With an impressive career in media and marketing, Pandora's Head of Industry - Retail, John Gregory, brings a unique perspective to changes in consumer behavior, creating a differentiated value proposition within the marketplace, and fostering a more holistic approach to media. We loved hearing his thoughts!
Avenue Code: John, we've been seeing a lot of talk lately about the rapid evolution of shopping habits. What changes have you seen in consumer behavior in the last 5 years, and how does that inform your strategy at Pandora?
John Gregory: I guess the biggest influence is the impact mobile devices have had on the shopping experience. When smartphones initially launched 10 years ago, consumers quickly adopted the use of the devices to shop, research products, and compare pricing, but were very hesitant to actually make purchases. As we saw in 2016, especially during the Christmas holiday period, consumers have certainly lost their fear of transacting via mobile device. I'm sure we'll see more and more "one-click" shopping opportunities in the short-term, especially for those retailers who need to make the experience as seamless and easy as possible to keep up with the likes of Amazon. For Pandora, it's absolutely necessary to develop ad products that allow listeners to take advantage of this easy purchasing experience.
Avenue Code: Given this shift, what would you say is the key to success in today's consumer environment?
John Gregory: From a retail perspective, I'd say it's more important than ever to have a point of view with unique product with careful attention to how you position it in the marketplace. Over the past 20 years, many retailers fell victim to the discount game and focused more on low price and cheap sourcing than maintaining differentiated product to help set them apart from perceived competitors. Absent of technology or other external influences, retail strategy must begin with merchandise consumers want to buy. All the technology and marketing in the world won't help sell something that no one wants.
Avenue Code: It's something you're well-positioned to comment on - you've got an impressive background in retail, having held VP and executive roles at Bloomingdales, Macy's, and Ann Taylor, and heading up the Retail Category at AOL. What made you choose Pandora as the next step in your career?
John Gregory: First and foremost, I wanted to continue making use of my many years of experience in the retail sector. I've covered a lot of territory over the past 30 years in diverse sub-categories of the industry and have discovered that my knowledge is a valuable asset. Since digital media companies have become eager to better understand the industry verticals they support and how to more effectively serve clients' needs, it seemed like a natural fit for me to join their forces. What attracted me most to Pandora was their focused business strategy, the registered mobile user base with the data it brings to bear, and the company culture which is, bar none, the best I've ever experienced in my career. I love those Pandas!
Avenue Code: Sounds like the perfect opportunity. Where you are now with Pandora, you're at the forefront of bringing retailers into a new, more experience-centric way of presenting themselves and their products. What are some of the biggest challenges your team faces in implementing strategy decisions?
John Gregory: With all the tools at our fingertips, it amazes me how the lack of communication amongst the parties involved creates many difficulties in our client and agency partner relationships. Many retailers still have a "siloed" internal marketing/media organization. This, combined with the sometimes disjointed responsibilities of their medi agencies, is a formula for inefficiency and can be especially difficult for Pandora, as some partners see us as an audio media channel and keep us aligned only with their radio teams. In fact, we have a very robust display and video media delivery capability which crosses into the accountabilities of multiple media teams at both the client and agency. We spend a lot of time fostering these cross-channel relationships.
Today's consumers take a mobile-first approach to entertainment and shopping.
Avenue Code: What are you working on today that excites you? What's next for Pandora?
John Gregory: At the moment, I'm most excited about the Pandora Dynamic Product Showcare (DPS) mobile initiative that was recently launched at ShopTalk in Las Vegas. This program is directed at retailers who still have a large presence with weekly newspaper print circulars. While these are still an important part of the media mix, a large audience under the age of 45 who aren't Sunday newspaper readers are missing this weekly item and price content meant to drive store traffic. Our DPS program is meant to be a digital companion with print circulars by dynamically serving key item content to local markets and driving them to view the full content on the retailer's own hosted digital circular experience.
Avenue Code: Another great example of how innovative companies are finding ways to enhance and complement existing channels to meet consumers where they are. With all the changes in the industry, are there any constants you've found that never change?
John Gregory: The one constant that hasn't changed in my entire career is the demand for service. While the definition of service has changed over the years due to new store formats and e-commerce innovation, it's something that retail managers need to fully understand in context of their business model.
Avenue Code: Thanks, John - as we continue the conversation with leaders across the e-commerce sector, we're hearing the same thing with regards to service. Your perspective, standing at the intersection of marketing and media for a whole new way of engaging with consumers, is fascinating. You're clearly invested in breaking down barriers of communication and finding what works for today's consumers - keep up with good work with your fellow Pandas, and we'll look forward to seeing what comes next!
Holly Vander Wall
Holly Vander Wall is the Director of Marketing at Avenue Code. She is an eCommerce enthusiast, a marketing guru, and an animal lover.