Smart Marketing Strategy Has Sock It to Me Dancing its Socks Off
From humble but feisty beginnings at an outdoor market in 2004, Portland, Maine-based Sock It to Me has evolved into a mighty (and way talented) team of 40-plus employees creating over 400 original designs and servicing over 4,000 wholesale accounts as well as its own web store.
Its growth has been fueled by its unique product offering, personal service, engaging brand personality, and high-impact philanthropy. Sock It to Me socks are offered in inclusive sizes for the entire family. The recent addition of colorful face masks are knit with special copper fibers, not just standard cotton.
In 2020, the company decided to expand its e-commerce capabilities to explore and capitalize on its website’s higher margin potential. To spearhead these direct-to-consumer efforts, Sock It to Me selected performance marketing agency DMi Partners to help drive traffic to its website by exposing the brand to media outlets and influencers. A robust affiliate marketing campaign introduced the brand to new online audiences by getting them excited to wear awesome things that defy the world’s expectations.
Impressed by DMi’s solid performance marketing results and intelligent, brand-friendly approach, Sock It to Me invited the agency to take the reins on additional performance marketing efforts, which included search engine optimization, pay per click, and helping the company navigate a website redesign. The successful, ever-deepening agency-client engagement has defied expectations. Increased traffic to the e-commerce website has made ordinary revenues awesome.
Sock It to Me’s engagement with DMi began with affiliate marketing. Seeing those efforts quickly bear fruit led the company to engage DMI Partners to carry out an ADA audit of the Sock It to Me website. The agency now leads the way on all the client’s SEO, paid search, and paid social efforts.
As it sought to grow its e-commerce capabilities, Sock It to Me set three overarching goals:
- Drive more revenue through e-commerce. The brand needed to become well-known and established in the marketplace to drive revenues through its website, rather than relying on boutique outlets for sales.
- Design an affiliate marketing campaign that builds brand recognition and excites customers with its unique product line. The brand needed to expand its reach and grow its audience by educating publishers about its offering.
- Build on the success of the affiliate marketing campaign to drive even more potential customers to the website. To gain the largest audience, drive traffic and generate sales, the campaign needed to improve its overall performance marketing strategy.
Innovation and Creativity
Understanding that the strength of the Sock It to Me brand lay in its unique positioning and colorful personality, DMI endeavored to promote this character throughout the campaign. Just as the brand includes an original hand-drawn doodle with the receipt of every order, DMI made sure to position the brand as fun, fresh, individual and cool. DMI Partners focused on Sock It to Me’s distinct messaging and approach, ensuring a match in their tone.
DMi set out to recruit a holistic mix of affiliate partners. Selected bloggers and influencers were each sent three to five pairs of socks and an attractive commission offer. One-hundred-forty placements, including mass media publishers, were secured throughout 2020. Much of the affiliates’ content, which contributed 13 percent of total e-commerce sales, was repurposed for the brand’s social media.
Keywords were researched and selected to drive traffic, increase sales, and match the brand’s messaging and tone online. Given the target audience’s distinct needs and preferences, the team had to think outside the box to maximize the impact of the brand’s unique voice. Top keywords for the website included funky socks, cool socks and funny socks.
Additionally, DMi leveraged its creative team to produce fun and engaging brand-appropriate marketing collateral, like the History of Undergarments infographic, to help the brand drive increased traffic and sales.
The agency was able to creatively assist and influence the redesign of the e-commerce website, which launched in 2020, and improved the site’s navigation significantly. Understanding just how big a part emotion played in the target audience’s decision-making process, the agency designed an experience that would allow consumers to “shop by mood.” This brand-appropriate experience has proved successful, with a 12 percent increase in conversion rate.
The Sock It to Me brand was relatively unknown to consumers, presenting DMi with several challenges. To overcome this, DMi commenced a thorough competitive analysis.
The insights uncovered helped DMi determine which levers the brand needed to pull — and when. Understanding competitors' promotional strategies allowed Sock It to Me to identify when a competitor’s 25 percent off deal would hurt its chance of exposure amongst affiliate publishers, prompting increased commission rates during those periods to help sweeten Sock It to Me’s brand apparel.
DMi’s analysis also uncovered what commission rates the brand’s competitors were offering to affiliates, allowing them to gain market share. The insights gained also helped DMi secure placements with publishers and affiliates where the Sock It to Me brand would stand out.
Key publisher placements included:
- The Spruce: The 8 Best Sock Subscriptions of 2020
- Business Insider: 34 Space Toys for Kids Who Love Outer Space
- Refinery29: 34 Can’t-Miss Single’s Day Codes to Use Right Now
- My Subscription Addiction: Sock It to Me Review
- Men’s Journal: Looking for Valentine’s Gifts Outside the Box? Check Out Sock It to Me.
With no previous paid search and paid social benchmarks, DMi was forced to take an experimental approach. The agency hit all revenue goals on paid search, and it continues to experiment strategically on the path to transforming the channel into a revenue driver.
When tasked with helping Sock It to Me navigate its site redesign, DMi’s SEO team expertly managed new site issues and developed strategies to improve overall rankings. They helped the web designers improve navigation and guided the structure design, including the taxonomy of products and the title page. The website now ranks highly in search for 50-60 core keywords with site, speed and accessibility scores that match.
Working with a brand that responds to customers with personalized, human-sent communications, DMi knew how important it would be to make sure its entire approach included a human touch.
While agencies often describe themselves as extensions of their client’s marketing department, in the case of Sock It to Me and DMi Partners, the teams became more and more integrated as the results came in.
DMi’s white-glove approach fostered a collaborative, unified team environment. As the client’s trust in DMi increased, so did the creative and logistic cooperation levels between agency and client. Also, DMi took on the responsibilities of auditing the brand’s website for ADA compliance. While perhaps not a flashy task, the audit identified numerous ways the website could be creatively enhanced to provide visitors with the most compliant and frictionless experience possible.
Results and Effectiveness
The affiliate marketing program’s success deepened Sock It to Me's trust in DMi’s capabilities so significantly that it let the agency take the lead on several growth initiatives for 2020 and beyond.
- Affiliate Marketing: The affiliate program garnered 140 placements throughout the campaign. 137+ click active affiliates and 30+ active sale affiliates generated 84,000-plus clicks and contributed 13 percent of total e-commerce sales.
- SEO: The team achieved a No. 1 ranking on the search term “socks.” Ninety-plus percent of top priority keywords achieved a first-page ranking. Fifty-plus percent of top priority keywords achieved a top five ranking. The website’s organic page ranking also delivered a significant ROI.
- PPC: Currently reaching PPC revenue and profitability goals after stripping the search campaign down to only the most profitable efforts in Q1.
- Website: DMi helped the client navigate a site redesign and e-commerce platform migration, specifically as it relates to SEO, UX, and tracking.
"DMi has acted like a true partner in business development every step of our journey together," says Sock It to Me CEO Iwa Hooe. "It came to the table with a concrete plan to boost traffic to our website via SEO, affiliate, and paid media strategies. Woven into those strategies were nuances that indicated it was paying attention to our brand and our consumers, which only affirmed the commitment it had to our success. Early on DMi exceed our expectations on all levels. In addition to the transparency and collaboration it offered us every step of the way, its support and insight were instrumental to the success of our website migration project. DMi continues to guide us with tactics to improve site speed and maintain ADA and WCAG compliance, and is now focused on helping us maximize our traffic opportunities. We’re lucky to have a partner like them!”
Kristina Nolan is the vice president of affiliate marketing of DMi Partners, a Philadelphia-based full-service digital marketing agency.
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