CMO Insights: Fireside Chat with Martine Reardon

Exclusive insights from Martine Reardon, former CMO of Macy's, on how to adapt to the changing digital environment.


Martine Reardon, Macy’s former CMO, and one of the World’s top 10 Most Influential CMOs in 2015, has spent over 32 years at the world’s largest fashion retailer.

Reardon shared exclusive insights into their renowned digital transformation and what it means for customer experience in an evolving digital environment at this year’s CMO Disrupt, Sydney.

During a Q&A moderated by OmniChannel Media’s Editorial Director, Matthew Egan, Reardon discussed how technology can provide solutions that help the ‘bricks-and-mortar’ stores develop alongside the digital market.

Three key themes emerged from this session:

Interaction Between Digital and Physical

When questioned on the relevance of physical stores within the evolving digital market, Reardon argued that they maintain their importance.

She suggested that using the digital environment to assist sales in the physical environment was the key to maintaining relevance to the customer. Through combining the two into one seamless experience and adopting a completely ‘phygital’ approach significantly enhances the customer’s experience through the sales process.

“The digital environment is learning a lot about the physical stores, and the physical stores are learning a lot about what’s going on with the digital environment, and you’re seeing this blending of both those best practices.”

Using the example of the app Shopkick, Reardon emphasises how beacon technology can interact with the customer on another level. Shopkick encourages physical customer interaction by providing daily deals and rewards when they are in the vicinity of the store.

“We’re trying to think of really interesting ways of using technology to help the consumer. We want to make the experience that she has inside our stores even better.”

Appealing to a Range of Audiences

Retaining the attention from both older generations as well as the ‘digital natives’ was a challenge that Macy’s, as well as most retailers, struggled with. This is where the combination between the physical and digital worlds comes into play, as it allows retailers to appeal to a wider audience.

The digital world cannot provide the same experience as the physical store, which suggests the physical store can maintain relevance if they are willing to adopt more innovative, digital aspects.

“The customer still loves to come to a physical store. Even though [Millennials] have grown up as a digital native, they too still are very much like the baby boomers,” – Martine Reardon

“The customer still loves to come to a physical store. Even though [Millennials] have grown up as a digital native, they too still are very much like the baby boomers,” said Reardon.

Taking these different opinions into consideration, Reardon suggested that Macy’s could personalise the customer’s experience.

“We always think about how to appeal to the Millennial consumer through the use of digital first. Whereas with our boomer customer, who is really the bread and butter of our business, we like to mix in some other traditional ways of appealing to them.”

Data’s Role in Understanding the Customer

Reardon attributed Macy’s long-term success to using data in order to innovate their existing business model.

“Making big transformations, particularly coming from the traditional world and really dipping our toe in the digital world fast and first, and not being afraid to fail a little bit” is ultimately the key to success, she explained.

Using the digital world, Macy’s used explicit and implicit data analysis in order to understand their customer to a higher extent.

Whilst implicit data allows a business to personalise the customer experience by observing their behaviour over time, Reardon was careful to highlight the risks of creating wrong assumptions.

“We’re using data any way we can, but [we’re] very careful about making wrong assumptions because we don’t want to disengage them.”

Reardon concluded by suggesting that the retail industry can continue to succeed and provide great customer experience if they evolve alongside the digital world. As a result, businesses should aim to have a seamless interaction between the technology and marketing sectors.

“If it weren’t for technology, we would not be able to do what we do today.”