Rise of the machines: Mitre 10's Dave Elliott on DIY going digital

  • Horse's Mouth
  • April 15, 2015
  • StopPress Team
Rise of the machines: Mitre 10's Dave Elliott on DIY going digital

Through its ongoing ‘Easy As’ campaign, Mitre 10 has shown that the Kiwi appetite for DIY extends beyond home renovation TV shows. In September 2013, the first phase of the intiative, which consisted of 27 clips, reached one million YouTube views. But general manager of marketing Dave Elliott says that this is only small part of what underpins the company’s digital strategy.

On digital advertising

“Advertising is very important for us in terms of driving traffic to our stores, so therefore our advertising activities need to be effective in achieving that. And retailing is a response to culture. So, if you couple those two things together, you kind of see that we need to adapt and speak to customers where they are in an effective way. And, without a doubt, more and more people are moving online through their digital devices. It’s even got to the stage now that people don’t need Wi-Fi when they go to a store because they’ve got enough data and a great connection. That’s just a signal of how much things have changed. As a retailer we’ve had to respond to that cultural change.” 

On increased connectivity

“It used to be the case that you wouldn’t visit websites on your phone, because it would cost you nine dollars for the page to download, but now you don’t even worry about it. It’s becoming more available, cheaper and easier to accomplish, so people are doing more of it, and we’ve noticed that in terms of our web traffic. Everybody is using search and websites to find stores to look at products just to try and save themselves time and make their task easier.”

On the consumer journey

“We engage with customers in a home improvement cycle. It starts off with customers getting inspired to do something. Then, they’re looking for some information in terms of what they’ll need and how they should go about doing it, and that’s where the ‘Easy As’ videos come in. Next, they move onto the stage where they do the shopping of the items, materials and tools they’ll need. And then they get stuck into it, and they might need a little help again, before finally lying down on lawn that they’ve sown and mowed for the first time. It’s a matter of a brand being there right through that journey, and the online videos play an important part in giving them that information. More and more people are [relying on online videos]. You might’ve heard that the internet will have to double in size by 2017 just to accommodate the growth in YouTube, and you kind of see that that’s where people are heading.” 

On the continued relevance of TV

“Despite everything, television remains the cheapest place to accumulate an audience. Television is all about reach in terms of how it fits into the media mix of an advertising plan. But, I would venture to say that retailers like Briscoes, for example, survive on the fact that television is very affordable in New Zealand. It just couldn’t afford to exist with this kind of format somewhere like California, where the cost of television is very expensive. Relatively cheap television access in New Zealand has led to some differences in our market when compared to others, but that’s just the way things go around geography, population and technological advances.” 

On the changing face of PR

These days we have a specialist agency, Socialites, looking after social media for us. In terms of public relations, we’ve taken a very different approach, because through social media you have the ability to speak directly to customers; you don’t have to necessarily rely on newspapers to relay what you’re saying. That said, there is still an important role for PR, although the approach is very different. We’re also focusing on upskilling and keeping people moving, because whatever you learnt a year ago has moved on now anyhow. For example, the rules on Facebook in terms of organic reach or on Google analytics change, and we have to keep up with these things.”

On responding in real time

“We have four screens up in our office here, which show: social media and what’s being said right now in real time; how many people have entered our ‘win a Toyota’ competition; what they’re searching for online; and which videos they’re watching. This way we can keep track of which products are going to be in demand this week, then we can react to that through social media, on our website or wherever. We’re really responding to what people are doing, and we can see the effects of what we’re doing. So, if we put a banner on a website that advertises swimming pools, we can see if people are going online and looking at swimming pools. This has also saved our bacon a few times. When we’ve seen things coming through on Facebook, we’re able to climb on there and provide information that’s helpful. It’s just a matter of being responsive.”

Electric blanket, panel heater, micathermic, or column heater? Which would you choose to snap the cold away? Tell us in...

Posted by Mitre 10 New Zealand on Monday, 13 April 2015

On the shift from traditional media

"Traditional media still exists, but it’s not used so much. So, for example, we’ve gone from 62 press insertions a year down to 22. And instead we’re doing much more activity on the digital front on Stuff or the Herald. That’s how things are changing, and we as an organisation just need to adapt. [At Mitre 10,] there’s been a 20 to 30 percent shift in ad spend from traditional media to search engine marketing, SEO, YouTube, pre-rolls and display. All those areas are just so powerful now.”

On the rise of direct

“The other change, of course, is that marketers like Mitre 10 are engaging more in direct, either through Facebook or within our own database through email. And that’s just a great way to personalise offers based on people’s activities so it’s more rewarding to them to get that communication and just more engaging in total. So that’s another big growth area that’s replaced broadcast media. There’s that famous quote that says 50 percent of marketing spend is wasted but we don’t know which half. Now, the good thing about direct is that it’s measurable, so you can really tell whether what you’re doing is effective and giving you a return.”

On using Spotify

“We launched one of our proprietary brands, Number 8, last year on Spotify. We also had radio, but it was largely on digital, and there was no TV involved. It was aimed at a younger audience around the proposition, ‘Hey, you don’t have to borrow tools anymore. Now, you can buy your own.’ So that was 100 percent through new channels, and it was very successful for us. At the end of the day, all you’re trying to do is accumulate the right audience at the right cost, and then you get a return on investment.”  

On tracking campaigns

“There are all of these numbers and you don’t know which ones to watch and which ones actually mean something. A lot of these numbers can be comforting, but they don’t necessarily result in cut-through. But that’s the same with television advertising, if you think about it … It’s just a matter of putting something through the channel and then asking: ‘what’s the effect of it? What’s the change of awareness? Or what activation do I actually see? As with all media, it’s a matter of really having a data capability to connect media through to customer attitudes or activation in a way that’s statistically grounded. People can come up with whatever numbers they like, but it’s always a case of the marketer coming back to the objective data to discern whether or not you’re achieving your results. We put our media through a process whereby we’re able to isolate the effectiveness of our catalogues, newspapers or television. And we can categorise that regionally and we can see how many gains were effected. We take a fairly objective approach to how we procure media and then follow that up with measurement.”         

On the awkwardness of digital

“I think the noticeable thing is that digital ain’t cheap, and that’s a big challenge for the marketing industry. I can change the details on a press ad days later than I can do it digitally. And the cost and expense of creating and placing that is just enormous. The mechanics to execute digital—both from a creation and placement perspective—are horrible. They’re really quite crude and awkward compared to traditional media, which is also a lot cheaper. This is one area that’s eating up a lot of budget. We’re all looking at how agencies, brands and media owners can make this more cost-effective and efficient. At the moment the system is clunky, and there’s quite a lot to be tested before anything goes live. The way that third-party digital is placed at the moment, it actually takes longer to make a change than it would in traditional media products from the same owner.”    

On heads of digital

“We’ve had a head of digital for a few years in Mike Giles, who led our digital strategy and progress to develop a responsive website that works as well on mobile as it does on desktop. Now, Mike has moved into a marketing operations role, where he now serves as the head of omni-channel, looking over the business overall. I think that digital is just becoming everybody’s job, however digital is also about technology—and technology is always changing, so I think you’re always going to need someone up there who keeps an eye on what’s changing …  It’s not necessarily about digital, but it’s about ongoing technological change. And, as marketers, our response to how we use that. It’s important to adopt things early in certain areas otherwise you’re going miss out. This isn’t necessarily just about digital and the internet, so you might look at [the head of digital] as a position focused on the future.” 

  • This interview was originally published in the March/April edition of NZ Marketing. 
  • Click here to see more stories in this series. 

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