Dan Pingree is the chief marketing officer of Moosejaw Mountaineering, where he oversees the outdoor retailer’s marketing initiatives, including search engine marketing, search engine optimization, email, photo, video, graphic design, content production and publishing, social media, brick and mortar marketing, catalogs, direct mail, A/B testing, and data analytics.
Moosejaw combines his love of e-commerce with a passion for the outdoors, and admits to owning doubles and triples of basically every piece of climbing equipment. He has held previous digital marketing and e-commerce leadership roles at Drugstore.com (Walgreen’s), Housevalues, and Microsoft and holds a Master’s degree in business administration from Harvard Business School. When not at work, he enjoys climbing, skiing, and trips with his family, the most recent of which was a trip to Cuba.
Pingree recently participated in the “4 Questions for Marketing Innovators” series. His topic is very timely: experiential marketing.
1. What is one marketing topic that is most important to you as an innovator?
In today’s retail environment where fierce competition abounds and continued retail bankruptcies dominate the business headlines, creating a notable, unique experience through various marketing activities has never been more important in defending against the assortment, convenience, and pricing pressures of Amazon. This is our focus every single day at Moosejaw.
We define “experiential marketing” as a series of marketing events or interactions that are unique and memorable to the customer and help him or her feel understood. This includes all touch points that a customer can have with Moosejaw, from initial introduction, site experience, emails, product recommendations, customer support, and even order packaging.
One of the key attributes of surviving and thriving retailers over the next five to 10 years will be their ability to effectively and consistently deliver those unique and memorable interactions to customers.
2. Why is this so important?
Consolidation within retail is happening at a rapid rate. Amazon continues to put smaller pure plays out of business and is no doubt directly responsible for mall closures and big-box retailer downsizing. Amazon’s strength is within the transaction—that is, their assortment, aggressive pricing, and world-class logistics and delivery capabilities.
Retailers would do well not to attempt to “out-Amazon” Amazon but rather seek to build unique, notable experiences for their customers—experiences which help customers feel understood and valued at every touch point. Experiences that are consistent and unique, which other retailers—including Amazon—are not offering.
At Moosejaw, we sell outdoor clothing and gear, most of which is available at other retailers. Because of this, we have to constantly ask ourselves, “Why would somebody buy from Moosejaw?” The answer, of course, is because of the unique and notable experience Moosejaw offers its customers.
As we are successful with our experiential marketing efforts, I have no doubt that Moosejaw will be a strong, healthy retailer in the years to come, Amazon’s meteoric rise notwithstanding.
3. How can this improve the customer experience?
Experiential marketing enhances the customer experience because you’re creating interactions where you are demonstrating a clear understanding of who the customer is and what she wants. If it is known, based on your previous and current site browsing and past purchase history, that you like the Canada Goose brand, it doesn’t make any sense to show you promotions related to backpacks and climbing ropes. If you do, you may lose this customer forever because they feel misunderstood.
Every customer is an individual with unique tastes and preferences, and our marketing efforts must treat you as such. On the other hand, if the site experience involves changing the home page, search slots, navigation, and product detail pages by exposing the kinds of brands, categories, and offers that we know you like based on the data we’ve collected about you, we can create an experience that is welcoming, engaging, and worthy of your time.
Doing this well creates a differentiated experience versus every other retailer since nobody has truly cracked the code—yet. For all retailers big and small, there is a huge opportunity to win in this area. The slog is hard, long, and expensive, but ultimately those who figure it out will have a defensible position against the retail headwinds caused by Amazon.
4. How will this improve the effectiveness of marketing?
Dollars spent on experiential marketing simply perform better than generic marketing. We’ve seen it repeatedly in our results in areas such as time spent on site, add-to-cart rates, conversion rates, open rates, click-through rates, and many others.
The challenge is that the upfront investment costs in technology and people—not to mention the time required to test and learn which experiences are most meaningful—are huge barriers to most companies. But those who stay committed to experiential marketing will find the reward to be well worth the investment.
Bonus Question: What is your favorite activity outside of work?
One of my favorite activities is alpine mountaineering. I love being outside, on high mountains, in beautiful and remote locations. I’ve been working on climbing the highest mountains of the seven continents, of which I’ve managed to climb three so far. I hope to complete them all before too long, including Mount Everest.