At a recent Zenith-sponsored roundtable, comms experts discussed how brands and agencies are providing customers with seamless, high-value experiences.


  • Kelly Kavanagh, U.S. commerce media director, GSK
  • Sarah Henry, VP, content, influencer and commerce, Walmart
  • Jeremy Lockhorn, head of global innovation, Ericsson Emodo
  • Colleen Hotchkiss, EVP, MD, executive sponsor, commerce, Zenith
  • Jason Goldberg, chief commerce strategy officer, Publicis Groupe
  • Keith Soljacich, head of innovation, Publicis Media
  • Heather Sparks, SVP, content, Zenith
  • Alison Weissbrot, editor, Campaign US, moderator

Marketers who best understand what their customers want can meet consumers where they are and provide them with a seamless, high-value experience. During a recent panel discussion, sponsored by Zenith and Campaign, a group of comms experts discussed the opportunities that exist at the intersection of content and commerce.

Colleen Hotchkiss, EVP, MD and executive sponsor, commerce, Zenith, said brands and agencies are increasingly looking for new ways to provide customers with seamless, immersive experiences. Jeremy Lockhorn, head of global innovation, Ericsson Emodo, agrees: “It’s less about driving people from somewhere to something and more about taking your content, commerce or message to them wherever they already are,” he said.

“Digital transformation is changing what’s possible,” said Lockhorn. “Immersive, creative and augmented reality content are enabling brands to interact with consumers in profoundly new ways. It’s flattening the funnel so there’s just a few clicks from awareness to purchase. As technologies emerge for new types of immersive environments, there’s less opportunity for interrupting. It’s a more integrated experience that can lead to commerce or other types of KPIs.”

Panelists gave a few examples of how seamless experiences can drive sales. When Lockhorn worked with client The Broadway League to celebrate the reopening and invite people back to Broadway theaters, Ericsson Emodo developed and augmented reality experience that transported users into a virtual “Show Globe” to explore shows, hear greetings from performers, share the experience with a friend and buy tickets to a show.

Hotchkiss partnered with Coty on a product launch for Sally Hansen Miracle Gel during the pandemic when consumers could not be in stores. Using Snap’s augmented reality technology, consumers were able to virtually try on the different nail polish colors and a shoppable link led them to purchase.

Keith Soljacich, head of innovation, Publicis Media, believes that over the next few years brands will be utilizing artificial intelligence to create highly personalized, on-demand, one-to-one content.

Participants overwhelmingly agreed that the importance of influencers is on the rise and pointed to the growth of influencer-generated digital sales in China as a harbinger of where the future is headed in the U.S.

Sarah Henry, VP, content, influencer and commerce, Walmart, said her team is currently creating ways to eliminate steps along the consumer journey in the food and grocery category, among others. “Meal planning is a lengthy, universal challenge. We’re actively building customer experiences that make it easy to find recipe inspiration that fits shoppers’ needs and budgets, and enables them to seamlessly shop through one-click add to cart technology,” she said.

Participants talked about diving into opportunity early by building content platforms in this complex and complicated environment. They stressed the importance of testing and counseled comms pros to allow themselves to make mistakes along the way.

Soljacich said his agency has “heard it loud and clear from the market” that brands want to be educated on how to position themselves for success in this arena. “That entire vertical is going to look very different than it looks like right now. We’re developing collaboration programs between our agencies and clients to share that journey together,” he said.

“We’re testing new ways of audience targeting and personalizing messaging so we can drive not only our returns on investment, but the overall effectiveness of what we’re doing to connect consumers,” said Kelly Kavanagh, U.S. commerce media director, GSK. “We’re challenging the brand teams to try something new. It’s easy to say we’re not at a tipping point, it’s too expensive to try something. It’s critical to recognize it as a learning experience versus an ROI driver and give ourselves freedom to fail, which isn’t always easy, especially as we’re potentially entering a recession.”

Jason Goldberg, chief commerce strategy officer, Publicis Groupe, cited a study from Deloitte that highlighted the importance of innovating during a recession. “The companies that grew the fastest were companies that were able to invest in innovation during a recession, because so many of their peers pulled back,” he said.

Panelists agreed that finding ways to measure these experiences makes the C-suite more comfortable investing in innovation.

Kavanagh said her team has established key metrics to ensure effective measurement of results. “We make sure that everything we’re doing is laddering up to the broader business challenges along with our digital analytics and measurement teams to have the right consistent framework for how we’re thinking about performance,” she said.

“If you think about the metrics, it might not be an immediate return on ROI. But attracting that new consumer who, three years from now, is going to become part of your base, that’s important. Balancing the short- and long-term return is what will be key to success,” said Hotchkiss.

Goldberg noted the value of evolving clients from click attribution to a multi touch attribution model. “These impressions are way more valuable. If you move to an LTV (customer lifetime value) mode you can start measuring true incrementality instead of just attribution. It makes you a much more savvy investor in the marketing budget,” he said.

Henry said that Walmart’s influencer affiliates program has grown significantly and ranges from micro- and niche- content creators to mega influencers across several categories, including food, home, fashion and beyond. “These are relatable voices with highly engaged communities, who are organically incorporating Walmart products and services into their everyday routines. We’re seeing effectiveness in influencers not only driving customer orders and sales, but also creating moments of consideration.”

As technology evolves to become more immersive, panelists talked about the need to meet customers in 3-D in the metaverse. “It’s a great time to start thinking about that right now,” said Soljacich. “There are considerations to start thinking about as we move into the next phase to enable that type of behavior. Do they have an AI or virtual digital assistant that enables them to communicate with customers in real time in immersive spaces?”

“As consumers spend more time in these immersive virtual worlds and gaming platforms, they want to signal the same things in the virtual world and that drives more value for luxury signaling rates. The concept of ownership is going to be quite interesting,” said Goldberg.

Luxury brands are edging into that landscape, outfitting avatars with luxury branded products. “But our other clients in categories like CPG are also experimenting here; gaming is a good example of a place where we are making this content + commerce connection,” said Hotchkiss. “The rapid evolution of the space means that testing and learning are important. We have to be ready to learn quickly, fail fast and iterate.”

Published by Campaign

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