Slam Dunk

The Finish Line takes omnichannel approach to ‘March Madness’

Athletic footwear retailer The Finish Line offers a highly seasonal assortment. When spring products started coming in from the company’s brand partners in January 2014, the chain decided to build upon its ongoing omnichannel strategy to create an experience to help boost spring customer traffic and sales.

Looking at spring athletic events that would appeal to young male consumers, Finish Line decided that the “March Madness” NCAA college basketball tournament was an ideal choice, one with built-in appeal to a big segment of the company’s customer base.

“We took a holistic approach to our ‘March Madness’ product assortment,” said Danielle Quatrochi, VP digital for Finish Line, Indianapolis, which operates approximately 880 U.S. stores, including more than 220 branded in-store shops in Macy’s locations nationwide. “It’s not just about basketball, but a cultural opportunity. It’s about supporting your team.”

Finish Line had an internal brainstorming session with the site experience and creative teams that resulted in the creation of a brief that aligned with the product assortment. The strategy focused on consumers shopping by team colors to support their school with a broader marketing message across all relevant channels.

“Customers shop both the mobile and in-store channels, as well as through social media and paid search,” explained Quatrochi. “It was an opportunity to use timely and relevant marketing across all channels. We started with direct mail, notifying customers we would do something exciting related to the upcoming tournament. We followed up with emails, social media engagement and online promotion.”

Keeping up with the times (and teams)

Once the teams that would be participating in the tournament were announced in March, Finish Line supported customer engagement by using the bracket challenge tool from ESPN.com to create a pool with a chance to win gift cards. Finish Line also sent geo-targeted emails based on regional school affiliations.

“We delivered real-time social media promotion before and after each game,” Quatrochi said. “We had a blog with articles around different results and sent out promoted posts on Twitter and Instagram celebrating both teams in each game. We also used promotional in-store signage and briefed sales associates about the games affecting the stores in their area. We reached across every customer touchpoint.”

Finish Line used a variety of technology solutions to support this multi-faceted, omnichannel promotional approach. The retailer bases its online operations on an Oracle ATG e-commerce platform and an in-house-developed content management system.

In addition, Finish Line also employed the Smarter Remarketer email tool to help deliver targeted, personalized communications to specific customer segments. In addition, the company used the Shoutlet social media marketing application to plan content for various social media platforms and schedule posts that worked in conjunction with its real-time social posts. Other solutions included Google sitelink extensions and paid Facebook advertisements.

At the conclusion of March Madness, Finish Line found it had outpaced expectations for sell-through for NCAA-licensed merchandise and team color assortments. Site traffic to Finish Line’s college basketball team merchandise pages more than doubled, and total engagement on the company’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages increased. Results were impressive enough for Finish Line to continue extending the targeted, event-specific, omnichannel approach.

“We rolled out a similar strategy with the NBA Finals, using similar applications to what we used for March Madness,” Quatrochi said.

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