The Ad Club Blog

The Official Blog of The Ad Club

Category: General

Creating Shoppable Moments for Consumers This Holiday Season

Written by Sarah Martinez, VP and Industry Lead, Retail & QSR of Oath.

As summer ends and the kids head back-to-school, marketers are turning their attention to the all-important holiday shopping season. The opportunity for retailers this year is massive; the NRF recently adjusted its 2018 retail sales outlook with spending predicted to climb at least 4.5%, rather than the original forecast of 3.8% – 4.4%. This is great news for retailers, and marketers are smart to begin building their holiday strategies now. But the retail space is also going through a lot of disruption, and the landscape is changing to reflect big shifts in consumer behavior.

[Last week] at The Boston Ad Club’s The New Retail Reality event, I spoke with Macy’s Karthik Vish, VP of Search Marketing, about this exact topic. Among the topics discussed, mobile, innovative ad formats, and smart data emerged as three core themes for marketers to focus on this holiday season.


‘Tis the Season to be Mobile

Consumers are on their smartphones more than ever before. A recent Oath study found 69% of people spend at least one hour on their phones every day, and 40% spend at least two hours every day; this amount climbs among younger audiences, with many consumers spending over five hours a day on their phones. So it’s natural that the way people shop is evolving, too. Forty percent of retail ecommerce sales will be transacted on mobile devices this year, presenting a big opportunity for marketers to lead shoppers seamlessly through the purchase funnel.

We recently partnered with Macy’s on a mobile campaign focused on making shopping easier by allowing customers to store a coupon in their mobile phone, and receive time and location-based reminders on their device’s home screen. We also worked with Macy’s to pilot Mobile Moments, which allows users to interact with a full-screen creative format, without interrupting the user experience. These innovations brought what was traditionally a direct mail and paper-based coupon into a digital sphere, improving customer engagement and relevance, and driving more people into a nearby store.


3D Holidays

New advertising tools like AR, 3D and programmatic VR are helping brands deliver the best possible experience for consumers across devices. They provide an enhanced experience that deepens the brand connection, and provides a level of utility that mobile users have come to expect. And, nearly 75% of consumers already expect retailers to offer a mobile AR experience. How can brands take advantage of these new tools?

We’ve been testing these ad formats with some of the world’s leading brands, including The Home Depot and Pottery Barn, and are seeing incredible traction and positive performance. Last holiday season, The Home Depot was looking to get customers excited about its selection of holiday decor and drive shoppers to the website. Through AR ad units within the Yahoo Mail mobile app, consumers could view what a Christmas tree with its decorations from Home Depot would look like in their own home. The experience was a huge win: recipients spent an average of over two minutes interacting with the AR ad, and the campaign saw a 12.5% CTR from the ad to the landing page.

We also partnered with Pottery Barn to test an AR ad within Yahoo Mail that allowed people to virtually place different pieces of furniture throughout the room of their choice. Shoppers could see how a Pottery Barn lamp would appear in their living room, before even making their purchase. These innovative advertising tools provide an engaging and personalized experience, and give mobile shoppers the utility they’ve come to expect.


Don’t Discount Data

It’s key for marketers to invest in data to power these creative experiences, and ensure an impactful moment with the right audience. After all, personalization matters more than ever: 64% of consumers say they expect relevant advertising on mobile, so good creative will only get you so far. Rich data signals can help retailers understand shopper patterns and behaviors, analyze that information across channels and ultimately personalize the shopper’s experience. This level of personalization will help get marketers to the finish line and lead to meaningful brand interactions and purchase consideration. According to Deloitte, 44% of consumers say that they will likely become repeat buyers after a personalized shopping experience with a particular company.

The 2017 holiday shopping season was a monumental win, with sales showing the strongest gain since 2011. All eyes will be on 2018 and where consumer spending will net out. Immersive and innovative digital ad experiences across mobile, leveraging new technologies and data, should be a key part of retail marketers’ campaigns to win the shoppable moment.

Look Inside First

This blog first appeared on Written by Amy Weber, Director of Business Development. 

“If you don’t bring a brand to life on the inside, it won’t survive on the outside.” – Libby Sartain

As the media marketplace has gotten more and more fragmented and consumers are harder to reach than ever, it’s easy for brands to focus entirely on their target consumer, while forgetting about other key constituents. What many forget is that often times, a key component of marketing a brand these days may be right under your nose. Following-up on our post looking at the importance of Wegmans employee actions, we are now looking at the importance of your internal team and how they can provide the key insight that you are looking for.

The impetus for this post came after I attended an Ad Club CMO Breakfast featuring the dressbarn Vice President of Marketing, Stephanie Garbarini. I was excited by the opportunity to take a morning away from the office and learn about fashion marketing, especially after their groundbreaking campaign last fall. Their out-of-home board in Downtown Crossing station literally stopped me in my tracks on my commute one evening. Not surprisingly, Stephanie did not disappoint.

Facing a retail landscape that was changing just as quickly as the marketing industry is, Stephanie spoke about how dressbarn wanted to return to their roots as a way to stand out from the new competition. Those roots led directly to their founder, Mrs. Jaffee, a woman who seems to possess equal parts innovation, tenacity, compassion and spitfire. Which, of course, made me wish that she was my Grandmother! What I also learned is that the team at dressbarn took a look back and discovered that she was onto something 51 years ago when she founded the organization. When auditing their internal audience, they had a strong company culture with many employees who had been with the organization for 30+ of those 51 years. There is a culture and personality among those who have dedicated their life to this company that needed to be harnessed to usher in the next generation of dressbarn consumers.

Armed with that perspective as a filter, dressbarn set out to change category perceptions among key influencers in the fashion space. Knowing they had to make a splash, they developed a campaign that was unapologetically proud. A characteristic that rang true across store clerks, managers and the leadership team. And because it was true to the internal brand, it made quite the splash with external constituents, leading to social influencers as noteworthy as Chrissy Teigen to feel inclined to start a discussion around dressbarn. As they move forward, dressbarn has already announced their next partnership with model and body activist, Ashley Graham and I, personally, am already on the lookout for their spring campaign.

So, what did I learn from my morning with dressbarn other than validating how well their marketing team is doing right now? While going through the effort of refreshing their brand, the best thing that dressbarn did was to start by looking internally. Yes, their work was unexpected and stood out for the category. But, no matter how edgy the work, if it hadn’t been genuine to their brand heritage and to their employees who live the company culture everyday, it wouldn’t sustain and ultimately drive their current and future business. So, when looking for the next big thing to help your brand standout, don’t forget to look inside, because the answer may be closer than you think.


Why I Joined a 100-Year Old Startup…


Innovation is a word that, sometimes, can be so frequently used that it gets ignored. In one ear out the other, if you will. “If you use the word ‘innovative’ then you’re anything but,” some might say.

Not quite true, really. There are varying degrees of innovation, of course, but being innovative is a mindset – a way of thinking. So, while it may seem as though the descriptor is overused, the truth is that sometimes it is actually the best way to define a person or business.

Take technology startups, for instance, who may very well use the word more than anyone. By definition startups are innovative. Are they actually changing the way an industry (or the world) works? Most of the time, absolutely not. But when a new company is formed out of nowhere because an entrepreneur decides he or she is going to start something, that by definition, is innovation. They are trying something new, taking a risk and going for it.

Personally, I’ve spent my career in small businesses and startups. Be it joining my brother’s boutique sports marketing agency, Sports Identity Inc. in 2006, spinning out a software-based startup, BrandMatch Score, with that same three-person sports marketing team or joining the founder of VentureFizz nearly two years ago as his lone employee at the time, I’ve been in young, 2-4 person companies for roughly a decade.

Over the years I’ve realized the reason I truly love small business and entrepreneurship is the people. Their passion. Their mindset. Their creativity. Their way of doing things. Flying in the face of naysayers and breaking through barriers by trying and doing whatever it takes to get where they want.

People with that entrepreneurial mindset are not confined to tech startups, though. Established businesses and major corporations need these people within their companies in order to evolve and remain competitive. To succeed, they need to move fast and try new things. They need to be creative and open minded. They need to be passionate and innovative.

If established companies want to attract and retain entrepreneurial people, they need to operate with that same mindset… Which brings me to my joining of The Ad Club, the 100-year old startup.

When Kathy Kiely, President of The Ad Club, which was established in 1913, told me she wanted me to join her team, I was intrigued. Here is a leader of her chosen industry for whom I have the upmost respect, asking me to be a part of her company’s next chapter.

Of course I thought to myself, “This is a far cry from a high-growth startup. Will it serve my burning desire to create and build?”

Then we talked.

Anyone who knows Kathy Kiely knows her passion is infectious and that drew me in quickly.

Specifically, I looked back on my experience working with Kathy and The Ad Club as a committee member for their two-year old event called, Brandathon. I looked at this initiative, created in 2014 by Kathy and prominent Boston startup guru, David Chang, which brought together two of Boston’s thriving ecosystems – ad agencies and startups.

This long-standing, highly reputable organization with a foothold in the marketing and advertising industry and plenty of legacy events in place to keep the business operating saw an opportunity at growth and took a shot. The second annual Brandathon saw 400 plus people turn up to a first-class event and watch New England’s top creatives re-brand some of Boston’s most innovative startups.

This is the mindset of Kathy and The Ad Club. The team operates with the mentality and fluidity of a startup. So, even though I’ve joined a company that’s a century old, I’m still surrounded by amazingly creative, talented, entrepreneurial-minded, people.

So, Why The Ad Club? Why Now?

Because, with this team the opportunity to innovate is greater than ever before.

You will, without a doubt, be hearing more from us at The Ad Club as we continue to provide incredible offline content at events like Women’s Leadership Forum and CMO Breakfast Series, recognize our region’s visionaries at Hatch Awards, and honor leaders in marketing, branding and advertising at Media Maven Awards.

Furthermore, in time, we plan to bring to you, all of this top-tier leadership content in a new digital format.

In the meantime, hopefully you’ll make it to a cocktail party Under the Dome… i.e. our office!

– Josh Boyle, Director of Partnerships and Digital Engagement

Are You Trying to Measure the Immeasurable?

“Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.” This is the definition of marketing according to the American Marketing Association. As a marketer, I know that this definition doesn’t do the term justice. Marketing is so much more than that, especially as it continues to evolve as new strategic tools and technologies are introduced.

There are so many channels to consider when creating a holistic marketing strategy. The tricky part is figuring out how to best make them work together to take advantage of the tools at our disposal. But is there a perfect combination of vehicles to use to get our message out there? And what about the actual content strategy behind those promotions – how do we best determine what our audience actually wants to view? Is it our brand? Our products? Our events?

With the varying preferences of our multiple target segments, it’s crucial to keep track of a fine-tuned marketing strategy, updating as necessary. We always need to keep the ultimate goal in mind: what are we trying to accomplish with our marketing efforts and how does it align with our company’s value proposition?

Whether your company is a new start-up or a market player for years, you should never lose sight of maintaining and elevating your branding initiatives. Branding is one of the most critical elements to your business strategy. Your customers should not only understand what your company is about, but they should also be able to watch you grow and evolve over time.

But brand marketing is only as important as your performance marketing, because after all, they go hand-in-hand. Nancy Go, Wayfair’s VP of Brand Marketing, spoke at this morning’s CMO Breakfast event hosted by The Ad Club. Her discussion of marrying the efforts of both brand and performance marketing really stuck with me. According to Go, “Performance marketing thinks about things with a different framework: what is the advertising cost to acquire someone and how do we retain them? Brand marketing is how to get awareness from prospective customers: we drive preference and…loyalty. If you look at it from this perspective, it’s really the same thing. They’re both around brand orientation.”

To Go’s point, not everything we do can be measured, and not all of our results can be fully attributed to any one activity. However, we can almost guarantee that brand awareness has something to do with a customer’s behavior, and we can also consider that a customer’s experience with our products will help foster curiosity about our brand.

As marketers, we struggle with daily questions around metrics as if they are the only means of value in a results-driven world. But if not brand awareness, what’s driving people to engage with us in the first place? It’s all about finding the right balance and recognizing success as a result of both the measurable and immeasurable. Said Go, “Everything is gated by marketing performance. We don’t throw away performance marketing with brand advertising, and we don’t throw away brand advertising with performance marketing.”

This is a fundamental truth, not only in terms of executing on your current marketing strategies, but also in understanding how to develop and grow your business at the same time. Focus on your overall success rather than on your metrics, because you certainly don’t want to miss out on value just because it can’t be measured.


This blog first appeared on Written by Lindsey Becker, Marketing Manager at Bullhorn

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