredible.

Adam Michaels

Yeah, you know, it really was. We gave away 10,000-20,000 pairs of shoes a day, for a total of just over 860,000 over the course of the campaign. We probably had 10 to 20 times that in demand from people coming to the site looking for a free pair of shoes.

Our team had to basically run a daily event. When we turned it on, that day’s allotment of shoes would go away in less than an hour and sometimes within minutes. So, we spent quite a bit of time collaborating on how to create that experience to ensure we could manage the traffic increases to our site but also manage expectations and communications with that group.

Free Pair for Healthcare graphic

860,000 pairs donated for healthcare

Stephanie Worley Microsoft

Looking at the e-commerce business all up, how did you adjust your marketing strategy during that period to really focus on a digital approach?

Adam Michaels

We've been very digitally focused for several years, so I think it was more of an acceleration of certain investments we already made. But we definitely saw a huge shift in our digital business, with rates in traffic increases we had never seen before coming in a very relatively short period of time.

We also did things with pricing, promotions, and a lot of targeted advertising to reach that community and to engage with them, probably more so than we had in the past.

Stephanie Worley Microsoft

What about paid search as a channel? How do you think about paid search to market your products?

Adam Michaels

Yeah, I think it's 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, probably more than any other channel. And we look at it from a targeted standpoint. Everything from the health care workers, but also clogs, sandals our Jibbitz and personalization business.

We leverage paid search to find more consumers, and that has been one of our highest-performing channels from an ROI standpoint. Paid search is one of our highest-performing channels globally.

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, probably more than any other channel.

Stephanie Worley Microsoft

I know during this time your team increased your investment with Microsoft Advertising and your campaign performance was very strong. Can you speak to that?

Adam Michaels

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.

We're also looking at the lifetime value of those consumers and the future value we expect. And so, I think with the Microsoft Advertising platform, we're also seeing a longer lifetime value with those consumers that will stay with this brand. So again, it becomes a very profitable channel for us, not just in the short term, but also in the long term.

Stephanie Worley Microsoft

How does Crocs think about display advertising?

Adam Michaels

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.

Crocs Classic Bae clog with Jibbitz fall classics

Crocs Classic Bae clog with Jibbitz fall classics

Stephanie Worley Microsoft

You have a lot of different products that resonate with different audiences, and you do some interesting and very creative collaborations, including with Kentucky Fried Chicken, Ruby Rose and Post Malone. When you have a collaboration where the product has characteristics and personality and is probably resonating with certain people, how do you think about marketing through your digital experiences?

Adam Michaels

It depends on the collaboration. For example, a collaboration with Post Malone is unique. Post Malone was a fan of Crocs before we launched a collaboration. It was an authentic connection, and he brings an authentic audience, right? What we want to do is try to find the overlap between his audience and his passionate fans and ours, because not everybody who loves Post Malone also wants a pair of Post Malone Crocs.

We have kind of the pre-launch time frame where we're doing things in paid search and trying to target Post Malone fans to make them aware of this collaboration and encourage them to come to the site to sign up for email to be notified of what's going to happen. We're building a daily database of the people that we know engage both with, say, Post Malone but also with Crocs.

When we launch a collaboration, those products sell out in 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes and so again, those are events. We use Teams for those events where we have — sort of like Ticketmaster — an online queue that people get in and we let people into the queue to buy the shoes and when they're gone, they're gone. But we're using Teams to monitor that queue in real time.

We recently did a collaboration with Chinatown Market and the Grateful Dead. It sold out within probably 30 minutes to an hour and I know there's a mix of Grateful Dead passionate fans and a mix of Crocs fans, and each time we do a collaboration we see that momentum build within our consumer base.

So, it's great from a PR standpoint, but also from a customer acquisition perspective, both in the short and long term. I think it's bringing in an entirely new, consumer-based touch that was not shopping with us before. That would be hard for us to target without that collaboration.

Stephanie Worley Microsoft

I also love the work you’re doing with the Black Lives Matter Jibbitz.

Adam Michaels

In general, you know Jibbitz are really our vehicle around personalization and allowing consumers to take our classic clog and personalize it with the things that resonate with them. I think our brand offers a personalization vehicle that is really unlike any other brand, allowing people to express themselves and truly come as they are. I think we'll continue to develop Jibbitz that are a reflection of the interests of our consumers and how they want to personalize and express themselves from a cultural and social perspective in our country.

Crocs Classic clog with Jibbitz personalization

Crocs Classic clog with Jibbitz personalization

Stephanie Worley Microsoft

What is your expectation about how consumer behaviors are changing and consumer expectations of brands going forward?

Adam Michaels

It’s not just about what happened in that second quarter, but now that retail is broadly open, it's more about how that shifting consumer behavior going to play out over the next three six, 12 months and even years from now.

We saw huge increases in traffic to our site, both from an organic standpoint, but also from a paid search and social standpoint.

Stephanie Worley Microsoft

I read that in Q2, Crocs had record e-commerce revenue growth.

Adam Michaels

Again, we saw a huge acceleration in our business. We saw huge increases in traffic to our site, both from an organic standpoint, but also from a paid search and social standpoint. I think we’ve seen some of that acceleration slow now that retail stores are back open, but the growth is still unbelievably strong.

Stephanie Worley Microsoft

Was that growth higher than Crocs expected?

Adam Michaels

Yes, I'd say we have been fortunate in that I think our product became even more relevant during this time, with people working from home. The more casual footwear, easy on, easy off, is even more relevant to our consumers now. So yes, Q2 certainly exceeded our expectations, and I think the real challenge now for us is how do we build on that?

Free Pair for Healthcare clogs

Free Pair for Healthcare clogs

Stephanie Worley Microsoft

I think what you've shown is incredible empathy during this time on so many levels, which I would imagine is also resonating with a lot of people.

Adam Michaels

Yeah, you know, we certainly would like to think so. Our Free Pair for Healthcare program wasn’t about commercial success. It truly was, how can we help? And realizing that we've had a loyal base of consumers for years that we've engaged with that have engaged with us, and there's a chance for us to show our gratitude to them, just made sense.

I don't think we knew we would get such a good response. It's kind of humbling when you think about the impact a simple pair of shoes can have.

Stephanie Worley Microsoft

And how do you think the campaign went over among your Crocs team members? What kind of feedback did you get?

Adam Michaels

I'd say it was exceedingly positive. I mean, it was everything from just simple thank-yous to really heartfelt acknowledgements of the impact we were having. I'm really proud of our leadership team and our brand for acting as quickly as we did. Our employee base was really proud of that as well.

Stephanie Worley Microsoft

What a rewarding feeling. Adam, thank you so much for your time and for sharing how Crocs is marketing with purpose and making a difference.