How DSW tied up mobile engagement with choose-your-own-ending ads
The shoe retailer's recent push into mobile rich media ads includes a 'what would you do?' storyline and a tiltable lookbook.
Horror is how many women might react when they walk into their bedroom and find their boyfriend in bed with another woman. However, when they look down and see that the woman in question has kicked off an envy-worthy pair of stilettos, there are three possible ways to respond — and DSW Inc.'s latest mobile campaign let consumers take their pick.
In what was internally referred to as a "mosaic" unit, the shoe retailer presented an intro video that showed the initial scene of a woman discovering infidelity at home. The call-to-action was a simple "What would you do?" that led to something akin to the choose-your-own-adventure books of the '80s.
Smartphone users could tap to look at three additional videos in which the story's heroine either got her revenge by torching her boyfriends' truck, went through a meltdown as she created an oil painting of the event or decided to "march on" by slipping into a great pair of heels and walked confidently away to a better life.
"Our goal was customer acquisition and we weren't able to tell our brand story with standard banner placements on mobile," Allison Holbrook, manager of digital media at DSW, told Mobile Marketer.
Tilting towards a more engaging experience
The campaign, which was created in partnership with PadSquad and began as a test, ran through April and May of this year and attracted close to 11,000 hours of video playtime.
"We know our target customer is spending a lot of time on their phones," said Holbrook.
Columbus, Ohio-based DSW is a good example of a brand that's striving to tell richer stories in a place where audiences are looking for more innovation and creativity, according to Dan Meehan, PadSquad's co-founder and CEO.
"Most times when brands dip their toes into mobile media via IAB-standard banner ads, it's a bunch of squares and rectangles — they haven't changed that much," Meehan told Mobile Marketer.
Besides the "March On" mosaic, PadSquad created a "Spring Trends Lookbook" unit for DSW that allowed consumers to flip through a variety of different shoe designs. Instead of swiping their screen, however, all they needed to do was tilt their device to the left.
The lookbook was served as ads on the websites of news, lifestyle and fashion publishers rather than as native content to make sure the experiences would render properly.
Over the course of the campaign, more than 39 million consumers tilted their phones to activate the lookbook unit's navigation, far surpassing PadSquad's internal benchmarks of similar campaigns by other clients.
The right message at the right time
While DSW's goal for the campaign was to drive traffic to its stores, the creative did include an option to buy shoes via e-commerce. In general, though, Meehan said the brands he's working with are focused on more top-of-the-funnel metrics such as time spent and engagement.
"Sometimes mobile-specific vendors live and die on the work they're doing and forget that these clients and their agencies are putting their dollars across many different mediums, with many different goals and KPIs," he said. "But in a lot of ways, we feel like mobile is becoming a place where you can still stand out if you use the native functionality of the device."
DSW has repeatedly shown an interest in embracing emerging marketing strategies. For example, the company introduced chatbots last year as a way of assisting customers through post-purchase processes such as deliveries, TotalRetail reported.
In an interview with Footwear News late last year, DSW CMO Amy Stevenson said becoming more targeted — not only in mobile but across demographic segments such as customers with kids — has been a big area of focus for the retailer.
"We've gotten good at segmenting our database to give her the right message at the right time about the right product," she told the publication.
It's an approach that seems to be working. Online sales at DSW grew 23% in the first quarter of 2016, and the company has since rolled out a revamped version of its website with mobile users in mind, according to DigitalCommerce360.
Holbrook said DSW will continue to work with PadSquad this fall and is considering a vertical video product called Vvital.
"We are testing ads that are more product focused to see if we can drive users to our website," she said. "We also have some really great video content that we plan to leverage."