Spring '13 Infocus

June 4-6, 2013 | Chicago, Illinois

Understanding today's digital woman

articles

Ninety-one percent of women believe that marketers don't understand them. Clearly, it's time for change. Here's how Macy's is leading the charge.

Marketers that undervalue the spending power of American women have not been paying attention. According to some estimates, women account for $7 trillion in consumer and business spending annually and will control two-thirds of consumer wealth over the next decade. Not only are they making the majority of purchases, they heavily influence the decisions of others, prolifically passing along relevant information about personal customer experiences.

Despite widespread understanding of this buying power and market impact, many brands have failed to successfully advertise to women. A recent survey revealed that 91 percent of women believe marketers don't understand them. Rather than developing flexible marketing plans, some brands are still creating blanket campaigns based on oversimplified notions of femininity, failing to demonstrate the in-depth knowledge and adaptability needed to engage modern women in the moment.

At the same time, some forward-thinking brands truly "get" today's digital woman. A prime example is one of America's favorite brands, Macy's. During the keynote presentation at the iMedia InFocus Summit in downtown Chicago, Jennifer Kasper, group vice president of digital media and multicultural marketing for Macy's, explained how the company is marketing to digital women in new ways.

Macy's is a company synonymous with brand power and customer loyalty. A key to this reputation has been its ability to differentiate itself from other brands in the retail space by keeping entertainment at the center of its marketing strategy -- a plan with routes all the way back to 1926, when the company held the first Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. As Kasper explained, the parade was the first step in Macy's plan to "build itself into the fabric of American culture."

Within the last decade, Macy's has furthered its mission of developing a retail brand that is an entertainer by creating its own content. For example, Kasper detailed the company's "Yes, Virginia" animated special, a fictionalized version of an 1897 letter written by eight-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon to the New York Sun to find out if there really was a Santa Claus. The special aired on CBS on "National Believe Day."

Efforts like this have led Macy's to think deeply about its role in content creation, and how it can drive business results. As Kasper explained, "Although the Thanksgiving Day Parade creates affinity for Macy's, we are retailers, and we need to sell."

As a result, the company creates content that "bridges the gap between entertainment and utility." The first step in this approach is through Macy's use of social media, something fundamental to the shopping experience. Regarding its social publishing, Kasper explained that the company is willing to let go of perfect production value in order to achieve new levels of authenticity. To do so, Macy's asks open questions and listens seriously to its fans. For example, prior to purchasing a new dress to feature in Macy's stores, a company representative posted pictures on Facebook of various dresses, asking fans which they would prefer to see in-store. Within eight weeks, the winning dress could be found inside Macy's. 

Another example of creating useful content is Macy's "Backstage Pass." As Kasper explained, the company wanted to unlock the power of the QR code in terms of customer engagement through video delivery. When customers scanned an in-store QR code, the following video played:

To continue to emphasize Macy's focus on useful content that entertains, Kasper detailed Macy's relationship with fashion celebrity Clinton Kelly, best known as the co-host of the reality TV show "What not to wear." In collaboration with Kelly, Macy's created the "Macy's Million Dollar Makeover," which was embedded into the company's Facebook page so fans could enter the contest. The company then picked the winner on the channel TLC.

Although this was an extremely effective social initiative, Kasper explained that "only a relatively limited audience got to engage with Kelly." Recognizing Kelly's powerful effect on the Macy's community, the company wanted to create more connections between Kelly and its customers. As such, Macy's launched the #HelpMeClinton promotion in which customers asked Kelly various fashion and lifestyle questions and received responses from him and a Macy's team of moderators. Knowing that not all of its customers are active on Twitter, Macy's released the following video to introduce the campaign: 

Not only did Kelly and the team of moderators answer audience questions in a timely manner (the goal is a one-hour response time), they also recommended Macy's products when relevant, which helped drive measurable business results. In addition to Facebook and Twitter, Kelly works with Macy's to create longer-form content on Macy's blog, the MBlog.

Lastly, Kasper explained that Macy's wants to bring to life these great content experiences in the Macy's mobile app. The company realizes the importance of mobile to the shopping experience, so it plans on increasing its focus on this platform in the future. 

Kyle Montero is associate editor of iMedia Connection.