At the 2014 #AlignedCon, Cassie Heppner, Director of North America Marketing at Timberland, shared how Timberland is taking responsibility for the success of their independents in her session: “Operation Refresh: Re-Booting Your Retailer Marketing.” I’ve included some highlights below, but the real point of action? Timberland is increasing the brand’s commitment to its independents, and gaining the interest and attention of each of its retailers in the process.
SH: Just this month, Timberland re-launched its annual Retailer Summit on the East and West Coasts to connect face-to-face with key retail accounts. How have these summits helped you adjust or “re-boot” the Timberland retail marketing strategy?
CH: Up until only a few years ago, we were focusing almost exclusively on the bigger retail players and Timberland’s grasp on the our independent base slipped. So, as an organization, we took a fresh look at the landscape. We realized that we were overlooking the independent space and decided to change that. The summits have been one helpful step in that direction.
Of course, it’s been a challenge. This space can be high-maintenance – yet there’s tremendous opportunity! If you can help teach independent retailers what the big story is, they’ll come right back and work very hard for you.
SH: At the Timberland Retail Summit, what kinds of conversations happened there?
CH: For us, it was all about asking our independents, “What can we do better for you?” We talked about issues like market segmentation and marketing support. We asked for lots of feedback, and we got it.
Whenever you get feedback, it’s sometimes tough stuff to hear! The important thing is that after these discussions, we can continue the dialogue and work on what we heard. This gives us the opportunity to prove to our retailers that we listen and that we are trustworthy. We can do things that are impactful as we create these alliances.
Another conversation theme discussed was our “Digital at the Core” initiative. We talked about the fact that people have their smartphones with them through the day, or their iPads, or laptops. We talked about how important it is to put content on those devices, but that not all of our content is relevant for all retail channels. For the independent channel, our content is focuses on product features and the level of service that our independents provide to the consumer. If the content was for Amazon, it would be something else.
SH: On the topic of “Digital at the Core,” are some independent retailers still frightened by digital marketing?
CH: Actually last week at the summit, one of the retailers equated jumping into the digital space with opening up a whole new store, and was afraid saying “I don’t have the resources for that.” We like the fact that with Promoboxx, our retailers simply can go onto the platform, select content, and push it out.
On the social space, it’s definitely about customer service and that’s where independents shine. You don’t want customers out there disparaging you, making bad comments. And if they do, being silent is no longer an option.
SH: Yes, communication is definitely key. On that note, when it comes to communication – how do you get salespeople and their customers to understand what is unique about your products?
CH: Years ago, Timberland had an innovation called Precise Fit. If you bought a pair of Timberland boots, in your shoebox you got the shell of a shoe, but there were also three different insoles: narrow, normal and wide. You selected the insole that gave you the best fit. We launched Precise Fit in the independent space, because we needed a high-touch environment. We needed access to the sales associates so we could train them and tell them the story. As we bring new innovations to market, we need to make them work in the independent channel.
SH: On equipping independent retailers with the product and knowledge they need to drive success with customers – can you tie that into your “Digital at the Core” theme?
CH: Yes. When we launched Promoboxx, we were at a point when we were asking ourselves what it would take to get independent retailers involved, and in 2014 that is the channel we are focusing on. We are about to go into a very promotional season and any way that we can help them, we will. We will push messages like quality, durability, and comfort, and we will tell that story through independent retailers.
About Cassie Heppner, Director, North America Marketing, Timberland
Since joining Timberland in 2004, Cassie has worked to keep the company’s retail marketing efforts fresh, and now directs the development of strategic plans and account partnerships across the US, Mexico, and Canada. Cassie also lends her expertise to Promoboxx’s retail advisory board and is a member of the Big City Mountaineers northeast council.