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Merging Marketing and IT

By Steve Black, CIO and CMO, Sprouts Farmers Market

Steve Black, CIO and CMO, Sprouts Farmers Market

On developing a modern marketing program that incorporates technology:

Sprouts takes an innovative approach to Marketing and IT, which is reflected in how these two functions work in tandem, reporting to just one member of the executive team. That might help explain why cloud, social and mobile are critically important to our marketing strategies. A recent Gartner study states that by the year 2017, CMOs will spend more on IT than CIOs. Sprouts believes that the coupling of these functions enables a more holistic approach to marketing and expedites the decision-making process that can bog down more siloed organizations.

Cloud technology is essential for a company to grow at the speed of now and evolve in lockstep with the rapidly changing mobile wave that’s engulfed the planet. To borrow a phrase from Salesforce: “It’s our job to get to the future and be there to greet our customers as they arrive.” The only way you do that is through cloud technology. No more hardware, software and staffing issues running IT. Cloud technology frees you up to focus on what’s most important – your customers, or business users.

Next, social engagement is now clearly a way of life. At Sprouts, our customers’ primary social platform is Facebook, but we also have to be extremely engaged in Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Google + and Pinterest (and that list might grow by the time this goes to print!). At the sametime, it’s still critical to have an engaging and informative website and mobile app.

Our job in marketing is to make it as easy as possible to get what information you need, wherever you are and on whatever device you prefer at that moment. And to further drive the importance of mobile, Microstrategy CEO Michael Saylor’s book The Mobile Wave states that 77 percent of the US population is expected to be on mobile phones by year-end, which translates to some 243 million users. It is a basic expectation that brands optimize their mobile platforms to make it easy for consumers to get the information they need and communicate with your brand or company at any time, from any place.

On modern retail marketing:

June Cleaver used to rely on live television, local radio and the daily local newspaper for information about her favorite retailers and brands. But DVRs disrupted television advertising by allowing consumers to skip the commercials. Satellite radio continues to greatly diminish the reach of local radio. And to say that the newspaper business is in a state of crisis is not an overstatement. These trends have radically changed Sprouts’ approach to marketing and driven us to pursue a oneto- one, content-driven strategy.

"Successful Marketers of today will offer personalized experience that remains authentic to the brand"

Weekly printed advertising is still our primary vehicle to communicate our pricing message to our customer base, but there is definitely a shift occurring in what I call the slider bar effect–taking print to digital. It’s the speed of change that can be absorbed by our customers that determines how fast this shift takes place.

Well, June no longer sits down every Wednesday when the newspaper comes out and writes her shopping list by hand from that week’s specials. She, and others who are very different from her, now manage household or individual budgets, meal plans and digital shopping lists on their mobile devices. She no longer relies exclusively on her favorite cookbook for nutritional information and cooking tips.

Instead, millions of individual consumers expertly synthesize a staggering amount of data, recipes and opinions from blogs, Pinterest, magazines read on iPads and recipe cards distributed at grocery stores (to name a few). Our goal at Sprouts is to offer all consumers the tailored information and communication they want from us–and this may be very different from the information other Sprouts’ shoppers receive. The successful marketers of today will offer a personalized experience for consumers that remains authentic to the brand – and Sprouts is proud to be a pioneer in this approach!

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