Faced with the challenge of a global pandemic that forced the shutdown of brick-and-mortar stores, as well as the need to keep up with engaging a demanding, younger target audience, Hibbett has continued to expand their use of mobile with Vibes to connect with customers in a meaningful and impactful way.
monthly SMS subscriber retention rate
increase in SMS-attributed revenue year-over-year
Since partnering in 2014, Vibes’ sophisticated mobile engagement platform has allowed Hibbett to activate and expand beyond promotional SMS marketing, from sending time-sensitive text messages about new product launches to buy online/pickup in store (BOPIS) transactional updates.
An athletic-inspired fashion retailer with more than 1,100 stores in 36 states, Hibbett was founded in 1945 with a single store. Today, Hibbett has locations all across the U.S. Their brand serves a younger customer base and, as such, has placed mobile marketing at the forefront of their acquisition strategy for over 10 years. Hibbett continues to evolve their usage of the Vibes’ intelligent mobile marketing platform to grow their relatively young e-commerce business, keep customers engaged and further integrate an earlier retail acquisition, City Gear.
Even before they had an e-commerce presence or app, Hibbett had been partnering with Vibes to activate Mobile Wallet and SMS to attract new customers and engage with current ones. As a brand that’s popular among younger shoppers, Hibbett felt that mobile adoption would be key to engaging with this target demographic.
“It was imperative for us to connect to that consumer where they are,” said Sarah Sharp-Wangaard, VP, Marketing at Hibbett. “Initially, that was mostly just texts. We knew that it didn’t need to stop there.”
That early groundwork paid off. When Hibbett built their e-commerce site, they already had a solid base of mobile subscribers and were able to utilize more sophisticated mobile marketing strategies. They turned to Vibes to help them take their mobile marketing program to the next level, who developed a more mobile-unified channel strategy that would include SMS, MMS and Mobile Wallet.
Sharp-Wangaard said Hibbett was particularly interested in instant coupons, scratch-offs and fun options, like having customers use their phones’ microphones to “blow the snow” to reveal a deal. “That’s when we started looking for partners that were best-in-class like Vibes to help us reach those end goals,” she added.
As a company dedicated to helping customers get the most out of their mobile marketing campaigns, Vibes worked with Hibbett to set their marketing goals. The retailer wanted to focus on increasing high value loyalty subscribers, creating a best-in-class mobile experience through targeting and personalization, and continuing to drive acquisitions through evergreen campaigns.
Holiday promotions and reveal campaigns are strong revenue drivers for both Hibbett and City Gear brands, so the campaigns were built around both types of events.
Hibbett and City Gear have a strong customer base of “sneaker heads”: enthusiasts and collectors of exclusive sneakers.
Wanting to create personalized experiences for these customer segments, and encourage them to join the company’s loyalty program, Hibbett built out distinctive lists for different customer categories and store types, effectively targeting messaging to each of them. The company typically has six different messages circulating simultaneously, with offers and corresponding short codes tailored to their customers’ personas and needs.
Using the Vibes platform, Hibbett manages a variety of different live campaigns concurrently—a capability that has been crucial to the retailer’s mobile marketing success. “Vibes is hands-down the best acquisition vehicle we have in mobile that we have throughout the year,” said Sharp- Wangaard. “We get a lot of sales and numbers within a short period of time, and it looks good.”
In 2020, as gyms shut down and people spent more time at home, demand for athletic equipment skyrocketed, as did the number of customers seeking workout gear. In grappling with restrictions on in-person shopping, Hibbett needed ways to organize their stores for COVID-19 protocols, expand their shopping options and manage a growing volume of e-commerce order fulfillment. Hibbett’s well-established mobile channel helped the company adapt to an entirely new set of challenges.
Being connected to their customer base via mobile allowed Hibbett to maintain uninterrupted contact with customers for both promotional and operational communications—all while both customers and retailers adapted to pandemic-driven changes.
While other retailers scrambled to establish timely and localized connections with their customers, Hibbett kept customers in the loop with Vibes’ Mobile Engagement platform, which also helped the company’s employees and customers adapt to changing operational and fulfillment processes. As a result, Hibbett’s marketing engagement didn’t miss a beat. In fact, their subscription rate grew tremendously as customers used their phones to stay connected with the outside world.
Today, over 80% of Hibbett’s digital customer engagement—purchases included—is conducted through the mobile channel. “Our mobile marketing strategy has matured as the business model at Hibbett | City Gear has matured, and that has been an exciting journey to be a part of” said Sharp-Wangaard. “Vibes was never afraid to push us to explore new opportunities for growth and revenue-generating ideas. We don’t just want to be seen as best in class in our own vertical, but we want to be seen as a leader in the mobile marketing space in general.”
Hibbett’s commitment to mobile has clearly paid off. The company’s list of SMS subscribers has grown over 2.5x and they continue to maintain a 99% monthly subscriber retention rate. Other key wins include 33% average growth in YoY mobile traffic, an average annual increase of 27% in SMS-attributed revenue, and their interactive, ready-to-reveal experiences run in the spring and holiday seasons between 2020-2022 contributed to one-third of their total mobile-attributed sales to-date.
For certain sneakers, demand is at an all-time high. Hibbett recognized this as an opportunity to drive interest and engagement with their special reveals and “shoe drops.” The Vibes platform enabled Hibbett to host virtual raffles for exclusive shoe drops—a strategy that gamified the purchase experience, built hype around those products and helped boost both online and in-store traffic.
For Hibbett’s young customers, this built a new level of excitement around the experience and the brand that will likely translate into long-term, positive brand awareness and engagement.
Hibbett built and managed these programs while also staying connected with customers via mobile. The mobile channel allows the retailer to communicate critical information to their customers in a timely manner, and cut through the clutter.
With the power of Vibes’ intelligent mobile engagement platform behind them, Hibbett continues to try new things and looks to the data to ensure they’re on the right track to meet - if not exceed - their marketing goals. Where the company’s competitors tend to struggle, Hibbett uses their mobile marketing acuity to bridge the in-store and digital experiences and optimize their business operations to keep customers engaged and satisfied.