Time to step up online strategy

Clarks is still looking to fill the shoes of ex-CEO Mike Shearwood, after he stepped down amid allegations of misconduct last June. While Non-Executive Director Stella David is temporarily at the helm, further departures of Head of Sales for both UK and Ireland mean 2019 will be crucial in terms of re-strategizing and restructuring the £1.5bn revenue company.

The brand has this year been called upon by industry experts to bring footwear expertise back into the business. With sales falling 7% in 2017, it has targeted a turnaround with a more segmented approach to seven key sub-brands: Clarks, Kids, School, Originals, Bostonian, Cloudsteppers and Unstructured. It will invest heavily in new forms of data gathering and analytics around this, to appeal to narrower audience brackets in targeted ways. It’s worth noting that it has appointed both a new Head of Performance Analytics and European Head of Digital Marketing in the last three months to support this initiative.

The brand will pivot away from a sole focus on its retail estate by pushing ahead with ecommerce investment. This will help to increase relevance with a younger consumer, while tying into a more active partnerships strategy, which is spurring more frequent product launches. In the UK, the average online checkout abandonment rate is around 67%, and Clarks is expected to invest heavily in greater convenience and ease of purchase to remove friction points. It recently invested in a new facility at its Street, Somerset HQ, installing “robot-assisted technology” to automate process and expedite delivery times. Agencies focusing on web or app development are therefore expected to be relevant as the brand looks to tailor its digital footprint to individual markets, while making it relevant to a broad cross-section of audiences in light of its segmentation push.

An increased focus on younger consumers is also set to spur further social content spend, with click-through to its site expected to be a key metric. A recent conversation with the brand noted the importance of influencers and bloggers to its strategy.

Global push: Clarks is currently perceived very differently in each of its global markets, necessitating a shift in positioning and a more tailored approach. Its largest market by sales is the US, and it recently appointed a new Head of Market Research and Insights at its US office as it extends its segmentation process internationally. Asia is also a clear focus – the brand is the second-best-selling shoe marque on ecommerce platform Alibaba, with affiliate marketing therefore set to see considerable investment in the Asian market.

“Pure” retail concept: Following successful trials, Clarks is launching a new store concept – “ Pure” - to 25 locations by the end of this year. It offers a more nature-inspired experience, incorporating natural materials and light into store designs. This, according to Chief Brand Officer Jason Beckley, is designed to reflect the “honesty” of its products, focusing on their high-quality materials. Although the concept has already been established, further innovation is expected to be key in light of its push to segment its audiences and appeal in more tailored ways. Proposals geared towards further in-store developments, focusing on a more experiential customer journey, are expected to be relevant.

Media Spend Q1-3 2018: £405,704

Agencies: Silverbean, Mary Portas, Porter Novelli

Key decision-makers:

Director of Digital Lucy Calver - connect

Chief Brand Officer Jason Beckley - connect