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The Value and Power of Data-Driven Marketing

BY CSA STAFF

By Bill Schild, Specific Media

Bridging the in-store/online gap

While well over 90% of purchases are still made in stores, consumers are spending an increasing number of hours each week shopping for products and comparing goods online. Despite this growing trend, online and offline retail marketing strategies are usually executed in silos. In the digital arena, marketers focus the majority of their ad spend on driving online transactions, which allows for more advanced targeting.

However, this strategy is rooted in driving online behavior and conversion, feeding a culture of direct response that neglects brands’ upper funnel needs. Not to mention, it disregards the notion of device fragmentation, which is predicted to grow to 2.6 devices per consumer by 2017. Combined, these factors make identifying proper attribution a herculean effort.

Digital ad targeting is changing

In order to take advantage of the changing marketplace, companies have started to partner with data providers to better understand consumer behaviors. The information captured greatly informs advertising campaigns, allowing brands to effectively identify, target and message both current and potential customers across multiple devices.

While the concept of consumer segmentation is not new, marketers have never been able to fully take advantage of what I like to refer to as closed-loop segmentation. In today’s ever changing digital ecosystem, recent technology advances make it possible for a select group of companies to move toward a new practice of targeting consumers online based on in-store purchases and tie those back to actual attribution of the advertisement.

It works like this: A person uses his or her credit card to charge a purchase at a national consumer electronics store. Once their card is swiped, data collection companies anonymize the information based on criteria such as age range, geo-location and average monthly expenditures. At that point, the data flows into a large repository that aggregates an estimated four billion monthly transactions. It is finally matched against anonymized online consumer data to create more relevant marketing campaigns.

Once a purchase has taken place, the anonymized data from the retailer is then matched with anonymized data from the company who provided the advertising to close the loop and attribute the sale to the actual marketing campaign.

The advantage of data-driven decision making

There are key benefits in leveraging in-store data to inform online strategy. For one, it allows brands to identify their target audience using retailer-specific purchase data. But more importantly, it enables these brands to effectively manage their marketing investments by bridging the elusive offline-online advertising gap.

Creating the link between in-store purchase data and online activity is complicated. However, for the first time in history, our industry has the technology to apply this method in real time. By using in-store data, brands can now form more meaningful connections with online consumers via relevant messages across multiple devices. And, with digital media expected to be more than a third of all U.S. ad spend by 2018, it stands to reason that this method has most retailers excited.

That being said, this technology provides us not only the ability to reach a brands actual customers, we now have the means to identify the offline sales impact of a brands digital investment with observed in-store sales data.

By focusing on this new type of closed-loop segmentation, brands now have the power to influence both in-store and online shoppers, ensuring what 63% of all CMO’s care most about, return on investment.

Bill Schild, senior VP, global marketing Specific Media, a global media company connecting brands with consumers across one of the largest audiences worldwide. Our exclusive data partnerships, multi-screen and multi-format targeting capabilities, and innovative advertising solutions enable brands to influence purchasing decisions as they are being made.


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Human Curation Meets Assortment Automation

BY Dan Berthiaume

Automated assortment targeting is one of the most important technology-aided merchandising strategies to develop in the past 10 years. Retailers can use advanced algorithmic and behavioral tracking solutions to instantly determine what items a customer is most likely to buy and present them in a way that maximizes conversion potential. Omnichannel devices like smartphones, tablets and kiosks allow retailers to effectively deliver personalized assortments within the confines of a physical store, as well as online.

However, when it comes to assortment targeting, retailers often forget about the human touch. While actual people still create broad seasonal assortments, computers are usually left to perform assortment planning and targeting at a deeper level. Of course IT is a vital component of any tailored assortment strategy, but allowing humans to help curate automated assortments can make the end result even more compelling. Consider a few ways in which human curation can blend with assortment automation.

Listen to the People

Sweden’s X5 Music Group is enjoying success in the world of digital music downloads by presenting collections of digital songs aimed at specific types of music fans, such as classical aficionados. This is not especially noteworthy, except that X5 uses human music experts to curate its collections, which often outsell similar offerings from competitors that use automated techniques.

While human merchandisers cannot realistically tailor assortments to the level of the individual consumer, they can tailor assortments to the level of region, city, neighborhood or even store. By matching merchandisers with similar demographic traits to a target customer group, retailers can make sure localized assortments still retain the “human touch.”

Of course, analytical solutions will still be needed to obtain detailed demographic profiles, and it never hurts to double-check human merchandising decisions against automated recommendations.

Race with the Machines

Best-selling author Andrew McAfee, who also happens to be co-director of the Initiative on the Digital Economy at MIT Sloan School of Management, has a strategy he calls “Racing with the Machines.” This refers to the fact that although machines can significantly outperform humans at virtually any task, humans combined with machines are still much more effective than either machines or humans alone.

For example, computer chess programs can easily beat top human chess grandmasters, but in “freestyle” chess tournaments where people can team up with each other as well as use chess programs, human-machine teams invariably dominate both machines and people on their own. The intangible benefit of human intuition, combined with the advanced logical deduction of computers, creates a powerful combination.

Retailers should “race with the machines” when tailoring assortments. Merchandising experts can monitor assortment results using exception reporting and near- or real-time dashboards, allowing intuitive corrections and adjustments when shopper behavior defies computer logic. And sometimes it will.

The Human Touch

In The Pink, a Massachusetts-based affiliate of Lilly Pulitzer, makes a customer dashboard accessible to store associates via mobile device. For customers who identify themselves or are recognized, associates can get a comparison to all shoppers on average during the past 12 months. They can look at data like average transaction margin, units per transaction, total sales and rate of product return. Associates can also view customer preferences by vendor, category and style, and make adjustments as needed.

iBeacons can also identify customers, their preferences and their proximity to certain items, but cannot engage customers to obtain personal insights or make real-time observations like human associates. A little informed, in-store, personalized curation can go a long way.


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FTC clears way for merger between Men’s Wearhouse and Jos. A. Bank

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — The Federal Trade Commission on Friday determined that the merger between Men’s Wearhouse and Jos. A. Bank does not violate antitrust laws. The commission had been conducting a detailed review of the proposed $1.8 billion deal.

The Men’s Wearhouse expects to close on its acquisition for Jos. A. Bank in the next 30 days after Men’s Wearhouse agreed to pay $65 a share for Jos. A. Bank earlier this year in a deal valued at $1.8 billion that will create a company with more than 1,700 stores and pro forma annual sales of $3.5 billion.

"Together, Men’s Wearhouse and Jos. A. Bank will have increased scale and breadth, and Jos. A. Bank’s strong brand and complementary business model will broaden our customer reach,” said Men’s Wearhouse president and CEO Doug Ewert. “Men’s Wearhouse shareholders will benefit from approximately $100 to $150 million of run-rate annual synergies realized over three years, through improving purchasing efficiencies, optimizing customer service and marketing practices, and streamlining duplicative corporate functions.”

Plans also call for Men’s Wearhouse to leverage its vertical direct sourcing model to improve combined merchandising and sourcing across the combined company and rationalize inventory over time.

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