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DSW’s “lab” store, Polaris Fashion Mall, Columbus, Ohio
DSW’s “lab” store, Polaris Fashion Mall, Columbus, Ohio
DSW’s “lab” store, Polaris Fashion Mall, Columbus, Ohio
DESIGN/CONSTRUCTION

CSA Exclusive: DSW puts best foot forward when it comes to innovation

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

DSW’s revamped loyalty program is just the latest of many new services the company is offering to improve the shopping experience, both online and off.

The footwear retailer adopted a new brand mission last fall, one that focuses innovating customer experiences to drive better engagement. Its new VIP loyalty program is the newest offering in its plan.

The updated program, which launched on Wednesday, May 9, has transitioned away from a traditional points-based rewards program to offer new benefits and more relevant rewards. Featuring three tiers of membership, DSW now offers personalized perks based on its 25 million members’ purchase behavior both in-store and online. Customers can also track points, reward thresholds and earned rewards through DSW’s app.

“When our loyalty program launched 20 years ago, we were one of the leaders, but lately we started to fall behind,” Simon Nankervis, DSW’s chief commercial officer, told Chain Store Age. We wanted to revamp the program to look beyond rewards and offer what is really important to customers. When we asked their feedback, their expectations were clear: they wanted to earn points faster, free shipping, and early access to events and offers.”

The program also enables customers to earn points when they make in-store shoe donations, an effort that benefits DSW’s philanthropic partner, Soles4Souls. Looking ahead, DSW plans to enable customers to donate points to charity. This program is expected to launch later this year, according to Nankervis.

LAB STORE: Like its loyalty program, customer feedback is driving many of DSW’s other improvements, including those being tested at its “lab” store. Opened in fall 2017, the store is located at Polaris Fashion Place mall, Columbus, Ohio, and is dedicated to testing programs and initiatives “that address customer feedback and expectations,” explained Nankervis. “The store features innovations that build engagement, distort traditional assortments, enable associate product knowledge, and improve operational execution.”

One of the lab’s priorities is to adopt new solutions that utilize all 35,000 sq. ft. of the location. According to Nankervis, DSW was only using approximately 28,000 sq. ft. of it stores, so “we needed to find more options to immerse our shoppers in the store and shopping experience.”

Some of the options and new elements featured in the lab store include:

• The “trend design zone.” The first 15 ft. of the store is being used as an ever-changing space that will feature the latest fashion trends, design, or group of merchandise.

“We will use it to distort the assortment, and make the experience more interactive,” Nankervis said.

• Updated fixtures. DSW is getting back to its “warehouse” roots and using new display elements to achieve its goal. A mixture of natural wood sliders and metallic racks ranging between 2 ft. and 9 ft., support more visibility throughout the store. These additions also helped DSW increase available in-store merchandise, which jumped from 30,000 pairs of shoes to 50,000. Currently, four DSW locations are adding the new warehouse-style racking and fixtures.

• New navigation tools. Taking cues from how customers search for merchandise online, DSW classifies Polaris’ in-store departments by online search terms.

“Seventy percent of DSW customers search online before visiting a store,” Nankervis said. “We analyzed how they browse, and now display the most searched merchandise. We also created navigational signage based on the most searched terms to create a more engaging journey.”

• New services. DSW is leveraging partnerships to add an array of new services. For example, the retailer partnered with the W Nail Bar to open a nail salon in the rear of the space — and DSW VIPs earn points during their visits, Nankervis said.

The store also offers shoe and handbag repairs through a partnership with My Shoe Hospital. And through its partnership with Fit Step Pro, the store has a section dedicated to creating custom insoles. The space also features a buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS) department, and a lounge, or concierge area.

“It doesn’t look like a typical DSW,” Nankervis explained. “We are morphing the brand. But, by embracing our heritage, we are creating seamless transactions and services.”

Going forward, all new DSW stores will feature different elements of the Polaris lab format, starting with the retailer’s upcoming location at Easton Market in Columbus, Ohio. The store, which is due to open in September, will offer a W Nail Bar, shoe repairs, fixturing and store design, and a lounge area. The retailer also plans to incorporate select elements from the lab store in some of its existing locations.

LAS VEGAS: Emerging innovations are not just confined to DSW’s Polaris lab. The company is preparing to open a 12,000 sq. ft. flagship in Las Vegas in July. It will feature pieces of the new warehouse design concept, as well as digital elements, such as a 3D digital tunnel that surrounds an escalator.

The store will also feature what DSW called a “shoevator,” Controlled by an item locator app, “the service will enable us to source product in a specified location in the store, and then use a conveyor to transport the item to the customer wherever they are in the store,” Nankervis explained.

Nankervis also envisions a time when the loyalty program will tie-in with DSW’s added services.

“Eventually we want to connect rewards to our other services, such as W nail salons, our shoe repair and Fit Step Pro,” Nankervis said. “We envision DSW VIPs pre-booking a manicure or pedicure, and shopping before their appointment. They can order a pair of shoes, get their nails done, and the shoevator could have the merchandise waiting at checkout following their service. We are positioned to do unique things going forward.”

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Fast-casual restaurant chain continues aggressive expansion

BY Marianne Wilson

A chain specializing in artisan-style, made-on-demand pizza shows no signs of stopping its rapid expansion.

Mod Pizza will open about 100 new locations this year, which would be the third year in a row that the company has grown by 100 stores or more. In 2017, Mod added 110 locations to its base, giving it a total of 302 stores.

“We continued our aggressive geographic expansion entering seven new states, giving us a presence in 27 states at year end,” said Scott Svenson, co-founder and CEO, Mod Pizza, which is based in Seattle. “We accomplished this during a difficult period for the broader restaurant industry, and we believe our remarkable growth was enabled, in significant part, by our continued commitment to make a positive social impact.”

Mod, a 2017 winner of Chain Store Age’s Breakout Retailers Awards, was founded in 2008 with a “people-first” mission. It is well known for its support of local non-profits and also for its employee-centric culture. In addition to above industry-average pay and benefits, and hiring people with special needs, Mod maintains an emergency fund that provides financial assistance to employees in times of expected need.

To support its rapid growth, Mod raised $33 million in equity in 2017 with continued support from its strong investor base, and closed on a $40 million credit facility. To date, the chain has raised over $185 million in total equity capital.

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Department store retailer strengthens Iowa roots

BY Marianne Wilson

Von Maur is building a new store in its home state.

Von Maur Department Stores announced it plans to open a two-level store at Jordan Creek Town Center in West Des Moines, Iowa, in fall 2022. The new location will continue the retailer’s successful growth strategy within its traditional Midwestern roots and beyond, which has seen it expand to 32 stores across 15 states.

“Our journey has led us to levels of success my great-grandfather could never have imagined when he started Von Maur,” said Jim von Maur, president of Von Maur, which was founded in 1872 in downtown Davenport, Iowa. “No matter how far we’ve come over those years and the new markets we’ve entered, for myself, our family and our associates, Iowahas always been home.

Jordan Creek Town Center is one of the largest super-regional malls and lifestyle centers in Iowa. It is owned and operated by GGP Inc.

“The addition of Von Maur to our growing list of tenants is a natural partnership,” said Randy Tennison, senior general manager of Jordan Creek Town Center. “Von Maur’s Iowa-based roots showcase how our shopping center is curated to feature the brands and experiences that our community wants.

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