After retiring from professional competition, three-time World Duathlon Champion and multiple Ironman Winner Olivier Bernhard devoted himself to creating a running shoe that would give him and all runners the perfect running sensation. Bernhard partnered with David Allemann and Caspar Coppetti to create the perfect shoe. In 2010, On was born in Zurich, Switzerland.
What began as a quest for the perfect running shoe has turned into a global business with three offices and retailers in more than 50 countries. Today, On serves over 1 million runners. On’s unique CloudTec® system, which combines cushion with a hard take off, has allowed On to shake up the market.
We sat down with Anja Peiffer, a member of their e-commerce team, to talk about how On uses email marketing to engage their squad of fans. On is known for its beautiful, well-designed emails, incredible product, and highly targeted email campaigns.
What is On, and what sets you apart?
AP: On is all about putting fun into the run. We’re a young company, about 6 years old. One of our founders used to be an IRONMAN, and when he retired from being a pro athlete, he started focusing on creating a high performance running shoe that would bring joy to runners.
As a child, you just go out and run. You run through meadows, and it’s an amazing sensation. Our founder wanted to bring that sensation– the sensation of feeling like you’re born to run– back to running.
Olivier discovered that when he ran on sand he didn’t feel the pain he felt when running on concrete. So he thought about how to simulate a soft landing like on sand combined that with a hard push off like on the concrete. Olivier and a friend then came up with CloudTec®, which is On’s revolutionary invention. That’s what sets On apart from other shoes on the market.
How is On using email marketing?
AP: We’re really lucky to have a strong community of people who love our shoes. When you buy a pair of On running shoes, you fall in love. We’re a premium brand, and our customers are super engaged.
Here at On, we want more people in our shoes, but we also want to convey a feeling. We always say “we want to put the fun into your run.” We want customers to feel as excited as we are about our shoes. We invite them to step into our “On-iverse” and join our quest for the perfect running sensation.
Also, it’s important for us to keep our customers posted when new products hit the shelves, and we want to explain what our products are about. We also want to let customers know what our athletes are doing, and give them running tips and add value to their lives. That’s why we have our founder, a pro-athlete, and other world-class athletes giving running tips and insights to our customers.
We at On celebrate the start. So of course, when our customers subscribe, they get an automated welcome email which invites them to explore the current collection. To support them in their journey, we introduce a shoe selector guide, so they can pick the right shoe for them.
We’re constantly asking ourselves “what does the runner need?” and working to meet those needs. Email marketing helps us deliver information our customers need. It’s fast, personal, and we can give our customers–depending on their behavior– exactly what they need.
What about personalization and automation?
AP: There are a lot of ways we use personalization and automation in our email efforts, and it helps provide our customers with an awesome experience.
We want to help our customers have the best running experience, and part of that means educating our runners when it may be time to change their running shoes. We have a special owner card which our customers can register for after buying a shoe. A customer gives us information about the kind of runner they are, how many miles they run, and so on. This data fuels when we send emails to our runners, reminding them about when they should start shopping for their next running shoe, based on their average running mileage. This data also helps us serve up special, targeted offers or exclusive pre-order opportunities for relevant products. It’s an easy calculation for us to do– but it provides a great experience for them.
We do a lot of personalization based on location, simply because our users from different countries speak different languages. We don’t specifically ask customers for language or region when they sign up. Rather, we segment our customers based on billing country, and our non-customers based on IP Address.
Interestingly, we’ve seen a lot of interest in our Japanese market– our Japanese customers want to read about us in Japanese, so we provide them with content in their language.
We have also created geo-based running maps to make running more fun and exciting. We created running maps for cities like New York, Berlin, Paris, and Zurich, which we call “Explore the City.” These maps inspire runners to discover new cities and make them their running playground. Each map has a nice illustration and shows cafes and sightseeing recommendations. You can download these maps on our website, and when you do so, you enter your email address, which automatically triggers an email with a downloadable running map.
How do you manage email automation and personalization?
AP: We have three systems that we integrate. We have Campaign Monitor as our email service provider, we have our e-commerce website, and we have Salesforce. Our automated campaigns are set up as transactional emails in Campaign Monitor. We use the Campaign Monitor for Salesforce integration to trigger transactional emails like order confirmations using the Salesforce process builder, a tool that can be utilized to automate complex and specific workflow actions.
We started using this process in January, and we’ve already set up quite a few integrations. We do a lot of tests to make sure things go out smoothly, and we monitor our campaigns closely. We are getting more and more into using dynamic content (rotating different first and last names, local information, closest dealers) so it’s important for us to always monitor our automated emails to ensure there are never any mix-ups and our community receives the most valuable content possible.
How do you integrate e-commerce and in-store efforts with your email marketing?
AP: We sell our shoes on our website and via retailers, and we always want to create a seamless experience between online and offline. We don’t want any barriers for our customers. So, we set up a digital dealer program. Our customers can go to the On website and look at in-store dealers where they can try on and buy our shoes. Customers can then book appointments with dealers directly through our website.
At this point, email marketing comes into the process. Our customers give us information– why they want to book an appointment, what shoes they’re interested in– and we use Campaign Monitor to automatically send an email to the dealer. The dealer gets information about the customer booking the appointment and can then prepare for their visit. We also send an automatic notification email to our customer confirming their appointment.
This empowers us to create a line of communication between a local dealer and a customer. It wouldn’t be possible without email. The person might buy the shoe offline, but because of this program, we’ve made this customer’s journey as easy as possible. If the customer comes back to our website after visiting the dealer, great, but if they buy through the dealer, they’re running through On, so we’re just as happy.
What role does email marketing have in generating revenue for On?
AP: Success comes in many ways, but ultimately we want to spread the On running sensation and get more people into Ons.
We track our email campaigns in Google Analytics and in Salesforce. We can directly track how each campaign leads to conversions using Google Analytics and dive deeper into how each country, product, and marketing channel is performing.
When we do running tips, we don’t expect to sell tons of shoes. Instead, we look at website traffic generated, and how much time is spent on the site. If we see that someone spent 4 minutes on our site, then we can assume this person is interested and read through the page. We consider that a success. Statistics provided by Campaign Monitor such as Open Rate, Click Through Rate, Unsubscribes, etc also play an important role for us – they’re indicators if we’re doing a good job providing our community with content that they actually care about.
Email marketing makes up about 20% of our total ecommerce sales, which is huge.
And our goal is to always keep sales at 20% from email marketing. Creative content helps us keep our audience engaged and buying from us. We never discount our shoes, but we do fun programs like a “his and her combo” offer or engaging promotions like a t-shirt giveaway, where we equip our community with “money-can’t-buy” On gear.
As you grow your email lists, how do you ensure that people stay engaged?
AP: In the beginning, we had a small database of incredibly engaged fans. We had a close community, and we had high open and click-through rates.
Now, as we grow our email list, we naturally gather people who are not as familiar with On as our original fans. Even so, we still have very solid open rates. Open rates are always higher than 20% and up to 35% (or even 45% when we introduce new members of the On collection), and in Japan, our open rates around 45%.
We’re super proud that even as we grow our list, we’re still keeping people engaged. We’re doing more and more personalized emails, and we’re seeing success from that. Our targeted emails are leading to higher open rates, click-through rates, and ultimately conversion rates.
When we introduced a new shoe model, the targeted and personalized version to existing customers got us up to 10% more clicks than the generic ones. That’s why we’ll intensify our efforts in that area moving forward.
What role does design play in On’s email campaigns?
We have beautiful, well-designed and crafted running shoes, and design is a huge part of our DNA. On running shoes are high performance and high tech, but they’re also just awesome to look at.
We’ve found that showing the shoe in a nice way makes it easy for people to love the shoe. We present the shoe, and we make it easy for customers to have a clear and full look at it and to then buy it through the website.
For our emails, we came up with a set of templates with our creative director who has been with the brand from the beginning. He knows the brand DNA. In general, we’re very focused on design, and we want that passion to be reflected in our emails.
We work closely with our design team, and we just hired an interactive designer who is focused on adding more movement into our emails and make the digital “look, feel, love” experience even better.
Is there advice you’d give to a marketer getting started with email marketing?
Subscribers will tell you if they like your emails or not– you just have to listen to them. Once you start looking into how subscribers are engaging, and making an effort to listen to your customers, you’ll be able to find success.
For example, we were sending out emails with information about running marathons, assuming that because On is a high performance running shoe, that was what our target audience cared about. But of course, a lot of people who buy On aren’t marathoners– they’re people who are just getting back into running, or are taking on shorter distances.
We started creating emails that showed that On is accessible to anyone, and immediately engagement rates improved. All it took was us really analyzing our customers to figure out what they wanted, and providing them with content that was a better fit. And we still have the right content for our marathoners as well.
On may sell running shoes, but the team is intent on providing an experience that’s about much more than footwear. On’s goal is to help runners enjoy running, and email marketing helps the brand reach their audience.
On wants subscribers to remember the sensation of grass on their bare feet, and they use email marketing to instill a sense of wonder. Through personalization, automation, and beautiful design, On is gaining substantial ROI from email marketing.