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Engaging Modern Consumers Requires a New Breed of Marketer

“Millennial moms have a baby in one hand, and a mobile device in the other.”

This was a memorable takeaway from this morning’s session at the Demandware XChange 2016 conference in Hollywood, Florida, where Greg Foglesong and Janet Sherlock of Carter’s discussed the company’s approach to an ever-changing digital audience. Foglesong also noted that the whole baby in one hand thing was probably not a “best practice.” In addition, according to Carter’s, “80% of new babies will be born to [tech-savvy] millennial moms.” Today, it’s hard to imagine to whom the other 20% will be born.

Designing a Scalable Digital Organization

Shifting consumer behaviors driven by constant technological upheaval has been a common theme early on at Demandware XChange. Still, many marketing teams have not been structured to adapt to these behaviors, and as a result, brands have lagged in their efforts to create meaningful, and consistent, marketing experiences. According to Retail Touchpoints, 76% of consumers notice inconsistent product data for similar products across channels. Mobile has accelerated the challenge, by not only adding another channel to account for, but fundamentally changing the way that consumers shop. Lauren Teslia of Roots shared in her session that mobile users browse 14+ items before making an in-store purchase, while Rick Kenney of Demandware noted that mobile accounted for 43% of traffic and 23% of digital orders last quarter, with that figure expected to grow.

So, how can brands themselves adapt to match the speed at which their consumers are evolving? It starts by prioritizing the metrics and efforts that matter. Josh Krepon of Cole Haan discussed how the brand has prioritized its digital marketing programs. “App downloads are a vanity metric. It’s not a focus for us. We want to drive engagement.” To that end, when they noticed engagement and conversion wasn’t where it needed to be, they shifted course quickly. “Conversion wasn’t going anywhere. We knew there was a better solution, so we built a mobile app.” Shawna Hausman, VP digital at giggle, a brand specializing in stylish, healthy & smart baby gear, agreed with the app revolution and identified it as a smart way to connect the digital shopper/researcher with the in-store shopping enviro “Our app is turbocharging the registry process in the store.”

Of course, changing the marketing approach also is heavily dependent on having a team in place ready and willing to change as well, which involves a skillset often overlooked on a candidate’s CV. In another morning session, Harvey Bierman of Crocs, Inc. shared the characteristics the company looks for in new marketers, primarily candidates that are adaptable, willing to learn, and curious. An intrapreneurial spirit typically works best in the Crocs environment. In fact, according to Bierman, “the phrase ‘comfort with ambiguity’ is featured at the bottom of any job description at Crocs, because we want to engage with candidates who don’t need specific direction, but rather want to be a part of building something significant.” To which John Evons of Fuerst Group pointed out, “no one ever does only what their job description says anymore.”

I’m looking forward to the rest of the event, and while my colleagues take in all of the technological innovation happening on the part of both partners and brands, I hope to better understand how the visionary marketing leaders here are preparing their teams to engage a more highly-connected and sophisticated customer-base.