How a shoe retailer built up its first-party data using emailed receipts

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During the pandemic, retailers quickly had to find ways to keep customers safe — a process that led many companies to rethink how, and what, they were able to touch and feel before purchasing.

For shoe retailer Snipes, that meant emailing receipts to shoppers for in-store purchases. Those emails have become a tool in teaching customers to become omnichannel shoppers.

Snipes started using the e-receipt tech platform FlexEngage in November of last year after a three-month-long pilot program with 20 of its U.S. stores, including those in Philadelphia and New York. The goal for in-store adoption (or rather, opt-in) was set at 25%, and “well exceeded” that, according to Jenna Flateman Posner, vp of digital at Snipes, who did not provide exact figures for this story.

The pilot went so well that the retailer immediately rolled it out to the rest of its 100 U.S. stores. Emails acquired through the e-receipt program thus far have contributed to a 5% growth in Snipes’ email database in the last seven months, according to Flateman Posner. Now, the brand is looking ahead to how it can build on that data, and perhaps get consumers to voluntarily share other data points, such as a phone number, or opt to download the Snipes app.

The e-receipt Snipes differs from the emailed receipt a customer gets from an online order. E-receipts are only provided to customers who make a purchase in-store and agree to receive their receipt over email. The e-receipt looks just like a paper receipt and links to Snipes’ website.

Snipes measured the success of the program by looking at two e-receipt customer segments: those who had never transacted online, and those who had transacted online, but not in the last 100 days. More than half of those e-receipt customers had not previously provided Snipes their email.

“We can now build customer profiles based on those shopping online and in-store. People who share an email in-store show strong digital intent, and we can then retarget them,” said Flateman Posner. “To me, the emailed receipt is an opt-in point, and permission to leverage that data.”

Snipes plans to drive customers to the app using raffles for shoe drops that customers can only sign up for via the app, as well as sending customers push notifications when certain items go on sale. Flateman Posner said she is working toward having customer phone numbers double as a loyalty number.

Brands are researching how to gather data from customers as the privacy landscape continues to change and first-party data becomes increasingly valuable, said Andrea Leigh, vp of strategy at Ideoclick. While that data can provide brands crucial insights into consumer habits, experts say brands need to be careful that they don’t infringe on customers’ privacy.

“[Gathering emails through e-receipts] has been around for years,” said Tim Glomb, vp of content and data at Cheetah Digital. “But it’s dangerous to use them as an opt-in data point if there was no explicit language including marketing use in the agreement when they agreed to the e-receipt transaction. Like any other digital transaction, there has to be clear language on how the consumer’s data will be used, including larger marketing uses.” (Snipes’ e-receipts contain a link to the brand’s privacy policy.)

John Levine, president of CAUCE, a privacy advocacy group, recommends that brands use double opt-in when asking consumers to sign up for emails. “There should be a check box, not preselected, that folks are signing up for emails. That way you don’t annoy consumers who didn’t want to hear from you, and while the list may be smaller, at least it’s stronger.”

Snipes isn’t the first company to try collecting data by directly asking customers for their email. Earlier this year, several brands set up sweepstakes and giveaways to collect emails from customers who got their Covid-19 vaccination. In a June 2021 interview with Bloomberg, chief brand officer of Procter & Gamble Marc Pritchard said that Pampers had started an app to collect data on new and expecting parents.

“Right now, we’ve trained customers to come in and identify themselves at the point of sale,” said Flateman Posner. “It’s like a Trojan horse to start building out loyalty.”

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