Magazine article Marketing

Forward Thinking: Interview - Kiddicare's Multichannel Masterplan

Magazine article Marketing

Forward Thinking: Interview - Kiddicare's Multichannel Masterplan

Article excerpt

Alison Lancaster, the retailer's chief marketing officer, explains how she is orchestrating onand offline marketing to support the brand's aggressive store-opening programme.

Kiddicare is a brand that bucks the current retail trend in several ways. At a time when many retailers are contracting and closing stores, it is aggressively expanding. While other chains have struggled with strategies for shifting their focus from 'bricks and mortar' to online sales, Kiddicare is travelling in the opposite direction, by opening more stores nationwide, having already established itself as a successful etailer.

Alison Lancaster (pictured right), the brand's chief marketing officer (and the marketing director, non-food, for Morrisons.com), therefore has a particularly noteworthy marketing role, as she contends with the challenges and opportunities that come with a rapid store-opening programme.

Online strength

The expansion of Kiddicare, which has gradually built itself into a significant online operator from its roots as a long-established local retailer in Peterborough, has been achieved thanks to Morrisons' pounds 70m acquisition of the brand in 2011.

The influx of Morrisons' cash allowed it to purchase 10 Best Buy sites, which it is transforming into Kiddicare stores. However, the benefits of the Morrisons buy-out also extend in the other direction, according to Lancaster.

'Without that investment, we couldn't have bought the Best Buy stores in one fell swoop, and it helped us to hire and attract the best people in the business. In turn, we're able to help Morrisons with technology and digital marketing, to take the supermarket side into dotcom,' she explains.

These are the areas where Kiddicare is particularly strong. While some marketers often express a fear of drowning under data overload, Lancaster sees only the opportunities that tech and digital marketing present.

'As a direct marketer, it's the most exciting revolution in marketing. I've been dealing with data since 1995. Everything I've done has always been accountable, so I've been very used to the metrics. Now, I have even bigger and better metrics to go with. The challenge for businesses is how to put the infrastructure in place to make sure you take advantage of those really powerful data insights,' she says.

For Lancaster, everything comes back to the customer, whether it is the best channels to reach them and how to talk to them or what products to offer and which areas to expand into. She says this is more important than looking at what its competitors are doing.

'You can't ask customers for information and make them promises you then don't deliver on. So if you ask for, and get, information on customers and their preferences, you have to then be prepared to execute to their wishes. So it's about digital tech enabling digital marketing,' she adds.

The data insight infrastructure Lancaster is establishing at Kiddicare includes Salesforce CRM as its main system to capture and hold customer information, Responsys for its email execution, and Radian 6 as its social monitoring tool.

'This is just going live,' explains Lancaster. 'It's only when you make all those connections that you can start to tune it in. So we're still at the test-and-learn stage and it requires a lot of effort. Our CRM should be complete - at least the first stages - by next summer.

'Radian 6 allows us to have a snapshot each day of the social noise around our brands and that feeds into Salesforce, so we can see if customers or site visitors are vocal on social media. So you get it all together and then work out your next best action.'

With about 85% of Kiddicare's business coming from online, efforts were focused initially on paid-for search advertising and online marketing.

'Without marketing, no one knows you're there, so it's a fundamental part of the business. …

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