I sat down with Emily Culp, the CMO of Keds, to get her take on the state of e-commerce marketing and how she's adapted her own strategy to account for shrinking attention spans.

How did you get into marketing?

From my early days at college, I wasn't immediately interested in going into marketing. I have always been, however, fascinated by people and am intensely curious in both a qualitative and quantitative way. I was torn between going into the financial analyst track and the new discipline of interactive marketing--which was described to me as this pioneering way to reach consumers and do things that hadn't been imagined before. I ended up taking the latter path--my first job was in interactive marketing. That fed perfectly into my curious stream, and, frankly, meant I could do what I liked. I learned to code, got exposed to design, and fell in love with interactive brand marketing. I stumbled into this group that said, "We should do something with this digital thing." And from there, I've never had a job description, and I'm happy with that.

While I might not have started off in marketing immediately, I absolutely love what I do now. I love metrics and data, but I love the creative side as well.

As the CMO, what are the most important metrics you track?

It's everything from making sure we are closely monitoring our market share to e-commerce revenue growth and database growth in CRM metrics. Some are more qualitative, however, such as brand awareness and sentiment scores. Another one that's important and a little softer is social-media engagement. I am not into the social-media arms race--not fixated on the number of fans or followers we have--but rather the engagement level we have with each of them. One additional one I would add is editorial coverage--the way I do that is not being fixated on impressions but more on the quality and relevance to the target consumer.

Who would you define as the persona for your target consumer?

I love talking about our consumer. That's why we do what we do. She's the most important person. In my mind, it's more of a psychographic than demographic persona--a woman who really does value what our brand stands for, in terms of female empowerment, who believes she's leading an interesting and multifaceted life. She could be starting her first job, backpacking through Europe, or becoming a mom.

We're also continuing to work with Taylor Swift. She embodies exactly what we're talking about with female empowerment. Her career trajectory has been off the charts in the last three years. And her style and values, in terms of our psychographic focus, really aligns with the brand.

What are some of the biggest challenges that you feel the industry faces?

One that continues to be a challenge is when you're doing omni-channel marketing. It's that delicate balance of extracting the right data, being able to view it in a holistic way, and finding patterns and insights, and only then effectively being able to act upon those patterns and insights. In order to be a phenomenal brand, it's very important to understand their decision-making journey. If a consumer is contemplating Keds, do they go to social first? Or do they want to know if it's true to their size? We pick up a pattern, we find the entry point, and then have to find how to interact with her and show her the right content. To me, it's about really getting all of those little crumbs of data to get a better idea of how our consumers are engaging with us, so we can more effectively market to them in a valuable way.

Looking back at the last few years, within e-commerce marketing, has anything surprised you?

There have been a few surprises in social. I was mystified by Yo. To me, that's one of those moments where you think, oh man, is that going to be the next platform that goes big? But then we saw Snapchat. I love testing platforms early on, and Snapchat to me was an amazing opportunity. Understanding that the content was disposable allowed for a lot of freedom to publish content that maybe wasn't as polished but still provided value to our audience.

In terms of how consumers behave--we know how their attention span continues to drop--how does your team think about engaging consumers differently now than you did five years ago?

I think it goes back to one of my favorite stats out there: A consumer's looking at her phone upwards of 150 times a day. Nine seconds for her attention span even seems long. How I'm approaching that is honoring how our consumer is living her life. She might be oscillating from quickly glancing at a billboard, to looking at her phone throughout the day, to social media. As a marketer, it's how do you tell an amazing story with tiny chapters? It's like a double helix Rubik's cube--how do we tell the story in a compelling way that's really succinct. We do micro-videos; I'm all about having my team understand that we have nanoseconds with our consumers.

It's really about how we continue to effectively integrate content and commerce. Our consumer has a thousand different places she can buy products. So it comes down to, how can we market to her, how can we get her to use our site, how do we help her to understand the breadth of her life and wearing occasions? It's on us to create all these micro-videos, where consumers can see the 25 different ways that you can style and wear these products and feel fabulous. This trend makes the brands become publishing houses and develop an editorial style.


Emily is the CMO of Keds, a division of Wolverine Worldwide. She lives with her family outside of Boston.