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NRF Big Show Wrap Up: Online Marketing Strategies

A panel discussion titled: “Marketing Strategy Online: Trends and Implications Every Exec Should Know” was presented at the National Retail Federations 1001st Annual Convention & Expo in New York City in January. The panelists included:

Brian Tilzer, VP e-commerce and business development,; Prama Bhatt, VP e-commerce for Kenneth Cole Productions; Steven Dee, CIO of Hayneedle; and Cathy Halligan, senior VP sales and marketing for PowerReviews. The four speakers presented insights on online marketing strategies within their respective companies, largely based on audience questions. Here are some highlights of the discussion:

What other trends in online retail have you noted?

Halligan (PowerReviews): Forty percent of retail sales are now impacted by digital influences. In fact, 31% of consumers use Google to compare prices, review product information and research product features.

What about the emerging value proposition?

Halligan (PowerReviews): Clearly, today’s value proposition is about everything being on sale. And that’s something we want to move away from as much as possible. We have the capability, for example, to deliver relevant experiences locally. Nordstrom, for instance, could send an email on Aug. 15 to parents of school-aged children, featuring top picks for back-to-school shoes and offer to reserve a pair for in-store trial or the opportunity to order online. It’s not about offering the shoes at a discount, but rather about presenting a localized and relevant offer. That’s the wave of the future. Another opportunity is to leverage the power of social media. More people today are using social networks than were on the Web in 2006. Most of that, of course, is Facebook, which has nearly 1 billion users worldwide. Other social networks include LinkedIn (135 million users); Twitter (100 million users); and Google Plus,which after just six months has 65 million users.

What is the most material change you are making to your marketing strategies?

Tilzer ( Delivering a more personalized and integrated experience across multiple channels. If we can do that better than anyone in the world, we can compete against even the $100-billion Amazons of the world. Online isn’t just anymore. It’s the entire ecosystem of the Web.

Bhatt (Kenneth Cole): Personalization, for sure. And more integration as well. From a marketing strategy perspective, in 2012 we are going back to basics in retailing. And our challenge is to deliver that across our entire business. We have to revisit our core values of retailing. A tremendous partnership between marketing and merchandising has to happen to deliver this.

Tizer ( The notion that ‘you can’t win on price but you can lose on it’ has never been more true. Competing on price — which everyone is doing now — is tricky. It puts a lot of pressure on an organization to think differently, but we have to do it.

Dee (Hayneedle): If you think about what differentiates your brand from another, other than price, you are going to win.

What role will your app play in building a CRM base?

Dee (Hayneedle): We’ve focused on building the right mobile experience. But in 2012, the app will become more important. We’re looking at such capabilities as QR codes.

Batt (Kenneth Cole): The app strategy for us will come later, when we gain a better idea of what its purpose should be. The fact that 6% to 8% of our business comes from mobile/tablet tells us that we are delivering the most basic of experiences. We will build the foundation first and then the app will deliver on that.

What percentage of your strategic mindshare will go into mobile in 2012?

Dee (Hayneedle): About 50%. We want to be a platform for innovation without pushing too hard. It’s about balance.

Tilzer ( In 2011, mobile was a key strategy for Staples, as we saw it as a major untapped opportunity. We now have a mobile app. It’s been a major strategic initiative that we’ve put a lot of resources behind and put a great team into place. In 2012, we will continue that initiative.

Is Google a friend or a foe?

Tilzer ( Google is an important partner of ours. We use their services in a number of critical ways.

Batt (Kenneth Cole): It is the same for Kenneth Cole. You have to think about how to best leverage Google and make it work for you.

Dee (Hayneedle): Google has always been a friend. I want to utilize it and leverage its marketing channels rather than compete against them.

Is geo-location important for your business in terms of growing sales?

Tilzer ( Yes. But as a support function, not as a direct driver of sales.

Dee (Hayneedle): Yes. It leads to personalization and understanding where our customers are.

What are you thinking about this year?

Tilzer ( Talent. How do we attract more talent, and how do we pull together the right teams to accomplish our objectives?

Bhatt (Kenneth Cole): Our in-house competencies. Content generation and thinking about generating new content rather than repurposing content from our other channels.

[Source: NRF Big Show Wrap Up, Chain Store Age]