Saks’ Incandela: Mutichannel Retailing Is Critical

Technology that was considered cutting edge or experimental is now mainstream, said the chief marketing officer and president of Saks Direct.

Get ready to invest, future digital players. Technology that was considered cutting edge or experimental is now mainstream. So said Denise Incandela, chief marketing officer and president of Saks Direct.

This story first appeared in the February 8, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“Yesterday’s emerging features have become a cost of doing business,” she said. “Dynamic product recommendations and dynamic product videos are emerging technologies we’ve been watching for 10 years. Fit technology, virtual technology, global and more and more.”

The ability to become an omni-channel and multichannel retailer “has become critically important, to share information across channels and be everywhere on the Web.” Incandela said. “Personalization, which Amazon.com spearheaded many years ago” will be big. “There’s a data explosion that’s allowing us to think about one-to-one marketing. I see homepages unique to each customer. Life-cycle marketing will become critical,” Incandela said, explaining that Saks would analyze a consumer’s spend for categories that haven’t been purchased in a while, say cosmetics, then appeal to the shopper with a special offer in that category.

Incandela said that Saks is grappling with how to “meld all the amazing qualities of the store with the rich content of the Web. Digital disruption is completely changing the way we do business.” Multichannel shoppers are four to six times more valuable than single-channel customers,” Incandela said, adding that the lines between channels are blurring.

“There will soon be more mobile phones out there than computers,” she said. Consumers will want the flexibility of shopping on their phones or tablets, buying online and returning to stores. “The onus is on us to take the disparate channels and make an omni-channel experience,” Incandela said. “You can whip out your iPod in stores and read product reviews.”

Social media has implications for the store experience since it has shifted more control to the customer. Incandela said Saks is working on ways to engage this customer. “We are very active with Facebook and Twitter,” she said. “There’s an opportunity on the marketing and loyalty side. We could offer targeted opportunities to customers. There’s crowd sourcing. We haven’t begun to leverage the Web site.”

Saks’ Web site features several different shopping formats and events. A vertical scroll promotes a Valentine’s Day gift shop, Gucci’s spring runway collection, new spring handbags and shoes and contemporary first look.

Saks’ FashionFix tab leads to the retailer’s flash-sale site. “We find our best customers are disproportionately spending” on the flash-sale site, Incandela said. “FashionFix is attracting new customers. We’re looking at is as incremental spending. It drives the full-price fashion business.”

Incandela said she’s not dismissing established marketing tools such as direct mail and print advertising, but there’s been a shift in terms of budget allocation. “Ten years ago, marketing meant magazines, newspapers, CRM [customer relationship management],” she said. “We’re building digital marketing capabilities. Digital is more efficient and effective.”