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Consumers Aren’t Out of Reach, Your Marketing is Just Out of Date

We’re a nation of distracted drivers, distracted shoppers and distracted workers. Thanks in part to our phones, our attention spans are at an all-time low. Add to that the amount of choice we have in every facet of our lives and it all adds up to a nightmare for retailers as they try to figure out how to break through the noise and grab some mindshare. While traditional marketers might be losing sleep, those that are embracing technology are find new exciting ways to capture shoppers’ attention.

At this week’s NRF Big Show Adidas and Roots discussed how they’re using new technologies to create deeper connections with their consumers, who they admit are harder to pin down than ever.

“[Consumers] really know how to self-select media and self-select what they wear. Talking to these consumers, [mass media] really doesn’t mean anything,” said James Connell, vice president, e-commerce and marketing for retailer Roots. “They listen to Apple music on a paid subscription. They go home and watch Netflix so they’re really hard to reach. We had a challenge of reaching out and connecting with these individuals.”

Roots has turned to live events to bridge the gap. The company has hosted happy hours in ice bars to demo new outerwear and hosted live back-to-school events in street cars to boost sales of sweats.

During the fourth quarter, Roots wanted to make a splash, but it had one problem: the company was way behind with its samples. With limited product and a desire to upend the staid gift guide concept, Roots hosted a runway show that combined live models, digital images and a custom soundtrack for a layered, immersive experience. The company garnered 11 million impressions in 10 countries compared to the half a million people Roots typically reaches via its seasonal print publication. With one click, attendees were able to buy the product they saw at Black Friday prices. Then, the recorded event was used to create 15 different digital gift guides.

“We recognized the fact that we needed to act different. Everyone’s talking about experience. This was our experience, and it morphed from printed to live to digital,” Connell said.

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[Read more from the NRF Big Show here.]

Just as Roots has found the secret sauce for whetting consumers’ appetites for its brand messages, Adidas has turned to tech to create solutions its sneakerhead fan base will eat up.

“We try to create competitive advantages for Adidas,” said Gordon Lanpher, senior director, digital innovation at Adidas. “We’re looking to create recipes that are at the intersection of Adidas consumers, our brand strategy and emerging tech/partnerships.”

Lanpher’s digital incubator is charged with keeping an eye on emerging technology, kicking the tires on early stage startups to determine if there’s a viable idea that might make sense for the brand and Frankensteining innovations to develop tools and products specific to Adidas.

One such project resulted in a tool for sneaker drops, which have become a victim of their own popularity in a way. The team came up with a reservation system that allowed consumers to skip the crowd, hassle and sometimes danger associated with lining up for the latest kicks.

Technology has also allowed Adidas to streamline some operations while also improving customer experience. By teaming with FindMine, which uses visual algorithms to help merchandise products online, Adidas is able to better curate suggestions for shoppers. “The benefits were their visual analysis isn’t dependent on our metadata accuracy [because] they’re working off of the visual aesthetics,” Lanpher said, listing other benefits such as how quickly the curated looks come together, increased revenue per visitor and operational cost savings. “This is an example of AI stepping in and doing a human’s job and doing it faster and better.”

By understanding who its customer is and what they value, Adidas is able to use technology to add value. “We’re not going to out Amazon Amazon, but if we can find the nuggets specific to sneaker collectors and athletes, we can create something original and new,” Lanpher said.

Roots has a similar perspective, one that makes Connell optimistic about the future of retail.

“There’s a lot of talk about the physical store being dead and it is absolutely not dead but we need to look at the experiences we drive out of those spaces,” Connell said. “Your whole world is in your phone. If we can leverage that to provide you a better more advanced experience either through content away from the store, through augmented reality taking the store to wherever you are, or elevating your in-store experience, that’s where it’s at.”