Challenging Times Bring Mobile-First Customer Engagement Into Sharp Focus at The Finish Line

At The Finish Line, its fiscal second-quarter results reflected a challenging time for the company and the industry.

Consolidated net sales decreased 3.3 percent year-over-year while comparable store sales fell 4.5 percent.
The Finish Line CEO Sam Soto said the second quarter was “more challenging than we expected as the market plays for athletic footwear became much more promotional in July and August,” during the company’s recent earnings conference call.

“We are obviously disappointed with our recent results and revised full-year guidance,” he said. “In light of the current environment, we’ll continue to prioritize disciplined expense and inventory management/ At the same time, we’re working on several initiatives aimed at increasing traffic and conversion. They include obscuring our digital capabilities led by our mobile-first strategy, enhancing the in-store experience, building awareness of The Finish Line brand as the destination for the latest and greatest sneakers, and strengthening our merchandise offer and go-to-market strategies.”

Soto noted that more than 70 percent of the company’s customer traffic has shifted to mobile.

“We continue to focus closely on the mobile experience,” he added. “It’s about speed, search optimization, and a smooth checkout that will improve the customer’s ability to convert. We will be rolling out enhancements, both pre- and post-holiday, that support our customers’ expectations such as improvements to page load speed, checkout flow, and cross device usability enhancements. We’ve also been focused on enhancing the post-purchase experience. Customers can now easily track their packages and receive notification of package delivery details including when the package has arrived at their doorstep. Later this year, we will roll out an additional service feature by allowing customers to initiate a return directly from our website making it easier and faster to return an item.”

At the center of The Finish Line’s mobile engagement strategy is The Finish Line app.

“With the latest iteration launched in Q1, we now have the ability to create opportunities in the app for customers to be informed of our latest and greatest sneakers, gain access to coveted product, watch live content, and earn loyalty rewards on their next purchase,” Soto said. “Future releases will incorporate in-store beacon and geo-fencing technology to launch tailored offers and in-store opportunities based on customer preferences. Our efforts to enhance the store experience, one of the most important components of The Finish Line brand, is progressing nicely. Our strategy is to design and position our stores as a platform to connect the consumer to our brand and the key style and innovation stories that drive our business.”

Evan Magliocca, brand marketing manager for Baseman Insights & Marketing, told Loyalty360 that he’s unsure how The Finish Line’s strategy will play out.

“The Finish Line’s earnings and current strategies encompass what retailer is suffering across the board,” Magliocca explained. “They’ve had a massive shift to mobile that teetered on the brink of becoming a reality for years, but has finally flipped. They’re now playing catchup to keep up with their customers as 70 percent of traffic is now on mobile. They have the right ideas on how to enhance that experience, focusing on page speed and the checkout process, but they’ll need to get those in before holiday or miss a huge opportunity to help sales in the mobile channel. As for apps, they always sound great, but what’s the difference between the app and the mobile site? Too many retailers get into the app space because they just feel like everyone else is doing it. It’s classic group think gone wrong. The redeeming quality that will give The Finish Line success in the app space is the integration to loyalty and rewards. Otherwise, customers have no incentive to download the app when it gives them no different value than mobile web.”

Russ Haswell, vice president, Retail, Medallia, offered Loyalty360 his view of The Finish Line’s strategy.

“Today’s shoppers have high expectations for a unified experience across channels,” Haswell explained. “A mobile-first strategy designed with the customer experience at the center can pay dividends for retailers. The Finish Line has its work cut out for them, but we’ve seen this strategy drive greater foot traffic, conversion, and basket size.” 

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