Lowe’s in deal with IMG College to reach college sports fans via social media channels
MOORESVILLE, N.C. — Lowe’s Companies and the collegiate multimedia, marketing and licensing/brand management firm IMG College announced a national marketing agreement that helps the home improvement retailer reach college sports fans where dialogue is a game changer: official social media platforms.
Under terms of the sponsorship agreement, Lowe’s has secured the official designation and category exclusivity for the home improvement retail category at schools nationwide, from Alabama to Oregon. Lowe’s will have full use of schools’ marks from which to market, advertise and host special events. In addition, Lowe’s will be title sponsor to homecoming games at numerous IMG schools this fall.
The agreement marks the first time a company has secured a presenting sponsorship to a nationwide collection of universities’ mobile apps, which often serve as fans’ primary game-day interactive experience and a source of news and connectivity throughout the week.
“Reaching fans through their schools’ official social media channels, from apps to Facebook and Twitter, helps us join passionate conversations that are all about fun and memorable experiences,” said Tom Lamb, Lowe’s chief marketing officer. “This unprecedented agreement puts Lowe’s in a position to be top of mind for college sports fans.”
Predictive search produces double digit growth
Walmart is touting another e-commerce win by the smart people working at its Silicon Valley research and technology hub known as @WalmartLabs.
The latest development is a new search engine (code name Polaris) built from the ground up that anticipates a shoppers search efforts to produce the most relevant offers. The search engine took 10 months to complete and uses something called "semantic search technology," to anticipate the intent of a shopper’s search. The result is an approximate 10% to 15% increase in shoppers completing a purchase after searching for a product using the new search engine.
Over the past few months, Walmart.com has migrated its site over to Polaris and it is now fully powered by the search engine, according to the company. Polaris is also used for mobile search and will expand to power the company’s international e-commerce sites over the coming months.
"Search is a crown jewel for any e-commerce company to own," said Neil Ashe, president and CEO of Walmart Global eCommerce. "Today’s announcement underscores our commitment to owning technology that is fundamental in giving our millions of customers anytime, anywhere access to the products they want at the lowest prices."
According to Sri Subramaniam, vp of @WalmartLabs and head of the Polaris initiative, the new search engine gives users the ability to connect with the items they want but also to surface items based on interests and likely intent.
"This is the start of what we imagine search to be as we continue to deliver products to accelerate Walmart’s global e-commerce efforts," Subramaniam said.
Polaris is based on the Social Genome project, a platform that connects people to places, events and products giving Walmart a richer level of understanding about customers and products. The new search engine uses advanced algorithms including query understanding and synonym mining to glean user intent in delivering results. Polaris focuses on engagement understanding, which takes into account how a user is behaving with the site to surface the best results for them. It delivers a new and intuitive results page when browsing for topics instead of giving a standard list of search results allowing shoppers to discover new items they may not have considered.
The folks at @Walmart labs have been busy during the past 12 months churning out a wide range of digital initiatives that are helping Walmart narrow the gap with Amazon.com. In the past year, the group has created Shopycat, a social gift finder; Classrooms by Walmart, a program to make back-to-school shopping easer; Get on the Shelf, a crowdsourcing contest to unearth new products for Walmart; and Social Media Analytics, tools that use social chatter to select items to be carried by Walmart.
The few, the proud, the Sam’s Club JBP partners
"Come grow with us," could have been the title of the presentation Sam’s Club EVP of merchandising Charles Redfield gave earlier this week at the Grocery Manufacturers Association’s annual executive conference.
Redfield, only three months into his role as Sam’s top merchant, appeared as part of a panel discussion on the topic of joint business planning that included key trading partners such as Dave Dudick, SVP of General Mills, Melvin Landis, chief retail sales officer with Coca-Cola Refreshments and Sean Fallman, president of Georgia-Pacific’s North American consumer business.
It was the second consecutive year GMA conference organizers included on their agenda the topic of Sam’s Club joint business planning. Last year, it was former head merchant Linda Hefner who weighed in on the subject and this year it was Redfield espousing the benefits of a system his predecessor spearheaded while at Sam’s.
"JBP is a great way of developing trust," Redfield told an audience that included Sam’s merchants such as SVP of grocery and beverages, Todd Matherly, and SVP of health and wellness, Jill Turner-Mitchael.
Trust is key to the entire process, according to Redfield, because it fuels collaboration and the ability to have an honest dialogue. It also enables companies to challenge one another and be open to new approaches to doing business that foster the type of risk-taking that drives growth
"Suppliers are not the enemy. We have plenty of competitors to compete with," Redfield said referring to the importance of being open to new ways of doing business that form a cornerstone of Sam’s JBP process. "Where trust becomes broken is when companies treat JBP as an exercise or piece of paper."
He went on to detail how JBP requires a high level of commitment from senior executives because it is a top down process designed to deliver long-term growth.
"This is not a quick win philosophy," Redfield said.
Sean Fallman with Georgia-Pacific reinforced that notion, noting that, "JBP should not be about things that salespeople and buyers can do on an everyday basis."
According to Melvin Landis with Coke, real change and results only come when companies change the conversation and that is what JBP enables because it creates a framework for tough conversations.
"I give a lot of credit to Sam’s because they really invested in the process," Landis said. "Prior to JBP, we had a plan for our business and they had a plan for the category, but they weren’t always the same plan."
According to Dave Dudick with General Mills, JBP has been a blessing because the consumer goods giant has products in 25 categories and works with 13 different buyers and four different GMMs.
"Before the JPB process we were force fitting things into clubs and a lot of things didn’t fit the consumer," Dudick said.
One of those was the Cheerios brand where growth had slowed. Some simple changes to packaging improved the value propositions for shoppers, supply chain efficiency and delivered sustainability wins while improving sales. Because JBP creates a framework for candid conversations about the business it improves predictability.
"That enables us to build better plans with less conflict and more efficient use of resources because we know where there is alignment," Dudick said.
Although JBP is producing results and is now in its third year, Redfield acknowledged it is not for everyone and currently fewer than 20 companies are engaged in the process.
"Don’t get into it if you are not into it," cautioned Fallman with Georgia-Pacific. "This is not your father’s top-to-top meeting. There is a high level of senior executive engagement and commitment required to make this work."
And it doesn’t always work for those companies even when they opt to engage with Sam’s.
"People can fall out of the process and they have," Redfield said.