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Express exec: Mobile is most disruptive technology

NEW YORK: An Express executive at the Media Tech Summit 2012 conference said that given the brand’s demographic, mobile is the most disruptive technology for the company.

During the “Transactional Brands: Where eCommerce Meets Brand Marketing” session, executives from Express and 1800Flowers spoke about how digital is changing both the brand and transaction experience for retailers. The session was moderated by John Sheldon, senior vice president of strategy at True Action.

“There is no doubt in a world where our customers are in their mid-twenties that the most disruptive and change-altering technology right now is mobile,” said Lisa Gavales, chief marketing officer at Express, Columbus, OH.

“If we haven’t figured it out, they have and we better figure it out fast,” she said.

Shop on mobile
When it comes to the intersection of brand and ecommerce, Ms. Gavales said that many retailers are organized by channel. However, Express is organized by customer, meaning that the company has one marketing department and one merchant team. This helps create one consistent feel of the brand across all channels.

“The message is the message, the channel is the customer’s choice,” Ms. Gavales said.

With the evolution of multichannel marketing, the key is to understand the nuances of the channel. For example, if merchants only understood the stores and did not understand the ecommerce business, it would be challenging.

There are also differences between how to merchandise between in-store and online. With limited in-store room, visual departments are constantly trying to slim down the number of options for consumers. On the other hand, it’s important to give consumers as many choices as possible online.

In specialty apparel retailers, Web sites can run approximately 10 to 15 percent of a brand’s business, per Ms. Gavales. However, brands that treat it as only a small percentage of a business miss out on using digital as part of a brand’s multichannel approach.

When it comes to the brand interaction, typically half of a company’s traffic goes online with the other half going into stores, according to the Express executive. Therefore, if a company only treats their Web site as 10 percent of their business, retailers miss out on huge opportunities for brand interactivity.

Recommendations are reviews are critical to a retailer’s Web site. In fact, Ms. Gavales points to a recent study that found that a product with a one-star review sells better than a product with no reviews. Therefore, getting consumers to share their experiences is a high priority.

Even if a consumer decides to not shop online and buys in-store instead, following up with that user via email can be effective.

Emotional sales
Chris McCann, president of 1800Flowers, Carle Place, NY, also spoke on the panel about how digital can be used to create an emotional connection with consumers.

From starting as one business in New York, 1800Flowers now has a massive reach. In particular, the company’s flower business has been impacted by digital.

The challenge is how to manifest a company across multiple devices and screens for a consistent brand experience.

On top of the digital marketing component, other technology coming down the pipes such as payments and mobile wallets make it difficult to pinpoint one technology change that is most disruptive.

1800Flowers has always viewed brand management to be based around transactions, per Mr. McCann.

The executive said that a brand is two things – a culture of a company and a manifestation of the stories from a company’s customers.

Additionally, 1800Flowers sales are centered off of emotion that is often triggered by holidays and celebrations.

Social commerce is all about being on the platforms were consumers are and channeling the interaction back into a brand’s business.

Every holiday, 1800Flowers asks its social media users which products they like, which will then be merchandised accordingly. Social data can then be pulled into either a mobile app or site to make the experience more personalized.

“Now I think that it is not the year of mobile, it is the decade of mobile,” Mr. McCann said.

“I think it is a convergence of social, local and mobile,” he said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York