E-commerce innovator Mark Friedman: Digital developer

July 6, 2016 11:40 AM

As the president of e-commerce at footwear and apparel brand Steve Madden Ltd., a company that generated $240.3 million in sales between its online and physical stores, Mark Friedman is trying to change the way the company thinks when it comes to e-commerce.

“We’re not mobile-first today and we need to get there,” he said. “Part of that has to do with re-engineering what we do from a technology perspective.” That means designing for mobile devices first and then working backward to the desktop.

But while Steve Madden isn’t mobile-first just yet, it has a significantly improved mobile footprint.

Friedman oversaw an e-commerce replatforming two years ago from an in-house platform with a dedicated mobile site to a site built on Oracle Corp.’s Micros e-commerce that uses responsive design to adapt the site to the size of the screen it’s being viewed on. Steve Madden’s mobile sales increased 70% in 2015, according to Internet Retailer estimates.

“Conversion has improved a bunch by some things we’ve done from a technological perspective,” he says. “[Those changes include] speeding up people’s access to get pages to load quickly, getting the site to function more quickly.” Friedman won’t specify just how much Steve Madden generates in online sales per year or how great of a conversion lift the company has seen since replatforming, saying only “there was definitely a return on the investment.”

Another initiative Friedman oversaw was the launch of the company’s first-ever mobile apps on both iOS and Android earlier this year. Part of the reason he’s been such a mobile champion over the past few years is because that’s where his target shoppers—18-34-year-olds—are spending more of their time.

“The average order is a bit lower on mobile,” he says, declining to provide specifics as to how much lower it is compared to desktop. “We need to figure out ways where we can increase the order size.”

Mobile isn’t the only thing he’s worried about perfecting right now, however.

Friedman and his team are trying to figure out how to better utilize Steve Madden’s 171 retail locations to fulfill online orders. In the near future, Steve Madden will be offering the option to buy an item online and pick it up in a store, and Friedman wants to make sure it lives up to shoppers’ expectations from a product and experience standpoint.

“The quality [of merchandise in stores] is a real problem for shoe sellers, not necessarily just for Madden,” he says. “It’s about training in the stores [when it comes to fulfilling online orders]. That’s a real tough thing for retailers today. Stores associates’ turnover rate is high. As people move on, a lot of companies look at training as a one-time thing. You can train when you start and you’re supposed to remember everything. It’s a constant reiteration and I don’t think retailers do enough of that.”

If his career track record is any indication, Friedman shouldn’t have any problem adapting.

Friedman took his first job in e-commerce 15 years ago when he was named the chief marketing officer at men’s apparel brand Brooks Brothers. Two years later, he took over the chief marketing officer at multichannel apparel group Redcats USA, a move he says proved to be pivotal to his career development. Friedman says Redcats was more of a catalog business when he arrived in 2002 but grew its online sales threefold in three years as shopper preferences shifted more towards the web.

“They had just maybe a year ago [prior to his arrival] started the web, but very quickly got to roughly 10% of volume,” he says. “We were a $1.5 billion company and they were doing $150 million online when I got there. Three years later, just [from] the shift of people wanting to do it themselves online and we were doing $450 million [online] before you knew it.”

Internet Retailer staffers profiled six e-commerce innovators for the July edition of Internet Retailer magazine. For more information on how you can get your free monthly subscription to Internet Retailer magazine, click here.




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