Marketer's Playbook

Macy's Embraces a 'Digical' World

Marketer's Playbook: Macy's

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Macy's, one of the nation's oldest retailers, founded in 1858, has become one of the most innovative when it comes to digital, social and mobile technology. The New York-based department store chain is using technology to connect with consumers on a local and national level.

"We think of ourselves as being media agnostic," said CMO Martine Reardon, "so it's whatever role that media plays at the time."

The strategy took root with the My Macy's program in 2009. That gave local executives more power following the rebranding of hundreds of department stores under the Macy's name. The effort to think locally while maintaining a national brand pushed the retailer to use technology to more effectively reach consumers.

"As we have gotten smarter technologically, as the technology has gotten much smarter, it's given us the ability to truly localize," said Ms. Reardon.

For the Kentucky Derby, for example, Macy's used social media and geo-targeted emails and push notifications to encourage Kentucky-area shoppers to try the store's collection of Derby hats. That messaging wasn't used -- and wasn't as important -- for the flagship Herald Square location in Manhattan.

Social media reaches across all the brand's touchpoints. It's used to offer sneak peeks of new collections, poll designs, push events and promote sales, among other efforts. It also pushes the retailer's "crown jewel," the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Ms. Reardon said. "Our newest jewel in the crown is really being able to play in the social space," she said. The retailer shares news from behind-the-scenes and from the balloons themselves to help viewers everywhere feel closer to the parade.

The brand's latest social effort, called "American Icons," kicks off today. The program, which is in its second year, encourages fans to share photos of what America means to them for a chance to be included in the national broadcast of the Macy's Fourth of July Fireworks.

As mobile devices become more entwined in our daily lives, the department store chain is also expanding its mobile presence. The Macy's app, which launched in 2009, has evolved into a personal shopping assistant. It helps shoppers navigate the store, find additional sizes, colors and related products by scanning a barcode to make purchases.

"It's this freedom that we've now given the consumer inside the physical building," said Ms. Reardon. "It really does become a liberating way for her to shop."

The retailer has put its media muscle behind the app through national promotions including a contest that encouraged shoppers to download the app, and by putting it front and center during major shopping periods like the holiday season.

Macy's also has an app for its Thanksgiving Day Parade, which helps spectators find their way around the parade route and get behind-the-scenes news and information on the event. For viewers at home, it serves as a second-screen experience that brings them closer to the action.

The retailer is building out its arsenal of mobile and digital offerings by adopting third-party technologies early on. Macy's partnered with the mobile app Shopkick in 2010, to offer consumers rewards for walking into a store, scanning barcodes and making purchases. Last year, it employed Google's local inventory ads to help shoppers search what's in stock nearby and,using Google Now, notify them when they pass a Macy's location that has the item they're looking for.

"The more that we can use that mobile device in store, the better [the customer's] experience is going to be," said Ms. Reardon.

Marketer's Playbook is an eight-part video series expanding on Ad Age's popular Playbook coverage. In Playbook we explore how marketers can do their jobs better and smarter. For this new video series, we're zeroing in on effective marketing strategies through exclusive, behind-the-scenes visits with top marketers at national and international brands.