Aldo’s Nicholas Martire: Customers Don’t See Channels, So Why Should We?
The SVP at Aldo Group and Call It Spring talks social media and the "new age" of retail.
Aldo Group’s Call It Spring brand is aimed primarily at Millennial and Gen-Z shoppers, so it’s no surprise that the label sees plenty of action on social media. What is perhaps more striking is that 80 percent of its sales take place in brick-and-mortar locations, and about 20 percent online.
That 20 percent is certainly significant — especially because about half of that segment actually transacts on mobile — but the willingness of younger shoppers to switch between physical and digital retail, rather than inherently preferring only the digital, is a trend that marketers must take into account.
“We are doing more and more business on a smartphone — while our retail business in-store remains very healthy,” said Nicholas Martire, SVP at Aldo Group and Call It Spring. “We view it as that everything has to be ‘360.’”
GeoMarketing: What trends are you looking at in terms of search opportunities in retail?
Nicholas F. Martire: We’re taking a view that we need to serve our customer seamlessly and effortlessly. We talked a little bit earlier about what we’re calling the death of omnichannel; instead, we view it as that everything has to be 360.
Basically, the customer doesn’t see channels, so why do we continue to think in channels? We’re trying to serve them seamlessly and effortlessly [anywhere and everywhere], whenever and wherever they desire.
How do you view Aldo’s position as a brand when it comes to the new age of retail?
I think the change [in retail] is happening faster and faster. We’re really seeing that shift online, and, basically, the way we’re looking at it — we think that we’re in a very good spot. We started this conversion and journey back in 2013 when we started to integrate the latest technology to offer a better customer experience into our stores.
And now the newest thing is that Alexa, Siri, Cortana — all these voice-related technologies — are really catching on. And, of course, there’s Snapchat, Instagram, all of the social pieces. What is your viewpoint in terms of adoption of these next technologies, testing and then going to market?
For both Call It Spring and Aldo, Instagram is very important. All of the social is very important. SnapChat resonates with a younger customer — generally the Gen-Z segments. So, Snapchat is something that we’ve [been doing] for the past year for Call It Spring.
But we have to look at each one of the social platforms to see if it’s relevant to our target consumer. Like, Snapchat’s not necessarily relevant for the target consumer for Aldo, but it’s definitely relevant for Call It Spring.
Where have you made serious investments when it comes to social? You mentioned Instagram.
Yes, Instagram. And one of the things we’re looking at, which connects with Instagram, is Curalate. Curalate basically provides a direct path to purchase from Instagram. One of the things that we find, especially with products in the fashion industry, is that somebody will see it on Instagram, but they don’t know where to get it. Curalate helps provide that path directly to our brand so the customer, you know, if she sees a really cool shoe or handbag, she knows exactly where to get it.
When it comes to the footwear segment specifically, what are some of the challenges and opportunities that you see in the market?
So, it’s interesting, because if you look back a couple of years ago, the apparel retailers really only sold apparel. Nobody really sold accessories and footwear. There are new entrants to our market, and that’s another thing that we have to deal with from a competitive perspective. We just have to continue to offer the best customer experience, and then really drive that prime loyalty to ensure that the customer follows us on our journey.
When it comes to Call It Spring, how does your marketing differ from the overarching brand of Aldo?
We actually just went through, over the last three years, an exercise where we did consumer insights. A year for each brand of in-depth consumer insights to really find out who our target customer is. Then, after you finish with the consumer insights and all the analytics, we get all that data, then we do the brand identity work.
At the end of all that it’s very clear to us how each brand is differentiated. Each brand basically has a different target consumer and so that’s how we approach it.
Aldo started its online push prior to Call it Spring. It’s a brand that’s been around for longer and it’s our biggest brand, so it’s definitely had the focus and the attention. What’s unique about Call It Spring is that it’s targeted to young millennials and Gen-Z. It definitely resonates with a younger consumer. Because of the styling, because of the price point, et cetera.
One thing that we’re seeing is with the kids today, for Call It Spring, 80 percent is brick-and-mortar, and about 20 percent is online. Aldo’s a little bit less, it’s probably 85/15.
But what’s really interesting is within that 20 percent of our total online purchases for Call It Spring, 40 percent of those purchases are actually purchased on a smartphone. Almost half of our online purchasers — meaning tablets, desktop and smartphone — half of them for Call It Spring are on a mobile phone.
You’re already seeing mobile at 40 or 50 percent of online purchases. Is that rate increasing?
Yes. We are doing more and more business on a smartphone. Every quarter, while our retail business in-store remains very healthy, and it’s growing, we’re also seeing the online segment growing as well. We’ve never had a negative quarter in that growth trajectory.
I think what’s interesting is that for millennials, Gen-Z, this is their primary device. When you really look to Gen Z, they don’t know any different. To them, this is just normal, and so they will of course conclude the transaction here —whereas someone [my age] will do the research on mobile, but then I’ve got to go back to my desktop.
When you look at Aldo and Call It Spring, how do you approach this idea of discovery? How do you get discovered across devices, and how do you help consumers find and navigate stores? You have over 2,000 stores, right?
Yes. The Aldo brand is basically all about fashion, but fashion at an accessible price point. You can get looks that are straight off the runway at a great price. I think marketing that goes along with that resonates with our target consumer.
Through all the channels, there are multiple different touch points. In terms of technology we’re using our app, we’re using our website, we’re using our mailing lists, and our emails directly to them. We have great results from the response to our emails, so that’s going very well. Then there are things like, in some of our latest stores, we have beacons. If you have the Aldo app on your phone, it’ll send a ping to you and say “Hey, just to let you know the Aldo store’s here, the Manager’s name is so and so. Come on in and say hello.” It makes it more personal.
Going back to intelligence systems — the likes of Alexa, Siri — a lot of people are already using voice. How do you handle discovery there? How are looking to employ this to gain foot traffic?
I’d say we’re looking at all technologies. I think if you’re a brand or a retailer today, you have to look at everything; gone are the days where you can just bury your head in the sand and say “this thing will pass.” It’s here to stay, and it’s taking over.
When you have big companies like Google and Amazon all investing in AI and voice activation, you’ve got to take it very seriously. The truth is some of the smaller brands, and some of the smaller retail companies, are just not going to be able to compete. That’s fine.
If you’re a brand and a retailer today and you have the means, you have to invest in these technologies, and we’re taking them very seriously. I’ll just add one other point, which is that we work with a firm based out of Toronto called Kinetic Café, and Kinetic helped us back in 2013 to develop all of these in-store technologies that we use now — the app, the beacons. We’ve got flat screens in our store which are called the Endless Shelf. Because some stores might not have all of your products in your line.
Even in a smaller store, your customer can have an amazing experience, and he or she can see the extended collection there. There’s even a “request to try on feature,” so you can request a try on on your cell. It really empowers the customer. Instead of having to ask the sales associate in a traditional sense, it empowers the customer and it gives them a better experience.
Do you look at your footprint in terms of location as a weapon?
Yes I think it’s a significant advantage for us. It’s interesting, even though we talk about online growth and all of this, retail remains the foundation. It’s the foundation of our brand, because it’s the place where humans can actually interact. It’s the place where you can still try on product. It’s the place where you as a brand can deliver that customer experience.
Ff you look at the example of brands that started online-only first, like a Frank and Oak, they’re rushing to open stores. Because they’ve got all this great data but they can’t break through to the next level. I think you need all. That’s why I go back to the point of 360 — you need all channels. Now, what is the right proportion? That we don’t know yet.