We’ve seen a renaissance in retailers’ commitment to social responsibility in the last few years with the launch of a number of innovative programs ranging from youth programs to equality initiatives. And that trend has accelerated during the national health crisis — including a number of retailers partnering with the Boys & Girls Club of America in an incredible Back-To-School effort.
American footwear brand KEEN took this to the next level during the pandemic by placing its commitment to giving at the very heart of their business. And, almost by surprise, found it boosted brand sentiment and business in the process.
“KEEN's foundation of being a love brand and values-led is at the heart of everything we do, including commerce”, states Dana Schwartz, VP, Global D2C and Digital. Being a love brand means that they are a brand that leads with empathy and care for their communities before profits.
Here are the ways KEEN transformed their business from retailer to social venture and flourished in the process.
The obvious choice to run a philanthropic program is through a third-party site or charity that specializes in philanthropic efforts, like partnering with a nonprofit organization, using a crowdfunding site like gofund.me, or running the program on social media. But, inherently, that program ends up being seen as tangential to the success of the brand. It’s a good thing, but it appears as a side project.
KEEN, which typically does business the "unusual way," wanted to put the power of giving into the hands of their loyal brand followers. They used their website, on Salesforce’s Commerce Cloud, to create a custom experience home page with a form for fans to nominate someone in need, in their life, for a free pair of KEEN shoes. Anyone could then go to the KEEN direct to consumer (D2C) site and nominate one of their friends, family, or frontline workers to receive one of 100,000 free pairs of KEEN shoes. Those nominations were processed through the commerce platform, and then routed to KEEN employees for vetting and fulfillment. These orders took priority over commerce orders. Since so many were on the front lines working at grocery stores, delivery services, and schools, KEEN wanted to directly help the community through this program.
Rather than directing visitors to a third-party site or social media for the program, by using Commerce Cloud, KEEN was able to keep customers on their site. KEEN was able to develop the entire experience, from building the application form to figuring out the fulfillment plan — a fulfillment that would take less than 48 hours from start to finish. In that way, they moved philanthropy into the very heart of their business and operations.
Throughout the pandemic, the brand put the community front and center, letting the customer decide who receives charitable donations. Doing this deepened the community’s connection to the program, and made the KEEN team consider community listening on a larger scale.
KEEN now uses Yotpo Reviews to collect user-generated content that not only provides value for customers, but allows KEEN to gain deeper, authentic insights into how shoppers choose to experience their products in the world. All of these efforts have brought their social and merchandising teams closer together, allowing the KEEN community to influence the brand and their products.
“Product reviews are an essential form of social proof, but they also provide incredible insights for brands as well,” says Tomer Tagrin, co-founder and CEO of Yotpo. “You can tell your customers how to use a product or what matters the most about it, but they’ll be honest with their feedback when that doesn’t match their expectations. Smart brands will listen to their customers and adjust their approach accordingly.” KEEN now has a dedicated process to monitor and respond to reviews so they can win at service for their loyal fans.
It’s hard to imagine that giving away 100,000 shoes with a $10 million market value for a mid-size shoe company could be a financially prudent decision. But, while not the original intent of the program, KEEN has seen incredible financial results from this program. D2C revenue has doubled since March as shoppers respond with brand love towards this commitment to giving back to its communities. It just goes to show that more and more customers support brands, like KEEN, that are committed to more than bottom-line profits.
Retailers are finding it is possible to do well financially and do good in the world — and that those two things can often feed each other in a virtuous circle. If you’d like to learn more about how KEEN uses Salesforce and YOTPO to serve their customers and their communities, check out this conversation between KEEN, Yotpo, and Salesforce.