How Smartwool Increased Web Traffic by +81% YoY

Advertising
Display Ads
YouTube
Instagram
Paid Search
Facebook
April 1, 2021
Outdoor Apparel

Key Takeaways

Traffic Focus — Mobile Devices: Over the years, mobile has become increasingly important for Smartwool. The brand saw a +36% YoY increase in traffic driven by mobile devices compared to desktop. Outside of organic search and direct, the social channel drives the highest volume of traffic for mobile while paid search is the leader for desktop devices. 

Paid Channel Focus Allocation — YouTube & Instagram: In November 2020, Smartwool shifted their focus from display to YouTube and Instagram. In April 2021, Smartwool increased their Instagram ad spend to an all time high from $31K $142K which is a +346% increase MoM. 

  1. YouTube: The main objective of Smartwool’s YouTube ad strategy is to generate brand awareness. The ad that received the highest ad spend was a 6 second ad that focused on the narrative of the story and their slogan “do what feels natural” rather than focusing on the product itself. Smartwool’s YouTube ads featured athletes participating in various outdoor activities from camping to biking, speaking to their core demographic of outdoor enthusiasts. 
  2. Instagram: The main objective of Smartwool’s Instagram ads are to drive conversions and to generate engagement. The top two campaigns were product-focused and featured the Merino wool socks and Smartwool’s new hiking collection. 

Content & Messaging — Sustainability: For Earth Day, Smartwool launched the “Second Cut Project” which gives unwanted socks a second life. This idea came to light after Smartwool found that 46% of people do not recycle socks. This project is a part of Smartwool’s initiative to make 100% of their products circular by 2030. Alicia Chin, the senior manager of sustainability at Smartwool has communicated that sustainability and contributing to a healthier planet is one of the company’s top priorities. More and more consumers are looking for brands that are leaders in sustainability and social impact. 

Paid Search — Key Messaging: Smartwool’s paid search ads focused on the following key messages:

  1. Free Shipping: Smartwool advertised their “Free 3 Day Shipping” offer as the main headline of their paid search advertisements. The free shipping ad also stated that they offered free returns. 
  2. Product Lines: Smartwool advertised specific product lines such as their running socks and Merino wool socks from their new 2020 fall collection.
  3. Product Benefits: Smartwool focuses on advertising their product benefits through using keywords such as “comfort”, “softness” and “performance essentials”. 

Paid Search — Landing Pages: Paid search ads directed consumers to the product listing page (PLP) or the homepage rather than to a product detail page (PDP). PDPs tend to have higher bounce rates compared to other e-commerce pages as they tend to lack information about the brand, which is typically shown on the homepage. 


Smartwool was the first outdoor company to make performance Merino wool ski socks.

The brand was “built on the desire to be comfortable on outdoor adventures”. While Smartwool is widely known for its Merino wool socks, they have expanded their product range to include underwear, shirts, sweaters, base layers, and more. 


In the past year, Smartwool has seen a +81% increase in web traffic from 248K average monthly visits to 449K. 


Smartwool saw a spike in traffic during the months of November and December in 2020 due to a +34% increase in ad spend during the same time period. In December 2020, Smartwool launched the Smartwool SmartGift, and Overnight Shipping campaign, which may have also contributed to the spike in web traffic.


Over the years, mobile has become increasingly important for the brand. Smartwool saw a +36% YoY increase in traffic driven by mobile devices compared to desktop. 


Outside of organic search and direct, paid search (11%) drives the highest volume of web traffic for desktop while social (8.6%) is the leader for mobile devices.


Since November 2020, Smartwool shifted their advertising focus from display to social platforms such as YouTube and Instagram, which resulted in a +64% increase in social traffic. In April 2021, Smartwool increased their Instagram ad spend to an all time high from $31K to $142K.

In September 2020, Smartwool launched their "Fall-Ready Merino Wool" display ad campaign which resulted in a spike in monthly ad spend from $52K to $389K. This increase in display ad spend resulted in a +116% increase in site traffic driven by display.

Since January 2021, Smartwool has focused their advertising efforts on YouTube, with a total spend of $424K YTD (January 2021 to April 2021), followed by Instagram. 


The YouTube advertisement that received the highest ad spend was a 6 second brand awareness ad that ended with the brand’s slogan - “do what feels natural.”

Objective: Brand Awareness | Within the first few seconds of the ad, the camera zooms into a product shot of Smartwool socks, however there is no mention about the product itself, instead the ad focuses on the slogan - “do what feels natural”. The actors used in this advertisement fall within the millennial age group, showcasing their target market.  

Results: Spend: $259K| Impressions: 14.3M | CPM: $18.11

The YouTube advertisement that received the second highest ad spend was a 15 second ad that featured athletes participating in various outdoor activities from camping to biking.

Objective: Brand Awareness | The advertisement starts off with the narrator saying “we see you out there, doing your thing”, showing support to those who are outdoor enthusiasts. Product placement is seen throughout the video however it is not the main focus of the ad. The video features people participating in all different types of outdoor activities such as backyard camping, hiking, biking, and yoga to appeal to a broader audience. 

Results: Spend: $185K | Impressions: 10.3M | CPM: $17.96

The top two Instagram campaigns featured the Merino wool socks and Smartwool’s new hiking collection, which used the hashtag #HikeHowYouLike. Both Instagram campaigns had lower funnel objectives and were  product-focused.


For Earth Day, Smartwool launched the “Second Cut Project” which gives unwanted socks a second life. This idea came to light after Smartwool found that 46% of people do not recycle socks.

Objective: Brand Awareness | The Second Cut Project is a part of Smartwool’s initiative to make 100% of their products circular by 2030. Alicia Chin, the senior manager of sustainability at Smartwool has communicated that sustainability and contributing to a healthier planet is one of the company’s top priorities. More and more consumers are looking for brands that are leaders in sustainability and social impact. 

Results: Spend: $10K | Impressions: 1.5M | CPM: $6.88


On Facebook, carousel ads are the dominant ad format, with over 70% of ad spend being allocated towards product-focused carousel ads with a “Shop Now” CTA. The landing page for Smartwool’s carousel ads is the main homepage, rather than a PDP (product detail page).

Post #1, Post #2, Post #3

On Facebook, Smartwool targets males who live in metropolitan cities such as Seattle, Montreal, and Toronto.


The top display ad campaign featured the Merino wool line with a “Shop Now” CTA. The ad featured seasonal creative for the fall season.  

Homepage


The “Hike” campaign featured a pop of colour and a bright orange “Shop Now” CTA which stood out from the rest of the creative. 


The top display site is nytimes.com, followed by letterboxd.com and outsideonline.com, which is a magazine company focused on outdoor activities. 


Smartwool’s paid search ads focus on the following key messages:


Paid search ads directs consumers to the product listing page (PLP) for product categories such as wool socks and running socks.

Wool Socks, Running Socks

53% of Smartwool’s paid search traffic comes from branded search terms. Top non-branded keywords include outdoor activities such as hiking and cycling.


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