Macy's transformation

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Martine Reardon, CMO of Macy's
Martine Reardon, CMO of Macy's

This spring, Macy's will begin a $400 million renovation of its flagship Herald Square store in New York City. Touted as the largest store renovation in U.S. history, the transformation reflects where Macy's marketing is headed as a whole, with the company eagerly embracing the possibilities of new technology, while carefully preserving the elements that made it an icon in the first place.

In just the past three years, Macy's has made major changes in how it approaches its marketing, reorganizing its marketing department, putting a greater emphasis on local targeting, while aggressively incorporating mobile, social and e-commerce into its  channel mix.

“There's a famous quote from Mayor Michael Bloomberg that, ‘If you have not been to Macy's, you have not been to New York,'” says Martine Reardon, CMO of Macy's. “There is a halo effect on this building that permeates out to all of our other locations.”

The retailer has also recently made a number of executive moves, with Reardon taking over as CMO at the beginning of February. She assumes the role from Peter Sachse, who moved into the position of chief stores officer after Ron Klein retired from that position. Prior to her new role, Reardon had served as EVP of marketing and advertising, having risen through the ranks at Federated Department Stores and Macy's Inc.

Macy's many bold choices seem to have paid off. The company's revenue has increased for four straight quarters, with a 5.5% increase in its most recent earnings report, and with consistently strong monthly same-store sales numbers.

The Herald Square makeover is the latest in the company's ambitious plans and the most tangible demonstration of how the brand will balance fast-changing technology, while showcasing its 154-year history.

Among the innovations underway are interactive store directories that allow visitors to find what it is they are seeking, an enhanced signage system and digital product information. Live video feeds of Macy's events throughout the country will be broadcast in-store. Customers will be able to download a mobile app, which they can use to guide them through the landmark.

“Technology is a big focus for us,” Macy's CEO Terry Lundgren said during a press preview of the renovation plans last November. These updates are partly a play to get younger shoppers into the store, with Lundgren adding that, “We're focusing on millennials because they're huge.”

Indeed, a new Impulse apparel and accessories department, targeted toward 13- to 30-year-old shoppers, will also be part of the transformation. The upgrades, which will continue in phases through the fall of 2015, will also include a 100,000-square-foot expansion of the store's selling space, a new hall of luxury brands and the creation of the world's largest women's shoe department, which will feature as many as 300,000 pairs of shoes on any given day. The new shoe department will be accompanied by a special shoe locator system.

While the renovation marks an ambitious effort to bring mobile and location-based marketing into the Macy's experience, the company has already been innovative in its use of the new technology in recent years. Macy's was one of the first stores to partner with the Shopkick app, offering rewards and offers to its customers for walking into the store. Last September it became an early adopter of the Google Wallet payment system.

Last spring, the retailer introduced Backstage Pass, which integrated Quick Response (QR) codes into in-store promotions as well as print and online. A store guest can snap a code and get a 30-second video of Tommy Hilfiger talking about spring fashion trends, or Carlos Santana playing guitar (while also promoting his new line of shoes and handbags). Sean “Diddy” Combs, Martha Stewart, Kenneth Cole and Rachel Roy are other style mavens that visitors can access.

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