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On June 9th, more than 100 senior brand marketers from Fortune 500 companies across the Northeast will gather at GILT’s New York headquarters to discuss the Future of Retail, Commerce, and Consumer Experience, on Day 2 of Brand Innovators Brand Week New York, a five-day series of events that tackles everything from today’s biggest trends in mobile & digital marketing, millennial habits and behaviors, integrated media buying and planning, and the latest in BtoB marketing.


In advance of his keynote address, Brand Innovators spoke with GILT’s Chief Marketing Officer, Clay Cowan, to preview his talk and get his perspective on the latest trends and technologies impacting the commerce industry today.

Brand Innovators: What new technologies are you paying attention to these days, as potentially having a big impact on retail and commerce?

Clay Cowan: Social shopping has really exploded this past year. Whether its the ability to shop Instagram or purchase the outfits your favorite celeb or blogger wore, social has really had an impact on retail and how we at Gilt think about talking to our members outside of the Gilt walls. It’s also clear that no one has really cracked 1:1 messaging yet, but we feel well positioned given our members-only, personalization-driven model and our tech capabilities.

Brand Innovators: In the realm of customer experience, today’s consumers are more informed, more collaborative and have higher expectations. How can brands leverage this new reality to create more seamless interactions?

Clay Cowan: Over the last few years online shopping has become mainstream and all price points and customers are looking for the same level of service they receive at their favorite store. This works to our advantage in some ways – we offer the best products from the best brands at amazing prices – everyday.

But where we often win the price and merchandise game – it’s harder for us to keep the best goods at the best prices… and offer free shipping…and returns, etc., to compete against others on free shipping or a department store on returns where they can monetize a customer trip, or a against a full-price retailer on customer experience and service.

So that forces us to raise our game and think about the entire customer experience, and invest where our customers and our data says it matters – from the moment they hit our homepage to when the box arrives at their doorstep.

Brand Innovators: A lot of people talk about the content-commerce connection. How do brands create content that actually drives purchasing behavior?

Clay Cowan: The content has to be additive to the shopping experience. It should help inform and enrich the purchase decision. We find our best sales are often the ones with the most helpful information to our customer – we are often introducing a brand to her, or helping her push her own fashion boundaries a bit. Content can help us take a bit of the risk out of that for her.

Brand Innovators: Why do you think omni-channel marketing is a powerful trend in retail today? How are brands connecting the online to offline and bridging that digital-physical divide?

Clay Cowan: Traditional offline retailers have always understood the power of a store footprint and offline marketing – their biggest brand presence has always been their store footprint. They just took a bit to fully embrace online – and now omni-channel marketing.

And obviously you’re seeing online e-commerce pure plays go the other way – embracing offline more and more. Many prominent examples across retail verticals are exploring omni-channel marketing and experiences.

No one has fully cracked it – but the same laws that apply in one channel still fundamentally apply in omni-channel: Who is your brand / voice? What are you trying to say? What do you want your customer to do? Where do you want them to do it?

And yes – it’s a big trend – but it’s also important to note how incredibly early days it is in omnichannel. So many nascent technologies are launching (and vanishing) as firms and consumers figure out wearables, beacons, auto, home automation… so in an environment of growth like that, it’s important to have a lot of bets at play – and ability to be flexible.

We feel fortunate at Gilt to have a company whose model is built around a daily restart – with new sales launching every day, across different channels, with a customer that wants us to engage her where she wants to shop. So while her high demands raise the bar, it also gives us license to take some chances.

Hear more from Clay Cowan, and other leading retail and commerce innovators, at Brand Innovators Future of Retail & Consumer Experience, June 9th at GILT, where presenters include:

  • Laura Henderson, Head of Media & Communications Planning, US & North America, Mondelēz International
  • Cindy Chen, Global Head of eCommerce, Mondelez International
  • Rob Lynch, Brand President and Chief Marketing Officer, Arby’s
  • David Rubin, Head of Brand, Pinterest
  • Jason John, Chief Marketing Officer, Publishers Clearing House
  • Julia Straus, VP Business Development and Partnerships, BaubleBar
  • Charlie Cole, EVP, Assembled Brands & CEO The Line & Protagonist
  • Claire Capeci, Global President, Retail, J. Walter Thompson
  • Amanda Greenberg, Head of e-Commerce, KIND
  • Marissa Kraxberger, Creative Director, Ivanka Trump
  • Hayley Phoel, Brand Manager, Materne North America – GoGo squeeZ
  • Patrick Cassidy, Global Digital Brand Marketing, New Balance
  • Katrina Craigwell, Director, Global Content & Programming, GE
  • Ye Jin, Customer Retention and Loyalty, Senior Strategist, Michael Kors
  • Gordon Meyer, Director, Digital Marketing, SiriusXM Radio Inc.

Learn more about Brand Innovators Brand Weeks across the U.S.


sekar-maria_105 Maria Sekar is a Program Director at Brand Innovators, where she works with the content team. Prior to joining Brand Innovators, Maria led public relations at TheLadders. She has nearly 10 years of experience managing and supporting national public relations campaigns and has worked with a variety of clients in the tech, marketing and healthcare industries. In her spare time, Maria likes to travel, eat, write and explore New York City. Follow her at @m_sekar

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by Brandon Gutman
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Brandon is an expert connector and seasoned business development professional. As Principal of Brand Approved, he's led the advisory to become the bridge between brand marketers and best of breed service providers that are reshaping the industry.

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