In partnership with The CMO Club, The CMO of the Week series profiles CMOs who are shaping, changing and challenging the world of modern marketing. For Drew Neisser's complete interview with CMO Award Winner Martine Reardon, click here.
While it's okay for the average person to fall a little behind the times with new technology as the years pass, brands don't exactly have that luxury. Take Macy's, for example. The department store has been a part of most Americans' lives, in one way or another, for decades. Not just as a ubiquitous retailer and mall staple, but as a producer of televised parades, fireworks and countless fond childhood memories. Its flagship store in New York City is a tourist attraction in itself.
But before we assume that Macy's has to climb a digital learning curve as steep as some of our own after buying our first smartphones, quite the contrary. "I'm very proud to say that Macy's is excellent at newness!" says CMO Martine Reardon. Ensuring that her company remains on the forefront of all things digital and relevant, Reardon won of a much-deserved Leadership Award at The CMO Club Awards for keeping her finger on not just one pulse, but more pulses than there were shoppers in all of Macy's women's shoe departments today. I'll outline below just some the areas of innovation in which she and her marketing department are invested, as their diversity and the scale on which they're being executed should astound and, hopefully, inspire us fellow CMOs to broaden our own technological horizons.
As many reading this may know, retail demands an environment of rapid turnaround and compulsory evolution, and not just in apparel and wares. Marketing needs to keep pace, of course, but Reardon and her team understand the speed of the category more as a benefit than a hindrance for the brand. Moreover, it's a chance to evolve. "We see ourselves as an entertainment brand, and we know that today's 'experience economy' expects more from us than just great fashion and product," she says. "We think of each month, each season, each year as a brand new opportunity to re-inspire our customer."
As the head of marketing, Reardon is charged with seeking out new ways to connect with Macy's shoppers both in-store and online and doing it better than before. Experimenting with technology has been integral to both approaches. "We're always testing newness in our omni-channel strategy," she says. The company has been especially adept at dabbling in new payment methods, the idea being that the more avenues available to customers for making a purchase, the more money Macy's will see in return. These include partnering with ApplePay, launching Macy's Wallet, rolling out Shopkick to all of its US stores, further developing its own apps, and more.
Strides in Social
What would a comprehensive marketing plan be without social? Reardon certainly doesn't know, because Macy's social initiatives are so numerous that the company wouldn't dream of forging ahead without them. "We're always testing, learning, and iterating in the social media space," she says. While we spoke towards the end of 2014, Reardon demonstrated that she and her team were in hot pursuit of then-emerging trends. She listed their interest in video and video ads following the rollout of auto-play on Facebook, integrating Twitter with TV and the beginnings of a Snapchat endeavor, which many brands are only now beginning to test as a marketing option.
Not surprisingly, as a brand with a wealth of visual potential, Pinterest plays a large role in Macy's social media. The perfect intersection between its 20-to-30-something target and all things wedding-related, the bride-friendly platform was a natural fit for promoting Macy's wedding registry. "We are among the top registry destinations in the country, so it's critical that we maintain and grow our relevancy as a destination for millennial brides who are planning their big day," says Reardon.
Instagram was another channel in development when Reardon and I spoke. "We're launching a social shopping test in Q4 with Instagram, which will really help us better understand how to unlock the opportunity to drive sales through social media and potentially drive higher conversion directly on a mobile device." And the thread that runs through each of these channels, of course, is mobile. "We've made sure that our mobile media strategy is grounded in a deep understanding of how our customers are engaging with their smartphone and tablet devices," she says, and this includes social media.
Now, let's talk about Thanksgiving or the Fourth of July. "Our iconic events are part of the DNA of the Macy's brand," Reardon says. "For generations, Macy's has been at the center of the traditions of millions of families across the nation and the world. This clear and visceral connection our brand enjoys with the general public is immeasurable." While parades and fireworks shows may seem firmly rooted in an unchanged set of technology, Macy's tweaks each new event to fit the times. Whether it's including a new pop icon among its floats or running a social-centric event, Reardon and her cohorts have their ears to the ground so as to better connect with American consumers. "Being attuned to the changing entertainment landscape allows our events to stay fresh and relevant," she says.
Change at the C-Level
When I ask how Reardon is able to stay on top of it all, she stresses the importance of flexibility, curiosity and establishing the right perspective for her department. "I think good leadership is a fine balance of setting a strategic vision and then creating an environment for innovation and collaboration to ensure you get the best thinking and execution from your team," she says. "It's very easy to get caught in the day-to-day management, but we work hard to stay ahead and to also be flexible enough to be present and reactive in the moment."
She continues: "We also embrace a saying from Macy's very own Margaret Getchell (the first woman executive in retail), who said 'Be everywhere, do everything, and never forget to astonish the customer.' It's a motto we live by here," she says. "Having a legacy of such pioneering executives is an inspiration to all of us. It has fostered an ambition and entrepreneurialism that is a part of our culture."
CMO of the Week is an exclusive Social Media Today column published every Thursday.