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Creating Community at The Intersection of Tech, People, and Marketing with SNIPES
What happens when you merge tech, retail, community, and streetwear?
A rapidly growing, global brand with a local, grassroots flair.
As the Diamond Sponsor of the VIP Awards, an industry awards ceremony that honors and celebrates the changemakers and trailblazers of retail and tech, Reach Partners was able to catch up with Jenna Flateman Posner, Chief Digital Officer (CDO) of SNIPES and nominee for the ‘Partner of The Year’ award.
In this exclusive Vault Session, we asked Jenna about her journey merging tech and retail to grow a community-based streetwear brand amid a pandemic, and how she rose to be one of the trailblazers in retail digital transformation.
Starting at the roots
SNIPES can trace its lineage back to 1998 as a German-based streetwear shop. Since then, it has been a top-three sneaker and streetwear retailer across Europe, but The CEO had bigger dreams. Sven Voth, wanted to bring his brand overseas and influence consumers in the United States.
So, in 2019, before COVID made its waves around the world, the community and event-focused streetwear brand acquired Kicks USA and its 64-store regional chain based out of Philly, starting its journey into the U.S. market. And, despite the chain of pandemic-related challenges that shut down many retailers throughout the last several years, SNIPES continued to organically grow and acquire mid-market retailer, reaching 300+ storefronts that stretch from the Midwest to the Northeast all the way down to Texas.
It also has a thriving digital presence that has grown 10x in reach over the past four years.
“We’re here,” says Jenna. “We’re definitely here, and we’ve only just scratched the surface.”
So, in an environment where even big-name retail stores were closing their doors indefinitely, how did SNIPES enter and take over a completely new market?
Building a community in quarantine
SNIPES grew as a brand that focused on grassroots and hyper-localized community branding. So, building a presence in a completely new marketing amidst lockdowns, political divisions, and civil unrest was going to require a new approach.
“If you would have asked our CEO pre-pandemic what kind of company SNIPES was, he would have said, ‘we are a marketing and entertainment company that happens to sell sneakers and streetwear.’ We were throwing, sponsoring, or supporting around 280 events per year before the pandemic,” explains Jenna.
With lockdowns in place, Jenna and her team had to go back to the drawing board. They leveraged their technology experience to find an intersection between community and retail amid a pandemic and created an online shopping experience that felt personal, local, and easy, which ultimately supported significant growth both in-store and online.
“We really do have this unbelievably familial thread, this commitment to these niche markets, and this perspective that if you create content and connect with the communities that you’re trying to talk to, the sales will come,” explains Jenna.
Jenna and her team put a tremendous focus on omnichannel marketing to create a seamless customer experience with the SNIPES brand, from social to web to online checkout and storefront pickup it was a team effort.
They invested in speeding up and personalizing the customer’s web experience, making it easier to check out and creating customized pop-up messages to notify shoppers of their local store’s limited hours for in-store shopping. They also implemented technology to create smooth curb-side pickups and utilized their store space to fulfill online orders.
The efforts resulted in dramatic increases in sales that exceeded even their pre-pandemic projections and secured their mark as a trusted, go-to brand for street apparel.
“I’ve never really seen anything like it,” says Jenna. “I’ve never seen an evolution that was so authentic.”
A key highlight for Jenna, though, was SNIPES’ partnership with Forter, an e-commerce fraud management solution. Together, SNIPES and Forter developed a product solution that identified bots early on to decline transactions at pre-authorization and help preserve sneakers and other stock for real customers. The program was a success and has since become a solution that Forter now offers to its other clients.
It’s all about the people
Of course, even during the transition from instore to online, Jenna knew that SNIPES had to keep its community-focused brand.
“We knew that not only the consumers that frequent our stores but also the people that lived around them needed support,” says Jenna. “We also realized and reminded ourselves that we have thousands of store associates that work in our stores and live around our stores, and taking care of them as part of the SNIPES family was really important, too.”
A big part of the SNIPES brand is finding ways to give back to that community. It’s through the support, empowerment, and celebration of community members that leads to amazing, authentic stories around the product.
While they still focus on their big pillars, like basketball, Hip Hop, dance, and skate, SNIPES also concentrates on local/community impact initiatives, such as revitalizing basketball courts or community gardens and creating free tech centers for communities within the major markets they serve.
It’s through this community-based blending of technology and retail and the hyper-focus on personalized experiences and meeting the continuously evolving customer needs that has helped catapult SNIPES into a powerhouse brand that will only continue to grow.
“We want to just keep that pace — keep growing, keep innovating, keep pushing, and keep meeting our customers where they are,” says Jenna.