All digital solutions aren't created equal
BOSTON — If there's any one message to come out of the eTail East conference and expo this week, it's that there are no one-size-fits all solutions to a digital strategy.
ETail East attracts a myriad of brands, all looking for actionable information and solutions to today's digital problems. It's a mash-up of merchants, big and small, old and new, all navigating a changed selling environment.
Take Revlon, a more than 100-year-old brand (which also owns Elizabeth Arden). Revlon doesn't even sell directly to consumers — it's simply not cost effective to offer free shipping for a $7 lipstick, according to Swan Sit, vice president of global digital for Revlon — but it's deep into a digital transformation that includes tiered marketing, social media and data collection.
But to do so, it needed to break down silos and reorganize around shared goals, putting the customer at the center, said Sit in a fireside chat with Retail Dive as part of eTail's program Wednesday. Revlon is creating video content, partnering with influencers — and micro-influencers — to reach shoppers. These programs are also allowing the brand to create compelling content for its mass-market retail partners that can add more personalized experiences in-stores through the addition of digital signage, said Sit.
Revlon is hardly alone. Brands large and small are charting a digital path, each with a unique set of goals and challenges.
Keds, at 101 years old, is traversing similar terrain, albeit with an e-commerce component. The key for Keds, according to Chief Marketing Officer Emily Kulp, is not to think about its business in channels, but as consumer ecosystems. "It's all about creating options for how your consumer wants to engage with your brand," she told eTail East attendees on Wednesday. According to Kulp, the Keds customer is in her 20's, "eats, sleeps and breathes mobile, so we're now mobile first," and the brand has had to implement a "new organization structure so we're really agile and have the speed we need to engage with her."
Startup luggage brand Away looks at digital as a way to connect with its customers, people who love travel and are looking for the perfect suitcase. In fact, Away makes just one product and wants to own its messaging in a way that keeps it from selling on other sites — including Amazon — at least for now.
"It's important to build our brand and we do it by owning the conversation," said co-founder Jen Rubio. "That it's not just a search result on an Amazon page."
The specter of Amazon loomed large over the conference, as it does most retail-related events. And while Amazon does many things spectacularly well — and adds more with each passing day — there are plenty of ways to compete and even best the retail behometh, according to panelists. And one of those is through personalization.
"Amazon is not [so] good at understanding the customer, but [it] is great at understanding the category," said Skye Speare, vice president of partnerships at Signifyd. "They are great at looking at large numbers and populations." For brands looking to build relationships, an owned message can be the way to go, concurs Rubio. "Amazon is great to discover products, but today people are really looking for things that they can connect with."
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