While most department stores are domino-ing into doom across the industry, Kohl’s has managed to keep it together and outperform several of its larger, flashier peers. Taking two digital risks allowed the brand to blend into the evolving shopping environment without vanishing.

Two key ways Kohl’s has conquered the retailpocalypse thus far are: Pairing up with social media maven PopSugar and taking up arms with Amazon. In September 2017, the company announced that it would leverage Amazon’s digital dominance to help drive store traffic through a partnership allowing Kohl’s to accept Amazon returns at 82 stores and ship these items back to the retail giant for free. Amazon reported e-commerce revenue 5.5 times greater than Kohl’s total revenue in Q4 of 2017, providing a wide base of customers to potentially use Kohl’s as a return location. New research indicates that the returns program has brought new consumers to Kohl’s locations, increasing traffic in Chicago stores by 8.5%.

From the launch date through the holiday season, searches for “amazon returns at kohl’s” grew by over 400%, according to Gartner L2’s Digital IQ Index: Department Stores. Increasing consumer interest in this program would let Kohl’s use digital channels to drive Amazon shoppers to brick-and-mortar locations.

In addition to amplifying exposure via the Amazon partnership, joining forces with PopSugar to create a clothing line permitted Kohl’s to appeal to a younger, more social media savvy audience. So far, the line seems to have struck a chord with shoppers, with 35% of the line’s sales taking place online, much higher than Kohl’s overall average.

Although sleeping with the enemy may seem controversial, it proved successful for the company. Similarly, making the leap to trendy social media star platforms on what might otherwise seem like an unlikely team paid off for Kohl’s. For brands trying to stay relevant, taking a risk or two might be the only way to reap rewards in the dire department store situation.

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