In early November, the annual Belgian Marketing Awards were again presented (in three categories). Who were the winners? How do they approach their marketing strategy? And what place do consumer insights and data occupy in that strategy? Why not just ask them? Today: Lise Conix, the brand-new CEO of shoe retailer Torfs and Marketing Leader of the Year.

That it was Torfs that received this award, probably has a lot to do with the way the company uses its marketing, says Lise Conix. “For us, marketing is much more than just a tool to boost our sales and revenue. It is primarily a lever to give our overarching mission more clout, and we summarize that mission in one sentence: to make people stand stronger in their shoes. As a family business, it is in our genes to care for each other and the society in which we live. And that is a mindset that is widely supported throughout all layers of the company.”

That motto is also more than just a nice slogan for Torfs, the retailer actually puts it into action. For example, at least one and a half percent of the company’s profits are donated to charity every year. “You can take this strategy literally or figuratively”, Conix says. “If you take it literally, it means we want to be a reliable store where people can find good shoes at a fair price. But figuratively it also means that we want to pamper our customers as much as possible, with good service, a friendly staff, personal attention and so on. That is about much more than just pushing as many shoe boxes out the door as possible. Also: the end customer is not the only stakeholder in this strategy. We also include our suppliers in this, certainly our employees and also the charities.”

Loyalty program

The number of sources from which marketers can draw data today has never been greater. Every customer today comes with thousands of potential touchpoints. Of course, a retailer like Torfs makes grateful use of this, and sometimes even unexpected insights come from it. Conix: “You might think, for example, that ladies are our most important customer group and that we need to focus mainly on them. But it turns out that especially families with children should get our biggest attention. If the entire family, including the children, comes to buy shoes from us, we know that the chances are very high that those will become loyal, repeating customers.”

In gaining those kinds of insights, technology is playing an increasingly important role. “The line between ‘data’ and ‘digital’ data has therefore become very thin,” says the CEO. “Especially in our case, because we have become an omnichannel player. Eighty percent of our sales still come from physical stores, but the biggest sales point we have, is obviously our online store. We also get a lot of data from our loyalty program, for which we installed a new CRM system six years ago. That data is then supplemented with demographic data and GfK data, for example, and then put into a BI system. Nowadays, our marketing team and our digital team are also completely intertwined, they used to be two different divisions, now they work closely together. Ditto for our media efforts: for online and offline media, only one plan is prepared anymore.”

Don’t lose focus

The explosion of data and technology gives unbridled opportunities, but also makes the marketing profession more difficult than ever, Conix believes. “The more information and data you have, the more complex everything becomes to filter out the really relevant things that you can then turn into actions. I think that will become an ever-greater challenge in the coming years: finding your way in the mountain of data and not getting lost in it.”

The danger here is that you start analyzing too much, says Conix. At some point you have to start working with the data you have. “Artificial intelligence will become increasingly important in the future to keep that data under control, but the marketeer must keep focus too. The creative aspect remains vital in the marketing profession. Conquering the heart of the customer is, after all, the basis of everything.”

More info about the Belgian Marketing Awards via