NEW YORK — Retailers are able to collect more and more data about their shoppers, but interpreting that information from the perspective of human needs and emotions is critical, Kristi Argyilan, senior vice president of media and guest engagement at Target Corp., said recently.
Argyilan spoke at VentureBeat’s Marketing: FWD Summit, in a session called “The Math and the Magic — How Melding Analytics and Creativity Will Drive the Future of Marketing.”
“We made a big shift as a company to really focus more on our guests, which is what we call our shoppers, and really put them at the center of everything that we do,” Argyilan said. “And as a result of that we have a Guest Center of Excellence that is very much focused on taking all of that data that is floating around out there, and actually trying to distill it down into stories about the guests; more human ways to talk about our guests.”
One recent example of how Target’s insights into its guests shape its market was the commercial the retailer ran during the recent Grammy Awards broadcast. It was a music video featuring singer Gwen Stefani that was created live during a four-minute commercial break.
“What we’re learning through the data is that our guests really love music,” Argyilan said. ”So instead of advertising just us, we took the time to create more content, more music, that we gave to our guests.”
The gesture connected, and Target saw huge spikes in social media mentions and consumer sentiment.
“The emotional response that we get from that is tremendously valuable to us,” Argyilan said, adding that the next step involves measuring the impact the commercial has on sales.
“We’re trying to answer two questions as we continue to push for more sophisticated measurement capabilities,” Argyilan said. “One is, what is the true value for the business of being really strong in terms of brand love. As marketers we always talk about wanting to be loved. But what does that mean from a sales perspective? What does that get us? And the other piece is, how does an idea like this translate into sales in the store? And how can we actually track that? Preorders of the album have been incredibly strong. But does that mean that people shopped with us more often and put more in their basket?”
Target’s data-driven insights have already led to merchandising and marketing changes that have produced measurable sales gains.
Argyilan mentioned Target’s approach to the swimsuit business, which has changed in recent years.
“What we’re hearing from our guests and seeing from the data is that they’re kind of tired of the idea of perfect body, and having that be the focus when it comes time to think about what swimsuit they’re going to buy,” Argyilan said.
The result was a shift in marketing messages to a theme of “swimwear for every body.”
The other change involved when swimwear is being sold in Target’s stores and online.
“We know that our younger guests are shopping earlier in the year because they’re going away for spring break. So timing the flow of merchandise and communications based on who’s buying when has been a huge shift for us. We had been setting in late March, and skewing the sales more toward summer season. Now we start in February. And our business has grown 15% over the last couple of years. That’s a really great case of where we’ve listened to what the guest said, and we adapted not only our marketing but also our merchandise strategy as a result.”