Case Study: Road Runner Sports Keeping Pace
RRS stays in touch with its customers by talking to them personally. Managers must listen in at the call center at least 90 minutes a month. The company sponsors and attends road races, conducts focus groups, reads letters and e-mails from consumers and talks to customers at its retail store. RRS also produces Fitness Runner, a 400,000 circulation, general running magazine, and Peak Running Performance, a newsletter for competitive runners.
RRS uses all these sources to reach customers, address their concerns and to fulfill product needs.
While its roots are in shoes, it also sells socks, running foundations, leggings, shirts, suits, shorts, pants and watches. It also carries ancillary products such as energy bars, vitamins, books, electronic running logs, stretching tools, hats, sunglasses and portable stereos. And RRS has created its own line of products, which are typically lower priced than brand name items but use the same high-tech fabrics and technology.
“Catalogs that offer sporting goods are extremely broad [in audience] and it is very difficult to talk to [customers] the way they want to be talked to,” says Bill Ness, COO of RRS, about its niche. “Instead of trying to find a catalog buyer, we find runners. It is extremely targeted. Most catalog companies turn over their customer file every two years. It is not the case with us. We saw close to half our customers in 1999 come back to us in 2000.”
The company’s customer base is not just runners, it is also the running equipment vendors: Asics, Saucony, Brooks, and many more. Running shoe manufacturers have little direct contact with runners, and operate on smaller budgets than a behemoth like Nike. RRS provides vendors with a direct selling line to the customer, offering them valuable feedback about consumer needs. Fitness Runner provides updates on the latest shoes and running news. While the publication doesn’t sell directly, as the second largest running magazine in the nation it certainly has influence.