I have often said and written that the traditional retail sector has a huge untapped advantage over e-commerce. They can they create a compelling “Starbuckean third place,” full of experiences that cannot be created online. Additionally, they have the potential of creating an authentic human connection through their employees. In my opinion, these frontliners can be the most important link in the physical world value chain — the link that touches the consumer, and potentially creates a loyal bond. In fact, I have often suggested that there should be some kind of a curriculum that earns an MBA degree (a Masters in Brand Ambassadorship). In my opinion, this is not an exaggeration. We need well-trained talent as the point of contact with customers.
Macy’s has leapfrogged my suggestion and is taking the human bonding concept to another level. Macy’s created the Style Crew program, which is taking control of its own influencer network by recruiting its store sales associates and personal stylists as brand ambassadors, rather than enlisting the latest hotshot bloggers. These grassroots influencers create videos of themselves involved in activities using Macy’s products, then sharing the videos with their social networks.
How brilliant is that?
During our Retail Radicals event on Tuesday, June 5th, co-hosted with the Fashion Group International, Macy’s EVP of Business Development and innovator of the Influencer concept, Marc Mastronardi, said, “it’s easier to leverage assets that exist than creating something from nothing.” He talked about unlocking the creativity and talent of Macy’s 130,000 sales associates and stylists to build a branded Macy’s experience that is personal and authentic.
Macy’s is taking its products to wherever their customers may be, and doing it in a deeply personalized way. Their employees reach out to their friends in a fun entertaining way through their videos, and Style Crew is original out-of-the-box radical thinking. Marc and his team of innovators created this initiative through a strategic thought process. He and his entrepreneurial team will hatch many other breakthrough innovations focused on this holistic view of the customer. The Macy’s brand (and all of its products and experiences) has the mandate to be where the consumer wants to be engaged. He said, “Where do consumers hang out? Can Macy’s own brand be there? If yes, how do you monetize that? How can I create value and how do I bring together who I need to get to where the consumer is spending their time, energy and money?”
More Authentic Than Hotshot Bloggers
The Style Crew has a concrete goal of driving conversions. For example, one influencer video has an employee leading a bartending tutorial that links to actual glassware and other cocktail accessories at Macys.com. Another one has an associate hiking in Los Angeles, and it features performance athletic apparel and footwear. Marc says it’s working, driving both in-store traffic and conversions.
This outreach of Macy’s credible brand ambassadors out bests the increasing number of popular influencer and blogger media stars. First of all, it’s authentic; there are many fake influencers, claiming to be famous who often state a fake number of followers. Secondly this third-party influencer media platform is getting costlier. Macy’s ambassadors are compensated by sharing a portion of the profits, just as the stylists receive a commission in the physical stores. And finally, while the professional influencers are constantly seeking new followers, Macy’s ambassadors already have a network of personal friends that they can easily and quickly expand through by word of mouth and their personal influence.
Outdoing the Macy’s Parade?
Another panelist at our Retail Radicals event, Mark Bozek, CEO and founder of Live Rocket, a company that merges art and commerce, shouted out, “This is the best idea coming out of Macy’s since the Macy’s Parade.”
We shall see how it plays out. But, I believe we are going to see a growing number of radical ideas coming out of Mastronardi’s team.
Marc is a poster child for our new Radicals Awards, created to recognize and reward the innovative change agents working in traditional brands and retail. Nominate yourself and encourage all the Radicals you know to apply for the awards. It’s quick simple and there’s no fee!