etail east 2019

The ABC’s of eTail East 2019 Takeaways: AI, Bankruptcy, Channels, and Data

Last week, eTail East 2019 was back in Boston with four days of retail and ecommerce insights from top B2C marketers.

The Zaius team came prepared with plenty of cookies, and we even sat in on some sessions in between confessionals to cheer on our customers. 

So what did we learn? From A – Z, there were plenty of valuable takeaways from eTail East (but we’ll stop at D).  

How AI Continues To Change Omnipresent Omni-Channel Strategies

AI might evoke a few feelings — suspense, disbelief, possibly fright, or maybe a combination. 

But Fleet Feet VP of Digital and Franchise Operations Jason Jabaut keeps it pretty straightforward when it comes to futuristic technology. 

“I don’t really use the word [AI],” he said. 

“We look at it as a system that acts like a person. A good system should reduce errors and improve results. In our case, we fit people with running shoes. How do we get a great sales associate and put that in the pocket of the consumer? How do we give great product recommendations?”

And while Fleet Feet’s 3D foot measuring may sound advanced, Jason is using this data for fairly conventional marketing, such as product recommendations. 

“We’re taking all that data and using an algorithm that’s predicting over time. We’re able to say, 

‘Here’s the best product recommendation for you based on your foot shape.’ It totally changes how we market to the consumer. We used to just batch-and-blast emails. Now we can ask, ‘Who would this be a great fit for?’ and we can send them a specific message.”

Even with the help of AI, Fleet Feet’s entire model revolves around experience and service. Associates still spend time with their customers fitting them with a pair of shoes and learning their preferences, even down to details like where they like to run. 

For Jason and the Fleet Feet team, AI has simply been a way to leverage data and assist the marketing team by predicting when customers are going to buy or churn. 

Takeaway: Technology will continue to assist when it comes to personalizing the customer experience.

Personalized Digitization—Barneys New York As A Creative Venue For Immersive Retail

Barneys was in the hot seat at this year’s eTail East. 

Amid recent news that the luxury department store has filed for bankruptcy, it’s no surprise that some of the questions in the keynote fireside chat hit hard, notably Bloomberg reporter Kim Bhasin’s asking, “So, what’s going wrong?”

Barneys Chief Digital and Technology Officer Katherine Bahamonde Monasebian expertly handled questions, saying it’s easy to blame Amazon or say millennials are killing department stores, but it’s actually the confluence of a lot of different factors.

“I don’t think department stores are dead, I think they’re reinventing themselves,” said Katherine.

She argued that the fundamentals of luxury haven’t changed, but online purchasing patterns and heightened consumer expectations have forced legacy luxury retailers to change the way they think about…almost everything. 

On that note, it seems that Barneys is going full steam ahead looking toward the future. They’ve been prioritizing in-store experiences and are set on keeping the Madison Avenue Flagship store open, which they remain is still profitable despite the closing of 15 other stores. 

Perhaps when they find the digitally focused partner they’re looking for, they’ll be able to put more of the trends they’ve noticed into action.

Katherine left us with her closing remarks: “Trends come and go but institutions are timeless, so more to come.” Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Takeaway: As we consider the shifting environment of retail, it’s important to follow legacy retailers like Barneys to understand what they’re doing wrong, what they’re doing right, and what they’re learning from it all. 

Connecting The Dots For Linear TV Viewership

Advertising channel patterns have ebbed and flowed for decades.

TV advertising used to be the only way to grab the attention of consumers. But once ecommerce and the digital revolution took over, brands grew an affinity towards digital marketing channels like Instagram, Facebook and Google ads. 

Today, the tables have turned, partially due to the rising costs of advertising on Facebook, and direct-to-consumer brands are spending more money on TV ads.

For Framebridge, a custom framing brand that was using 80% of their ad spend on Facebook, the decision to move some of their budget to TV came down to a need for increased brand awareness, diversification of their marketing mix, and qualified customer segments that would drive growth. 

VP of Marketing Matt Carrington lead the change and took us through Framebridge’s action plan.

This consisted of building the business case to justify the channel investment, designing a TV creative strategy, executing a test and learn approach, and perhaps most importantly, understanding measurement and attribution. 

Matt noted that there’s no single solution for attribution, a metric that has continuously stumped DTC brands. However, Frambridge has found that looking at incrementality and lift, cross-channel effects and CPV/CPA/CAC, and the value of channel customers including AOV and LTV have been essential in measuring the effectiveness of TV advertising.

While it can be intimidating for smaller DTC brands to get more experiential with the marketing channels they use, it seems that Framebridge has found early success in TV. Watch for yourself:

Takeaway: As the cost of advertising on Facebook and Instagram goes up, DTC brands will find new channels to spend their ad dollars — and they’ll have to justify why they spend it there.

Using First Party Data To Drive Efficient And Effective Marketing Through The Funnel

There comes a time in every marketer’s life where they realize that the amount of data isn’t the problem. In fact, most of us have collected more data than we know what to do with. The quality of the data and ability to act on it is the real issue. 

“It’s better to make decisions off of gut than bad data,” said New Balance Head of Global Analytics Sarah Stalnecker.

It had dawned upon Sarah that they had a fragmented view of the customer. Customers were interacting multiple devices and channels, which meant that one person would be seen as multiple customer profiles. 

This, of course, was extremely limiting to the New Balance team, forcing them to work at the channel level instead of optimizing at the consumer level. 

This inspired the building of a consumer data hub to give them a single view of the customer and differentiate shoppers to identify an omnichannel customer compared to someone who just visits in stores or someone who just shops online. 

Before, a shopper might put something in their cart and be followed around the internet with the same product. While this has traditionally been effective for conversion, it was working at the trigger level rather than based on their collective actions — could they be converted through email alone, or would social and display also be necessary?

With the new hub, New Balance could create more compelling experiences for consumers across the site experience, marketing, and even customer care.

With their homegrown data hub, New Balance is now able to leverage data to build a customer-centric experience.

Takeaway: If you don’t have a New Balance-sized data science and development team to build your own customer data hub, find out how a B2C CRM can help you gather more relevant insights from your customer data.

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