To mark the arrival of a new year, Wunderkind sat down with a group of CMOs, VPs and Directors from some of the top retailers in the US and UK at the historic Beekman Hotel in New York. For a full day, we discussed the Wunderkind product vision as well as the broader trends and challenges marketers are tackling.
Over the course of that summit, we were able to listen in on lively conversations between some of the leading marketers in our industry. As we chatted, a few themes began to surface. We’ve collated some of these topics below, and put some thought behind the implications for the broader industry.
1. Ok, so we have the data. Now what?
What We Heard: In recent years, marketers have focused heavily on data — capturing it, understanding its applications and investing in technologies that profess to utilize it. We’ve finally gotten to the point where most marketers feel they’ve mastered data collection. But with this influx of information, new questions have surfaced. Primarily, once brands have collected data, what exactly do they do with it?
What We Think: Data use will be determined by what brands are trying to achieve (i.e. create a more personalized experience for certain target cohorts or increase customer LTV) and how they identify the inputs that map the path to successful cross-channel execution. Our group noted that the brands who use data best are massive companies like Walmart and Netflix, who employ data science teams to parse insights and package them for the business teams. Many retailers recognize that they lack those resources, and to move forward, they need to focus on building out infrastructure that will enable them to consolidate data, view it in a unified way and then convert it into actionable business insights.
Questions to Consider: How can we empower our teams to utilize the data we have to make decisions that will drive results against our goals? Do we have the systems and resources we need to turn data into action?
2. How do you quantify the impact of brand?
What We Heard: Historically, many marketers generated high-dollar awareness campaigns and just hoped the creative translated to higher sales numbers. Retailers now have enhanced capabilities for measuring the effectiveness of spend, and as a result, marketing campaigns pass through more rigorous analysis. Branding solely for the sake of branding seems to be on its way out of fashion, but our group agreed that strong brand equity maintains a powerful hold on consumer mindshare. Marketing organizations are all trying to strike the right balance between brand and performance marketing, but a healthy tension between the two seems to be producing more intelligent and impactful campaigns.
What We Think: At the end of the day, it comes down to a brand’s understanding of its customer base and how it is able to mix art and science in order to drive both brand affinity and tangible, topline impact. Certain core elements of brand marketing — such as brand voice, imagery and brand-right ambassadors and partners — are critical to a consumer’s emotional connection with the company or product. However, data-led performance marketing can address the many behaviors attributed to this emotional connection, and then enable better targeting as a result. We think that the rise of personalization powered by identity will only underscore the importance of blending the two disciplines: brands need to be very precise in recognizing and targeting individuals in real-time, but employing a consistent brand voice and message will be critical in speaking to every one of those shoppers.
Questions to Consider: What kind of returns are my campaigns driving, and how can I work with interdisciplinary teams to ensure effectiveness? How can I tell my brand story while maintaining a focus on growth and profit?
3. Can we get smarter about discounts?
What We Heard: Execs are growing tired of relying on discounts to make sales, but company growth goals inevitably increase year over year. So what do they do? How do they continue to grow, even as they try to minimize their reliance on discounts? As these questions arise, marketers are trying to determine how to balance the short-term wins that discounts provide with their long-term impacts on brand equity and loyalty.
What We Think: Done right, discounts don’t have to counteract brand perception or profitability. The solution to doing it right might actually be rooted in consumer behavior; if brands understand consumers on a more granular level, they can selectively offer discounts based on customer behavior and even monitor how likely a shopper is to make a purchase with versus without a coupon to inform better discounting decisions.
Questions to Consider: Have we ever examined our strategy for discounting and looked at consumer data to determine how we can do less of it? When should we start giving (or scaling back on) discounts in the overall trajectory of our growth?
4. Regulations: threat or opportunity?
What We Heard: To many retailers in Europe and beyond, the onset of regulations like GDPR felt like the beginning of the end, and mass panic ensued as companies scrambled to become compliant. But as the dust has settled in a post-implementation world, many retailers and marketers are feeling like GDPR didn’t actually make the big wave they expected. Still, with the announcement of the California Consumer Privacy Act, regulations are once again top of mind for retailers.
What We Think: Like with GDPR, we don’t see CCPA as an industry threat. In fact, it feels like an opportunity for brands to build better and more trustworthy relationships with their customers. Regulations like GDPR and CCPA are the nudge that many retailers need to put renewed focus on speaking to their consumers as individuals rather than cohorts. To reiterate what we said when GDPR was imminent, the movement is really just a matter of regulations finally catching up to consumer preferences. But to succeed under these new laws, brands must re-examine their own status quo and work on building respectful, relevant communications plans while monitoring their email list opt-in processes.
Questions to Consider: Am I ready for CCPA? Have we been collecting data in a way that would be compliant? If not, are we in a place to get to where we would be? What does this mean for our email opt-in strategy moving forward? How can we prepare for other new regulations that might be coming?
5. What’s the long game?
What We Heard: In an industry in which quarterly or yearly results were once the accepted standard for judging success, execs are now becoming significantly more conscious of a longer-term horizon. The execs in our group were all focused on the long game, which includes setting up a tech stack that will empower them to future-proof their business, as well as taking steps to ensure continued growth outside Amazon’s shadow. But they all wondered: how do you fully prepare for the future? For the unknown?
What We Think: There are plenty of things that brands can to do to become more agile and adaptable. We would caution against hopping on the trend or buzzword bandwagon; tactics, tech and techniques that are successful for one brand are not guaranteed to be successful for another. Marketers will need to evaluate each new technology or tactic based on how well it fits into a longer-term business plan, how the core customer base will react, if it even makes sense for your product and brand story, and importantly, if you have the team and infrastructure to handle the management and maintenance.
Bonus Insight: If there’s one thing we do think most brands should be considering, it’s headless commerce. Headless commerce provides your CRM with the flexibility to integrate with customer touchpoints and point of sale tech (like voice) beyond just your website.
Questions to Consider: Am I setting myself up to pivot in the future, without compromising the integrity of what I’ve built? Is it better to work with or outside of Amazon? Are there other tools that can help us increase native purchases? How well will my site integrate with new technologies, especially POS technologies?