Nick Martire is an innovative mind in retail. He co-founded the Aldo Product Services division which generated $1 billion in retail sales and developed a roster of some of the world’s largest retailers and brands. Before that, he ran the entire Europe operation at Elan Polo. He’s worked at Nike. He even started a company called Pretty Ballerinas with his wife Willamina.
Now, Nick is SVP at The Aldo Group, a 45-year-old company and shopping mall staple that’s taking progressive steps to transform itself into a digital powerhouse. Nick runs subsidiary Call It Spring, and finds himself marketing to a younger, more price-conscious audience than the traditional Aldo shopper.
I spoke with Nick about a wide variety of topics, including marketing to a mobile-first generation, why he thinks omni-channel is dead, and why brick-and-mortar stores are actually more important than ever.
You basically grew up in the retail industry. As a high schooler, you joined your father during client dinners at Coach. You also worked at the outlet stores your parents ran in Toronto. What did those experiences teach you?
The client dinners showed me how it all worked from a client relationship perspective. You may have a great product, but so do a lot of companies. Forming interpersonal relationships is key. In any environment, people will only want to work with those they feel comfortable with. Trust is so critical.
My factory store experience was truly a crash course in how to navigate retail. I believed the price signs should be typed, neat and clean. My father’s view was “pile it high and let it fly straight out of the cartons, the customer feels like they are getting a deal.” He was right, even in 2017!
You run Call It Spring, an Aldo Group subsidiary targeting a younger audience. Tell us about the differences between the two brands?
Aldo is our flagship brand with over 2,600 points of sale in 100 countries, and it’s targeted at customers who seek out the latest looks. The Aldo customer is confident in their fashion aesthetic and leans toward elevated styles that help them express their individual sense of fashion. With Call It Spring, our customers are driven toward trend-now styles and silhouettes — styles that are current but approachable both in aesthetic and price. Since a large demographic of our target Call It Spring customer is Gen Z/Young Millennial, it’s important that our price point remains fair and the styles stay on trend. The Gen Z demographic not only likes to experiment with their fashion choices, they also genuinely care where their money is going and how it is spent. It’s important that our brand reflects these values.
Aldo has more name recognition than Call It Spring. How do you craft an identity for Call it Spring?
The Gen-Z and Young Millennial customer resonates with authenticity and inclusivity. The same is true for what Call It Spring values as a brand. Our marketing efforts are zeroed in on creating a brand aesthetic that tells a story beyond the product — one that depicts our campaign models (also social media influencers) as a group of friends in real-life settings. The styling of our campaigns are strategically put together in a way that would be easy for our customer to mimic with items they likely already have in their own closets.
Call It Spring’s strategy is also digital first. The Gen-Z customer is much more influenced by video — short, snackable videos (eight seconds or less). We know that Gen Z lives in a world of constant stimuli and multi-device multi-tasking. In order to keep their attention, it’s key that our content is not just engaging and also to the point. We have to be innovative to win (and keep) the customer today.
Aldo, in comparison, is much more aspirational in their approach. They lead with a fashion authority approach by developing a point-of-view for all occasions so that their customer can always remain lock-step with the New & the Now. The Aldo customer is daring and loves to make a statement, always looking for the ‘je ne sais quoi’ to express themselves through their personal style.
How is marketing to Gen Z different than marketing to other demographics, like millennials?
Gen-Z are very different than Millennials and today make up 27% of the global population with $1 trillion in spending power. They are the next retail disrupters and by 2020 will be 40% of consumers on the planet. They have their own set of expectations when interacting with brands. They are also the first truly mobile generation, so they place a huge emphasis on connectivity. They are entrepreneurial and resourceful and they see through the noise — the experience has to be real and authentic. What’s also unique is that they only have an 8-second attention span, so all of our digital video content is adapted to reflect this.
You’ve said that “omni-channel” is dead. Can you explain why?
If you are still conceptualizing what your channel strategy should look like, you need to move very quickly. My view is that you need to be 360-degrees in your approach. There are no longer separate channels because Millennials and Gen-Z do not see channels. They are able to research and purchase on their phones, shop in department stores or order on Amazon. For a brand to win, you have to be all in, and if you’re still conceptualizing it, you’re already behind the wave and you won’t be able to catch it.
While Gen-Z is what we are working on now, we are about seven years away from The Alpha Generation entering the market and by then, the consumer will have access to so much technology.
Why is product strategy at the heart of your marketing efforts?
If they don’t love your product, it doesn’t matter how much “makeup” you put on it. Product is key in footwear and accessories. The customer has to genuinely fall in love with it.
Why are physical stores still so important?
The brick-and-mortar store remains the foundation channel for us. All of the clues to how your customer shops resides in the store and it’s where you can deliver the best customer experience. A lot of people would challenge me on this, but there are many examples of brands that can’t open stores fast enough because they know how much they can gain in terms of awareness and customer intel from the stores. Brick-and-mortar is complementary to e-commerce if you know how to leverage the benefits of both shopping models to create successful results.
What are your thoughts on user-generated content? Is it crucial to marketing in the digital age?
We are big proponents of UGC. It not only helps our brands to create engaging and approachable content that can be used across several of our platforms, but we’ve found that UGC also increases the consumer’s trust in the product. We like to think of the influencers we work with as friends of the brand. Who better to advise you on your shopping choices then the peers you trust. UGC is just that, it’s a friend/trusted source who is speaking to the product and the brand from their personal perspective. There is power in that for consumers and it’s extremely validating for a brand. It’s also an opportunity to connect with our consumers in a meaningful way by empowering them and providing them with a platform and a voice.
Which social channels are most important to Aldo and Call It Spring? How are you investing in those channels?
Social media as a whole is extremely valuable to our brands. I wouldn’t say that one is more important than the other. Each social channel allows our brands to execute a strategy and curate content specific to the follower’s needs on each platform. For Call It Spring, we’ve increased our focus on Instagram to better speak to our customers. Without giving too much away, we’ve really made a point over the last year to take a deep dive into our follower’s behaviors to ensure the experience on our Instagram page is captivating, contextualizes our product selection, and seamlessly allows the customer to shop the trends and styles we feature. Our secret weapon without a doubt has been the integration of Curalate into our social platforms and web page. A large amount of our sales are being processed via mobile devices. Curalate enables our customers to easily discover new products, connecting those moments of discovery to paths to purchase. In my opinion, Curalate is a game-changer in terms of monetizing our social platforms.
Aldo recently changed its website so it’s less cluttered and more photography based than its competitors. Do you think current e-commerce sites across the board aren’t providing good enough customer experiences and aren’t enabling product discovery in natural ways?
Some websites, like Amazon for example, are functional, full-service in their offering and provide a streamlined shopping experience for their customer — this is their value proposition. A brand, on the other hand, has to give the customer a reason to keep coming back to their site or to their store. As a brand, it’s our job to give them a reason to love us and one way to do that is to provide a narrative or an experience that they like and that they connect with.
How do you approach the idea of discovery? How do you make sure Aldo and Call It Spring products are being discovered across all your digital touchpoints?
To ensure our products are being discovered, we employ several strategies which include everything from direct influencer relations to integrating our social media tactics with our PR strategies to promote our products in creative and impactful ways through activations with some of the social media world’s most-watched influencers. Curalate has also been an important part of ensuring our products are discoverable. Previously, we were limited to creating pure content for our social pages to engage our followers, but it was always a challenge to direct customers to a direct path to shop those featured products. Now, we are able to link through to Like2Buy, utilize on-site UGC and so forth.
Curalate helps more than 800 of the world’s leading brands sell online more effectively. How? By creating compelling commerce experiences that adapt to how consumers discover products. On average, our clients achieve:
- 79% increases in time-on-site.
- 16% jumps in average order value.
- 31% increases in conversion rate.
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