Timberland uses data mining to boost sales

With revenue flat in a rapidly evolving retail environment, Timberland (NYSE: TBL) needed to jumpstart sales of its still-popular and trendy footwear and apparel. To accomplish this, it turned to data.

The brand still had international appeal, and rappers cited their "Tims" boots in songs, but "the brand had become stale in many ways, and the focus wasn't there," said Stewart Whitney, president, Timberland, which is was acquired by VF Corp. (NYSE: VFC) in 2011. Footwear accounts for about 70 percent of the company's sales, but the sluggish economy had stalled sales in the United States.

After the VF acquisition, Timberland adopted a more data-driven approach to its brand and the results have been impressive. For example, sales increased 15 percent in the most recent quarter, and improved in all its global markets and product categories. Sales are up in stand-alone retail stores, on its website and for its wholesale business. Profit margin rose to about 13 percent in 2014 from 8 percent in 2011.

Timberland has rebooted its brand by the switch to a consumer-data-driven approach. This reflects a broader industry change where power dynamics shifted to favor the shopper.

A key element of the turnaround was a two-year customer study amassing data from 18,000 people in eight countries. This helped the company solve its brand issues and focus on a target customer: urban residents with a casual interest in outdoor activities.

"Research wasn't a driving factor as much in the previous 20 years. It was kind of a product-driven organization," said Jim Davey, VP, global marketing.

Data science helped Timberland to implement changes across the enterprise, including product design, and marketing and merchandising strategies.

For example, the data revealed one target customer who stood out in all geographies, which the company calls the "outdoor lifestyler." These people want versatile apparel that will be appropriate for a casual hike, or going to the movies.

"They're definitely connected to the outdoors, but in a more casual, everyday way. They care about the outdoors, but they also care about style. It was really important to them to look right for the occasion," Davey said. By targeting the outdoor lifestyler, Timberland tapped other fashion trends, such as "athleisure" styles, combining elements of street clothes and workout gear.

Timberland also used an enterprise cloud commerce solution from Demandware to support the company's European expansion. The Demandware platform enables Timberland "to fix issues quickly, push out to multiple sites and focus on further development, rather than just keeping platforms afloat," said Dan Mahoney, senior manager for e-commerce.

For more:
-See this Washington Post article
-See this Computing article

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