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4 Takeaways on Retail’s Digital Future from Marketing Executives at Williams-Sonoma, Sephora, & Macy’s

Written by: Mike Lamy, Director, Corporate Marketing

Gone are the days when a mobile strategy was far down on the priority list—a “nice-to-have” bonus for retailers. With a mobile audience of 874 million potential customers, leaders in the ecommerce space are making serious investments to maximize the new opportunities created by the technology we carry with us everywhere we go. In fact, 53% of retail marketers position mobile as their number one strategic priority, according to a report.

eMarketer recently interviewed top marketing executives from Williams-Sonoma, Sephora,, and Macy’s to dig into the trends, challenges, and opportunities they’re seeing in the increasingly digital world of retail. Mobile is still a rapidly evolving channel, but here are four key takeaways on what these top retail executives had to say about the exciting digital possibilities that lie ahead.

Cross-Device Shopping Experiences

One in every five people in the world owns a smartphone, and tablet ownership is skyrocketing at an unprecedented rate. With the proliferation of so many screens, retail marketers have a tremendous opportunity to build seamless cross-device shopping experiences that allow consumers to shop and engage whenever and wherever they are. But there are challenges: If someone demonstrates interest in a product on their smartphone, how can you get your brand or even that specific product in front of them the next time they open their laptop? And how do you optimize a consistent experience across devices while still taking advantage of their individual strengths?

“Fundamentally, I think it’s important for a consumer to have some sort of core brand experience across different devices, but there is uniqueness to each device that we try to tailor. For instance, the tablet is much more image-intensive and image-driven. So to create a more editorial feel, we use the Retina display images to enhance features and functionality.”
–Jason John, Vice President of Online, Mobile, and Social Marketing,

Omnichannel Strategies

Sephora-App-iPhoneThe internal connections and collaborations that enable omnichannel retailing require significant investment, but IDC predicts that marketers will move quickly in 2014 to do what it takes to unify the customer experience. The executives interviewed by eMarketer agree, and many of them are already implementing omnichannel strategies with mobile as the cornerstone.

“The big thing is that it’s omnichannel, and mobile is this kind of seamless glue because for most of us it’s not more than a couple inches away from you at any point…Mobile is a tool for in-store. It’s a tool certainly for shopping on the go. It’s a tool for research and consideration.”
–Johnna Marcus, Director of Mobile and Digital Store Marketing, Sephora

Data Science as the Key to Personalization

Data Science

At Nanigans, advanced algorithms are at the heart of Ad Engine, allowing our retail and ecommerce clients to optimize for lifetime value and ROI. We know the importance of cutting edge data science. It’s an area that retailers are focusing more attention on to enable new levels of personalization and relevancy for customers.

“We have a team of 11 data scientists who are constantly mining
that data, saying, ‘OK. Here’s what we think that customer would be interested in.’ And that, for us, over the next couple of years is going to be the biggest opportunity to really increase our revenue per visitor.”
–Pat Connolly, Executive Vice President and CMO, Williams-Sonoma

Connolly sees relevancy as key to the personal buying experience. Platforms that enable seamless personalization at scale will be vital for retailers looking to attract and keep their best customers.

Inspiring Creative Content Across Channels

Facebook-Ad-Creative-iPhoneThere are proven ways to attract customers online and high-quality creative tops the list. Retail marketers have the opportunity to reach customers on social media across desktop and mobile channels, but savvy shoppers will scroll right by your message if it doesn’t feature visually engaging and inspiring content.

“I think what is going to become even more apparent is that in social platforms, the quality of publishing—the quality of the content—will dictate 
the effectiveness of the paid media.”
–Jennifer Kasper, Group Vice President, Digital/New Media and Multicultural Marketing, Macy’s

Mobile interactions, especially on smartphones, are often quick in-and-out experiences. Without highly visual creative, your message can easily get lost in all the noise.

“If you think about it, you potentially have a lot of different things that can be distracting you—a lot of different things that vie for your attention—so on mobile, it’s really critical that content should be inspiring.”
–Johnna Marcus, Director of Mobile and Digital Store Marketing, Sephora

Take a look at eMarketer’s full interview roundup to read more about where these retail marketing leaders see the greatest opportunities in social, mobile, ecommerce, and more. And as you’re thinking about your own digital strategy for the year ahead, read up on trends, predilections, and best practices in our latest eBook: 2014 Marketer’s Guide to Facebook Advertising.


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