The following is a guest post from Intern Extraordinaire Allie Bowman
A couple weeks ago I was sitting in the second row of a theater in Boston’s Revere Hotel for The Ad Club’s event The Lures of Retail. With barely a full month of experience under my belt as an intern, I honestly had no idea what I was getting myself into, but with a guest list as jam-packed as this one, I could only imagine what kind of things I would discover– and I was certainly not disappointed one bit.
Some of the biggest names in retail marketing, such as Yahoo!, eMarketer, New Balance and Joss & Main, took the stage to talk about the cutting-edge technology they are using to change the face of the industry forever. Each speaker represented a specific area of the process – from the in-store retail experience (New Balance) to using analytics to evaluate consumer information (OwnerIQ). At my experience level, any information was new information, so I left that day feeling like I had learned almost all I needed to know about the retail marketing field.
Geoff Ramsey, CEO of eMarketer, kicked off the afternoon with a discussion on trends in consumer demographics as a result of digital media. He seemed to set the tone for the presentations that followed by introducing some of the most popular buzzwords of the day (i.e.: big data, consumer trust, personalization, magnetic content). His presentation cut straight to the chase: “the consumer is no longer the couch potato.” Instead, today’s consumer is a chronic multi-tasker, engaging with massive volumes of content at once, but retaining very little of it. Retail professionals in the current market then need to tailor their advertising strategies to compensate. This is neither a cheap nor easy task, but Ramsey outlined four way to facilitate the process: (1) generate magnetic content, (2) market through multiple channels, (3) offer a small supply of products to build exclusivity and trust, (4) run analytics using big data.
With the groundwork set, the presentations that followed brought Ramsey’s points to life, allowing each speaker to illustrate ways they are adapting marketing structures to compensate for consumer change:
- New Balance talked about how its Copley retail store now offers an in-store digital experience, providing the customer with product-related content as he or she interacts with it.
- Joss & Main described its unique approach to e-commerce, which focuses on reeling in audiences through visually appealing magnetic content for home furnishings and then building hype for products sold by maintaining a limited supply and offering only for a short period.
- Yahoo!, DataXu and OwnerIQ, then covered the “big data” topic, showing ways marketers could and should use big data to more accurately hone in on their audience demographic and then target strategies to cater to their identified needs and preferences.
- And finally there was Lexy Funk, founder of Brooklyn Industries discussed her personal and professional evolution from a small online-only messenger bag retailer to a 14 store international brand name.
There were a lot of things to be taken away from the presentations at The Ad Club event. Two points, however, seemed to stick out the most for me. The first is Big Data. To sum up the general sentiment, Big Data is big – and is only getting bigger (see what I did there?). Nearly every speaker talked about the growing need for incorporating analytics in demographic research to better define a target audience. These same tactics, then, can be used to have detailed audience characteristic and preference data to help keep up with trends or changes they may experience.
The second point came from Lexy Funk of Brooklyn Industries’ presentation. Her professional philosophy is “Live, Work, Create” and these three words can be seen on all of her company’s brand pages and stores. For Lexy, these words contextualize her self-definition– she lives, she works, she creates. In some way or another, though, I think this same phrase could be used to sum up what the other presentations, combined, told me about the nature of marketing in the current retail climate. “Live” represents the consumer. He or she lives day to day making conscious choices to purchase and not purchase specific products. “Work,” illustrates the industry level – working to capture the data surrounding these choices and try to place it within a larger context. And finally, “create” relates to innovation. Billions of dollars are spent each year on advertising. The challenge, then, is determining how to use it in a way that stands out from the rest – but that’s obvious. What is new is the magnitude of competition – meaning the only key to success is through constant innovation.
Marketers, thus, must continually hold themselves to the “Live, Work, Create” framework to keep adapting to changes in the outside world and maintain a successful model and structure to allow for modernization and simultaneous consumer changes. We currently observe these changes and monitor data related to them, but the real goal is predicting these changes and targeting audiences preemptively. At a glance, it sounds kind of crazy: “how does some random number cruncher know what I’m going to buy tomorrow?” But when I really think about it, hearing the ways Big Data can be used and thinking about the “Live, Work, Create” model shows me that this goal may not be that far out of reach after all.