How Converse is Acquiring Customers with Identity-Driven Exclusive Offers

Posted on Mar 5, 2019 · 6 min read

For more than a century, Converse has been dedicated to self-expression and storytelling. The iconic brand, known for footwear that bears its hallmark star insignia, believes that what people wear defines sport, street, and creative culture. One of the brand’s goals is to help customers create an authentic style simply by being themselves.

For example, the company’s “Converse By You” program allows consumers to customize their sneakers by choosing a specific color or material, or even adding their name. And campaigns like “Love the Progress” aim to empower young females by expressing the inspiring journeys of girls around the world.

A brand vision that emphasizes customer self-expression helped Converse reap nearly $2 billion in revenue in 2018. But like most categories, footwear is a crowded marketplace, and even popular brands have to fight for consumer attention.

Unlike most brands, though, Converse understands the power of personal identity. And in their search for a new approach to customer acquisition, it was that power they decided to harness.

Creating Engagement through Personal Connection

Converse knew that its key customer segments included college students and members of the military—young, trend-setting individuals who value a healthy lifestyle and identify strongly with their “tribe.”

To deepen the brand connection with these groups, Converse followed the lead of its parent company, Nike, who in 2018 began offering a gated, exclusive 10% discount to students and the military. Now Converse provides the same exclusive discount to college students and members of the military, including all active, reservist, veteran, and retired U.S. military personnel, as well as spouses and dependents of active personnel.

The move fully aligns with Converse’s commitment to their customers’ individuality. By giving these groups an exclusive discount, the company is acknowledging that being a student or a member of the military is central to one’s identity and something to honor. Members of these groups, in turn, feel truly seen and rewarded for who they are. The exchange is rich in meaning and an ideal way to launch a brand relationship.

How Brands Benefit from the Bond Created by Gated Offers

Converse’s new programs are a smart marketing strategy because gated offers are wildly popular. Ninety-one percent of students said a gated offer would make them more likely to shop with a brand, and 95% of military members said they are more likely to shop at a company that offers a military discount.

Gated offers have such strong appeal because they tap into a powerful sense of belonging to a group, which elicits a positive emotional response in buyers. Our consumer survey revealed that if shoppers were given a gated offer, 54% would feel rewarded, 47% would feel excited, and 36% would feel special.

This kind of deep and personal engagement has tremendous benefits for brands.

95% of military members are more likely to shop at a company that offers a military discount.

Increased Differentiation

Shoppers are inundated with brand messages, making it difficult for a company to reach its audience. Digital experts estimate we see between 4,000 and 10,000 ads each day, and marketers reported that their greatest customer acquisition challenge was brand differentiation.

Gated offers help brands rise above the noise by creating a personal connection with members of the groups they target. When it comes to sneakers, shoppers have a long list of highly advertised options to consider, but Converse stands out from the crowd in the minds of students and the military because they feel the brand understands who they are and recognizes them for it.

Social Sharing

When buyers feel rewarded by a brand, they want others to know, and few promotions can motivate brand advocacy like gated offers. Ninety-one percent of shoppers would share a gated offer with their friends and family.

Converse, in particular, will benefit from the social nature of the students and their desire to pass along a good deal. Our consumer survey showed that 83% of shoppers 18-26 (read: college students) would share a gated student discount with friends and family.

And military sharing is just as strong. Many in the military community use social media to stay connected to their families, and 76% say they learn about military discounts from word-of-mouth.

91% of shoppers would share a gated offer with friends and family.

Greater Customer Loyalty

Gated offers create an emotional bond that leads to long-term brand loyalty, particularly among students, who are just beginning to form their brand relationships. Nearly 70% of students are more loyal to brands that offer student discounts, and Deloitte found that college students have a 10-year customer lifecycle preference.

Gated offers drive the same kind of loyalty in the military community. In the first year that Lowe’s launched its gated military offer and tied it to the MyLowe’s loyalty program, millions of veterans enrolled, and the company saw a 2x increase in repeat purchases among the military.

How Leading Companies are Using Gated Offers

Converse joins a host of global brands across all industries who have embraced gated offers as a central part of their customer acquisition strategy.

T-Mobile gives the military community 50% off up to six family lines, which includes unlimited talk, text, and data, a two-screen Netflix subscription, and more. T-Mobile’s gated offer program is the cornerstone of an integrated campaign that provides a host of other military benefits, such as career support for veterans and a $500 million infrastructure investment in communities around U.S. military bases. Honoring the military in these varied ways has made the company the de facto carrier for the military.

CBS All Access is fighting churn—one of the biggest obstacles subscription companies face—with a gated offer of 25% off for college students. And Target got national attention when it gave teachers an exclusive 15% discount as part of a back-to-school campaign.  

The success of these and other gated offers is driven by the fact that brands are using SheerID’s Digital Verification Platform to implement them. SheerID verifies that every shopper redeeming a gated offer is actually eligible for it, which protects the offers from discount abuse and ensures offer integrity. The process occurs instantly and is a seamless part of the purchase process, creating a fully in-brand shopping experience that satisfies customers.

The Customer Acquisition Pay-Off

Converse’s gated offers give the brand direct access to lucrative markets. There are 26 million U.S. college students who have $574 billion in spending power, and 37 million members of the military who have $1 trillion in buying power.

And the company’s strategy of using gated offers to honor students and the military will reap great rewards. Companies that implement gated offers with SheerID see a 3x increase in conversions and ROAS as high as 20:1.

A pair of black converse sneakers on a pink background.

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Tony Coray by Tony Coray