The Future of Retail Over the Next Five Years, with Kelly Derosa, Director of Retail Strategy at IgnitionOne

Sep 30, 2018

Originally published by Authority Magazine by Aaron Weiner

I had the pleasure of interviewing Kelly DeRosa. As the Director, Retail Strategy at IgnitionOne, she works with retailers to identify priorities in their digital media strategy. With over eight years of experience in retail marketing, Kelly has worked with brands such as Ralph Lauren and Stuart Weitzman to build branding campaigns, increase YoY revenue, grow customer sales, and drive in-store visits. At IgnitionOne, Kelly shapes retail analytics to help retail marketers better understand their customers.

Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I had several internships in Network TV advertising. I loved learning about the ad space, and understanding the effectiveness of certain demographics being exposed to different advertisers’ commercials. When it was time to graduate and start my career, I consulted with a few of my mentors from my internships. They kept saying one word to me: “Digital”. Many had begun exploring jobs in the digital space and explained how innovative it was, and if they could give me any advice — I should start with a job there.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

What I love about working in digital advertising is that I’m exposed to it as a consumer as well in my day-to-day. I remember when real-time bidding launched and how incredible the idea of it was, to engage with users within the same second they went to a website. When it started happening to me on the sites I was engaging with, I still found it unbelievable. However, the most interesting thing that has happened is the ability to tie mobile to desktop. I remember sitting in a room with a national bank a few years ago and we were discussing the ability to serve desktop ads to customers who had been to their mobile site. At this time it wasn’t available. It seemed almost outrageous to me. It took us only six months after that conversation to figure it out. Now, everything is cross-device. As a consumer, I still am in awe when I get served ads on my mobile of sites I had been to on my work computer.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Working in digital media, you learn quickly that your job never sleeps. It is truly a 24-hour, 365-day industry. I worked in ad-ops briefly. Ad-operations doesn’t get enough credit. It was a demanding job, and the most critical because it owned what was going out in market. I learned very quickly how real-time changes were and how much of an impact ad-operations could have. The job description is pretty technical, mostly looking at coding and adding click trackers and other implementations to ensure everything reports as it should. What you don’t realize is that one mistaken swap of a URL and your banner would be clicking to the wrong page. I was moving fast one day and working on two accounts; and for about 15 minutes I had a brand’s creative clicking through to a completely different brand’s website. Luckily, this was not caught, but when I actually realized it was live in market I panicked. I kept waiting for an angry note from the client. I learned several lessons then: First, take your time. Don’t rush through projects. Second, this business moves quickly — once you set something live and it goes in market, it’s up to you to double check your work. Let’s just say I’ve been very on top of all site changes from that moment on!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

In this industry, people move around a lot to different jobs. When I tell people I’ve been at IgnitionOne for almost eight years they are shocked. But internally, it is the norm. There are so many people that stay at the organization for years. I really think that dedication and long-term commitment are what make our company stand out. People here care about the mission, our customers, and the team around them. Just recently we had a big client meeting in which there were around eight of us involved in the preparation and presentation of the materials. We worked hard, and met for a full Sunday prep. When we looked around the room to discuss how we would do introductions, we realized that the average tenure at IgnitionOne was almost 10 years. That just doesn’t happen by accident. It is a testament to our culture but also to the success so many of us are driven by. Our tech delivers excellent results, and we know how to move in an ever-changing landscape.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Stay focused. There are so many different areas of digital you could focus on, but my advice is to not spread yourself thin. I was over-eager at a point and I wanted to work on so much, but I learned it’s better to focus your energy on fewer, specific goals rather than try to achieve the world. Learn something new, own it and master it before moving on to the next project.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I have been lucky to have many mentors nurture my career. I am grateful that I had a previous colleague, Jenna, along the way. She and I grew up in the industry together, spending many late nights together in our old office. We both started at IgnitionOne only a few months apart in similar roles. Immediately we became friends and confidantes, supporting and learning from each other. It was nice to have someone growing with me and facing similar challenges. It wasn’t too long before we took different paths in terms of our focus. Now, she lives in California. We still speak weekly sometimes for hours going through what was happening at work. She continues to help me grow. It’s been amazing to learn from some of her new challenges. We still learn from each other and I still feel grateful to be able to lean on her.

Are you working on any exciting projects now?

Working on retail is so fun because the industry has changed so much just recently. A few years ago all you heard was about “the death of brick and mortar” but now that’s not the case. Many national retailers are opening physical stores in 2018. Furthermore, retailers are starting to speak up about their online sales — on average, online sales make up under 10% for all sales (for retailers that operate on both brick and mortar as well as ecommerce). With that said, tying in-store traffic to digital is a big focus I have right now. I am currently working with my analytics team to figure out ways we can add more data and detail to our in-store visitation reports.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

As a woman, I really appreciate having a voice at my company and industry. Being able to come up with new ideas, work with some of the biggest brands, and collaborate with some of the smartest people in the business is so fulfilling, and I try to give more women the opportunity to contribute to these spaces. I work with young women to discuss and prioritize their goals for the future so I can help nurture them in their careers. I’ve recently signed up for mentor programs to help young women build confidence in themselves, not just in the workplace but in life. Lastly, I strongly believe in treating others how you would like to be treated. Kindness goes a long way in the world, and I am mindful of that everyday.

Can you share 5 examples of how retail companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers like to shop?

  1. RENEWAL PURCHASES FOR CHORE SHOPPING: There are certain items that are necessity purchases that consumers will always need to buy — items like food, toothpaste, paper towels, and soap should be easy, straightforward purchases. More grocery stores are going digital and services like Amazon Pantry or Boxed make your favorite CPG products appear at your doorstep in two days with the click of a button. We can expect more and more of this, and retailers should get excited. In my opinion, this is the best way to build brand loyalty. Build incentives within renewal shopping and you never have to fear that a 10% discount on your competitor’s item is going to lose you a customer. “Necessity” products should have multiple consumer-friendly ways to buy and we can expect more channels to expand in response to this need, such as Alexa or smart refrigerators. Retail and CPG brands should think about ways to go direct-to-consumer: Is there a way to build co-op partnerships with your wholesalers? Is there a way to go B2C by building larger brand awareness? These opportunities are only just continuing to grow.
  2. PERSONALIZATION BUILT FROM CRM DATA: This is the most commonly talked-about trend in retail, both in reference to the present and future. Personalization will continue to be a strong focus in five years. What we know about the customer today is that they are expecting personalization, whether online or in-store. Surprisingly, I speak to many retailers today who are still confused about how to incorporate their CRM within their omnichannel marketing. My advice to retailers: Learn how to leverage your CRM — your peers most definitely are, and you don’t want to be left behind. Tying customer behavior through online channels and in-store will be critical in ensuring that your customers have the memorable, personalized shopping experiences that they expect.
  3. CURATION OF RECOMMENDED PRODUCTS: As a consumer, I am a big fan of this. I am seeing more and more companies come out with curated subscription-based models. What I like most about it is it feels extremely personalized. To have a system that feels like a designated personal shopper pulling garments out for you based on the occasion, season, and your style preferences is incredible. This is an aspect of the retail industry that I think is just beginning. There are curated shopping experiences for shoes, underwear, bras, perfumes, coffee, gardening, wine, shaving — the list goes on. Consumers are bombarded with countless different products and brands hitting the market; it can be overwhelming. Retailers that curate their offerings will prevail by providing a more customized shopping experience and creating a more personalized relationship between the brand and the customer.
  4. BRICK-AND-MORTAR MAKEOVER: It’s been a few years of some of the biggest national stores shutting down their brick-and-mortar presence. However, brick-and-mortar is not dying — in my opinion it’s being reinvented. More unique, immersive in-store experiences are proving to be impactful at driving store traffic, but I also see brick-and-mortar evolving in other ways. Firstly, brick-and-mortar locations will start to prioritize overhead cost management more than before, learning from some mistakes. Especially for businesses in New York City, it’s common to see main streets in popular neighborhoods have stores closing one after another because of unfathomable rents on high-traffic city streets. But who’s to say retailers need to be on that first level? Some strategic retailers have moved to second- and third-floor locations, cutting their rent by half, and thinking of unique ways to still get the same foot traffic. I think we’ll see retailers getting more innovative and resourceful in working with existing store locations in the next five years. Secondly, for some larger brands or wholesalers that focus more on digital commerce, physical store locations may turn into packaging locations to help cater to the high demand of ecommerce. On a brand’s bottom line, this tactic will help overall sales when looking at the two revenue streams holistically.
  5. CONNECTING DIGITAL AND IN-STORE SALES TEAMS WITH UNIFIED GOALS:Working in retail commerce for almost 10 years, it has been fascinating to see how compartmentalized each department is — specifically around ecommerce and in-store revenue (for retailers that conduct business through both digital and brick-and-mortar). However, the transparency around the online and in-store revenue split is still shocking — online on average making up under 10% of total sales. From what I’m seeing, more online marketing teams are becoming aware of the importance of ensuring they include in-store traffic as a KPI. I also think we can expect omnichannel POS which will help overall attribution across the different channels and purchase locations. Brick-and-mortar as a retail channel is being updated and improved; technology will continue to play a big part in that. This last example is really the culmination of the previous four themes: While customers are looking for curation and more personalization, retail companies will need to start incorporating their in-store teams with digital into a seamless, unified strategy.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Life can get hard, and even in a busy, vibrant city like New York there are countless people who feel extremely lonely even if they don’t talk about it. Social media is an amazing platform in many ways but it can sometimes feel like a lonely place for people that feel like their lives are inadequate. Social media platforms can definitely glamorize real life, projecting the image that everyone is doing amazing things and looking perfect. I would want to start a movement that allows for social media to be a real, honest place for all to feel loved and connected, no matter where they are in their lives or careers, or how many friends or followers they have.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

This was very enlightening, thank you for joining us!

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