Amy Madonia: Q&A Session

Q&A Session: Amy Madonia

Amy Madonia Q&A Session is happening on June 18th 2020 at 10:00 AM PST (1:00 PM EST)

Amy Madonia has led ecommerce and digital marketing efforts for a variety of fashion and beauty brands over the course of her marketing career. A classically trained CPG marketer, Amy has focused exclusively on ecommerce and digital for over 13 years. Among her accomplishments is launching the first ecommerce site for Wrangler Jeans – the first ecommerce site launch in VF Corporation’s history to launch on time and on budget. With a record that includes driving ecommerce growth for Nautica, Michael C. Fina and Hanes, Amy has run her own consulting company for the last three years, focusing on acquisition strategy and analytics as core practice areas for companies including Citigroup and Barnes & Noble. She is skilled in analytics, digital product, user experience and site operations as well as performance marketing channels. Amy holds a BS in Design and Environmental Analysis from Cornell University and an MBA from UNC at Chapel Hill.
Amy loves making people laugh, nerding out on technical stuff, and riding horses.
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Amy Madoni – Transcript

Q&A Session with Amy Madonia @ Mac Cosmetics

June 18th, 2020

Hi Everyone! Thank you David and the online geniuses group for having me today. I’m looking forward to answering as many questions as I can.

My background: passion areas are ecommerce / digital marketing / analytics. I’ve been strictly in ecom > 14 years – mostly in the fashion + beauty space for brands including MAC Cosmetics, Origins, Aveda, Lab Series, Nautica, Hanes and startups Temptu and Julien Farel.
I launched the 1st ecommerce site for Wrangler jeans (ever), on time and on budget (…yes I’m proud of that). I recently closed my consulting company of 4 years where my clients included Citigroup, Barnes & Noble, Lexmod, Bespoken and FSAStore.

Hi Amy What is the number one growth channel, that surprised you over the year?

Hi Zach, the transition to social as a place for discovery of products has been happening fast. This year at holiday I expect mobile shopping and shopping from social to really grow.

What social platforms do you expect to drive the most growth?

It depends where in the world and what customer demos you are talking about. In china it’s wechat and whatsapp. In North America it’s mostly instagram and facebook for the +40 set, but if you are talking younger Gen Z and Millenials it’s TikTok. If your consumer target is business professionals, then it’s linkedin.

Hey Amy, how do you strategize the creation of your product  and category descriptions? Do you work any SEO into them?

Yes I work SEO into anything content related. there are a few free google tools like google explore trends that give you trend on up to 5 keywords. besides SEO, product claims and benefits are primary. why should he/she buy this? what’s in it for them? how do/does this product service make their lives more awesome?

Hi Amy, email marketing program to you prefer? 

Hi, There are some good ones but I’ve learned that they go in and out of fashion, in ’09 ExactTarget was the bomb (anyone remember that?). Bronto, salesforce are a solid enterprise choice. for anyone starting from zero at launch you will be tempted to get by with my Emma because it’s free but you’ll want to transition so quickly to a meatier tool – just pay for a good ESP. quiz them on deliverability, strategy, reporting, staffing for full service.

Are you using any influencer strategy?

Yes all businesses do to some extent today. I’m seeing that mid to smaller influencers pay off more than the big / expensive ones where you just get one post and that’s it. Really negotiate with them to get multiple posts/activations and make it a partership. Many still work with free product and some paid element.

Hi Amy, How do you A/B test products before releasing them to the masses?

Hi, A/b testing is easy if you are talking about email channel (subject line or creative). for on site you can use a partner like Qubit, who I’ve used on several brands. The important thing is not the tool but setting up a solid test (that is proper research methodology) and assessing the results to get to actions that accelerate the path forward.

Hi, what are a few ways you ensure e-commerce success without just taking your sales from the channel? In other words, how do you target different audiences with your e-commerce platforms from the retail or B2B channels?

Here understanding your ecosystem, channel distribution, your product category, and overall consumer trends are key. This is really a strategic question. Unless demand is exploding for your product/service and you are running out of inventory, there will be some cannabalization when you expand distribution in a market.

Hi, i am wonder how to optimize ecom category page. as there will be just list of products with same name and also very few text content? How can we maintain keyword density if the product name is the keyword

Good questions. The nuts and bolts but also the details matter here. You have to balance your advertising needs with shoppability. You have to follow merch best practices, have your top sellers at the top but also sprinkle in newness and variety, check that it looks good/appealing on both mobile and desktop. You want copy, but make sure it is unique. What information will help the customer determine which products to explore further? That is the question as that is the job of the category page.

How do you handle fighting against competitors with SEO? Also, how do you determine what to buy in for next season/year without exactly knowing what’s going to happen like a virus outbreak which can have an influence?

I’ll do my best but if I could predict Covid I’d never have to work again.  Each question separately:

  1. fighting competitors against SEO: understand what makes you better.  why customers/clients should pick you first and foremost. use all the SEO tactics to drive click rate based on your unique selling propostion. This is akin to finding your niche in offering but from a consumer perspective. you do this and you win.
  2. buying decisions for next season: when i worked for a fashion brand i had this super fun exercise: I’d buy all the fashion magazines from around the world (not cheap but worth it), I’d browse through them all and find common trends and cut/paste mood boards and make notes about how I see these trends tying to culture. very good process. This was 2016 and my trend spotting was spot on (pun intended). I still see elements in fashion today
  3. Virus outbreak. I don’t know how you predict this. Maybe watch horror movies and listen to  Bill Gates.

How do you go about differentiating the MAC brand and experience online?

Hi, For any brand you have to understand your unique selling proposition and what makes your offering unique and appealing to all other competitors. Why do they buy you? What do they get that they rave about in customer reviews? How are you making their lives more awesome?  these are the questions.   Then the online experience is a flagship for your brand.  I look at competitors, new innovations, best UX outside of my category, and think about what my consumer wants and how that shoudl be expressed for brand to make a unique, delightful experience. When shopping is fun (remember malls in the 80s, 90s….maybe i’m showing my age…), people spend more time and money doing it.

Are you working on any omnichannel strategy to make sure you have the full vision between online shopping and on-store shopping habits of your customers?

Of course! Anyone serious wtih B&M presence is doing so as well.

Can you give us a sense of how you view personalization and recommendations, and what tools you like best for that?

Personalization is next frontier for relevance and therefore conversion.  It’s super exciting because it can happen anywhere (online, on site, marketing channel, via clienteling, in store, etc.) and it’s highly effective. I don’t have favorite tools but I do think it brings important questions the industry has yet to grapple with effectively: how do we personalize without being creepy? how do we do this with fractured/silo’d data? how do we do this and still give the consumer the latitude to explore and discover enhance cross sell and basket drivers?

I have a close friend building a cosmetics eCommerce brand, and she wanted me to ask you how do you allocate your marketing budget? Particularly, how would you split between influencer spend, SEM, SEO etc, would you focus on one over the other?

This is a great question for any brand, in any category, that I used to get paid well for when i had my consulting company.    The main thing is to know your business inside out. Know your costs by channel, know your sales by channel, know your new customer acquistion volume and cost by channel. also look at more than just last click attribution. These are fun things to do.

 Also a personal question, do you spend money on PR? Do you work with a firm or do it in house? What tools do you use?

Most brands in fashion do and work a variety of ways.

What is your planning strategy before launching a campaign?

Hi Crystal, There are various ways to approach this depending on the campaign. At the core the planning process requires a creative brief, where you spell out the goals of the campaign, the consumer target, budget and expected sales. For ecom best practice is user journey work to figure out what the most powerful assets will be, and what the strongest message would be in various parts of the purchase funnel.

What platform for ecom erce would you recmmend for a business in the early stages without a big budget to spent each month?

Magento if you have a budget for or custom developers in house. Otherwise Shopify.

Hello! How much email mkt is important for a niche like yours? What % of online sales come from emails?

Email is so important to all businesses, regardless of B2B, B2C or product/service category. It is always the highest ROI channel (becuase sending an email is so cheap), and you have a direct line to your highest value customers – those who have actively raised their hand to say that they want to hear from you on a regular basis. You own the channel and can say whatever you want to people. What could be better?

Do you get involved with cause marketing or social impact marketing?

No, I Haven’t much.

What advice might you have for someone just past the initial stages (ie, an established brand, voice, target customer and other business basics) of launching an ecommerce driven fashion brand … for some context and if it affects your answer, the brand is the brainchild of, and led by a professional athlete playing for the Kansas City Chiefs.Obstacles include making noise and finding relevancy in a saturated space of online “premium” fashion brands

Great question and thank you for that background. This is a question that is about how to create amazing marketing. It’s a tough question. It’s like the question, ‘what makes a music hit or award winning move.’ It’s art and science and best practice and using all the levers at your disposal and sometimes a bit of luck. I wish I had a better answer. In your shoes I’d look for a very strong (and probably expensive, I hate to say) agency that can do strategy work to identify your ad model (paid, earned or owned, or what mix of these) and (maybe a separate agency) to do the brand positioning/campaign work. They have to understand your industry and culture, and you should love their work from other clients.

Hi, Welcome & great to have you here! I was curious to know in your experience of delivering eCommerce experiences over the years, how has the process changed? What are the roses & thorns of getting things done on time/budget now compared to, say, 5 years ago?

Thank you and I LOVE this question. Getting things done from a project management perspective is the same.  There are more technology pieces/more 3rd parties required to make your ecom work, and more channels. The 2 things that have stayed consistent: 1) first mover advantage in a marketing channel or tactic is real and 2) the relative digital sophistication of the people you work with and for can help (or impede) your ability to get stuff done.

Hi, like everything else, the beauty sector retail / ecomm is being affected by the pandemic.  Mall closures, department stores closing faster, etc. What e-comm trends are you seeing to circumvent this? i.e. around subscription models, sampling, etc.

OOOOHHHH tough one.  Some things in omni are helping, like delivery options and curbside.

there’s a new standard we all have to work towards which is hygiene and sanitation if you are selling in any physical environment. There, talk about and achieve low contact as much as possible (pizza hut does a great job at this ‘no hands touch your pizza from our 450 degree ovens to the box’)

I could talk forever about subscription models and sampling.  But the best thing to do is think about your consumer in these, and I hate saying this it is so trite “challenging times” and their mindset and needs, because they have shifted. Think about this from the perspective of people who think the virus is a hoax (they are out there) and people who are scared becuase they live with or are immuno-compromised (they are out there too).

Hi, How do you approach SEO for such an iconic brand that so many people love? Do you have a team that works directly with the content team to optimise stories that impact peoples exposure to your products?

We are very lean so no.

Hi, do you have direct mail in your marketing mix? How well does it work for you? Thoughts on adding direct mail to omnichannel efforts?

Affilitate is an has always been a channel about relationships (with your agency, publishers, influencers) and also discounting.  Due to the discount the ROI from a gross sales perspective is great. You have to think about what being there says about your brand and what incremental audiences you are able to reach to know if it makes sense for you.

Regarding direct mail, love the channel. It is expensive but largely untapped by ecom and pure plays. It is highly effective and data rich.

Hi, thanks for joining us! Regarding influencer marketing, why do some hashtag #ad or #promoted or #partnership and some don’t hashtag anything (but it’s clear they are promoting)? Is this based on their compensation/contract/etc?

I don’t know why they don’t. it increases exposure, and doesn’t cost anything, so it’s a mystery to me.

How do you strategize e-commerce advertising budgets for best sellers versus new products launching?

Hi, Thank you for that question. This is a question about risk and balance. You need to balance between new and core, and you need to weigh your risk on new because it is an unknown entity as far as it’s performance. I wish there was a more concrete answer here, and I hope this is helpful. There’s no one size fits all.

Thanks for being here today. I am curious to know what email marketing strategies work best for Mac – in that what are the absolute table stakes for any ecommerce business to have – (Abandoned cart, abandoned browse, winback, retention etc) and if any of these have performed extremely well for you (for Mac or otherwise) . What was the thought process there?

Thank you for the question. For all companies and brands I’ve worked on over the years, email marketing that is based on consumer behavior (aka triggered emails like abandon cart you mention) perform better than any other email type. So yes do these. All of them that you can muster and all that make sense to drive revenue for your company. The audiences are smaller so you have to balance these efforts with your overall email and contact strategy.

How much CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization through split testing etc) do you do at any given time?

Thank you for your question. As much as I can. All the time.

Best advice for young individuals today… how do we become successful? what should we spend our time doing? what opportunities should we look our for/create for ourselves?

Thank you for that question. There’s a couple things:

  1. pick something you love or at least find interesting (to be successful you always have to be doing it/thinking about it off hours), whatever that is.
  2. become an expert at it. hard work. rinse repeat. more hard work. rinse repeat…
  3. surround yourself with people you like. if someone takes alot of energy from you and after you interact with them you feel drained and less positive. moveon dot org. there are plenty of positive uplifting people out there who will see the light in you and let you shine.

Do you think COVID-19 will bring about a new audience segment, if so, how will it be shaped?

Probably yes. Right now as I mentioned there are people who don’t own a mask and think it’s a hoax and there are people who are very scared, haven’t left the house and might live with or be immuno-compromised. These are very different consumer mindsets in approaching products and services. What works for one will not work for the other.

What are your thoughts on chat / voice assistants? Do you see this increasing in size in the future, especially for products requiring personalised recommendations upfront, which then may be subsequently re-purchased time and time again?

Love this question thank you. Super cool stuff happening out there in voice. I’m interested more in how it will change our lives vs. the marketing aspect of Alexa listening to me in my home (I don’t care about that, my life is pretty boring).  I’m looking forward to the future on this, because currently voice as you know is not that good… i ask Alexa for Best Buy store hours and I get a recipe for pumpkin pie…for example. I look forward to never using a keyboard or mouse again and when Siri finally recognizes my husband’s name is Marc with a ‘c’ not Mark. Mark with a ‘k’ I’ve haven’t even met that guy and he’s not in my contacts.

Hi Everyone, That was super fun! I hope it was fun and helpful to you too!

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