CMO of the Week: Anthropologie's Elizabeth Preis

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Elizabeth Preis, chief marketing officer at Urban Outfitters’ Anthropologie, knows that customers love the store. 

Elizabeth Preis, global chief marketing officer at URBN’s Anthropologie Group, knows that customers love the store.

“When I joined this brand almost four years ago and got around to updating my LinkedIn profile, I was absolutely positively floored by the number of unsolicited people I did not know who actively spent the time and energy to comment on my post saying this is my favorite brand of all time,” says Preis. “For a marketer, that is probably as close to perfection as you can ever ask when you want to think about joining a brand. There is already this inherent love of the brand that is this far and wide.”

In her role as global chief marketing officer, Preis works on everything from brand activations. visual marketing, social marketing, performance marketing, customer insights and analytics, PR and events. She is focused on building brand love into local levels, and creating the “oohs and aahs” of the brand experience no matter what channel she is working in.

The brand recently opened a Holiday Showhouse in collaboration with Pinterest. Together, the brands created a fully shoppable home outfitted with fall furniture and seasonal decor from Anthropologie and Terrain, inspired by Pinterest holiday trends. The home will be shoppable through Pinterest QR codes outfitted in every room driving to shoppable boards on Anthropologie's Pinterest profile. The idea is to build connections with the community around the holiday season.

“One thing about holidays that I don't think is going away anytime soon is that it is an exceptionally emotional time of the year,” explains Preis. “It's joyful. It's exciting. It's pulling at the heartstrings around family and all the things that make me feel good. That group is perfectly aligned with what people think Anthropologie is: happy and emotional. There's a wow element whenever you walk by a store during the holiday time. I have no doubt it will still be a wow moment this year as well.”

Brand Innovators caught up with Preis to talk innovation, retail experience and holiday. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Can you talk about how you're thinking about innovation as a brand?

We pride ourselves on one of our core values being creativity. Creativity and innovation go hand in hand. 

We think of innovation in our digital first mindset - Everything from what channels we use, which partners we align with, influencers, content creators, and even how AI impacts our marketing programming. For example, we were one of the first partners that Google chose to work with as part of the beta test earlier this year, to leverage smart technology to highlight differentiated ads based on the customer who was receiving it. To showcase ads curated for that specific individual based on their preferences, size and more. 

Who is your target audience and what channels are you using to reach them?

One of our goals this year is to make sure that we are acquiring more new customers to the brand. We are very lucky that we have a brand that people truly love. As many loyal customers as we have – and we have many, many millions of them– we also have the opportunity to bring many more customers to the brand. Over the last year or so, one of our big initiatives has been making sure that we can reach new customers and invite more new customers to the brand without alienating our current customer. Thinking about where those customers are, is first and foremost. 

Historically we have always had a panel of customers that we ask questions to on a regular basis. And while we still do that, we also wanted to understand the person who is not one of our loyal customers. It is important for us to look at the panel of people who are new to the brand, so that we can understand what they care about, what they want to see, and how we can better serve them as well.  

How are you balancing engaging your loyal customers to help with acquisition?

In this industry, the power of recommendation is so important. If a friend says, Oh my God, I tried a great new restaurant or I have to try a great sweater or I just watched this movie you have to see, that is far and away the most powerful way to build your brand. What's trickier in this business is that recommendations now come in the form of an Instagram post or something you see on social media from an influencer or content creator. This notion of getting recommendations from people and trust is still powerful, but that audience is very different than it was five or 10 years ago.

Can you talk about how you're thinking about the retail experience and telling your story through the physical locations?

Our stores are very important to us. They are part of our brand equity. People say over and over, “I remember the very first time I went to the store.” That emotional connection with the customer is incredibly powerful, and one that we never want to underestimate. It's important. Every single person in the organization, no matter what function they work on, realizes the importance of our stores. Everything from what our stores look like, to how they feel, how they are staffed, what their displays are, what is in the windows, how the product is merchandised. All those things are how we are showing up to the customer. And my job as CMO, is trying to make sure that experience you find in store is consistent with the type of experience you find online.

While the sensorial experience of going into a store may be different, we can still evoke the priorities digitally –the trends, the messages, the styling– all that should and does stay consistent online and in store. One of the things we very much prioritize here is making sure we show up consistently for the customer across all the touchpoints. We want to make sure that where they are seeing our brand, whether that be on social, earned media, paid advertising, signage, anywhere, that it has a coherent, and of course, inspiring, look and feel across all channels. 

Can you talk about how your past experiences at brands such as Saks Fifth Avenue, J Crew and Estee Lauder helped shape your perspective in your current role?

In beauty, you're launching products that you hope are going to be franchises. You have the intention that that product is going to stay on your line for way more than four months. We’re thinking very strategically about the product, the style, the formulation, the colors, everything, and thinking about how you can market that product and create connections with both the customers you have, and the customers that you want. 

You also must be very thoughtful in what you bring to market because you do know that whatever content you produce will need to live for several months. As a result, you need to make sure that you're thinking through the essence, the selling plan, the selling strategy, and marketing support.

Can you talk about how inflation is impacting your consumer and what that means for your brand?

Inflation is definitely the highest rate we've seen in a number of years and that definitely puts pressure on customers, on us all. Our goal is to make sure we are holding true to our core customer, our active loyal customer. We are always listening to what they are telling us and we just make sure we have a price range they can feel excited about because we know that makes a big difference. 

How are you thinking about holiday?

One of the things that we always think about is how do we make our brand as welcoming as possible? How do we make the experience in stores and online as friction free as possible? Everything from easy checkout, both in stores and online. How do we make that happen? How do we make sure that we're showing up with enough consistent messaging and frequency, so that we can really excite and attract a new consumer to the brand? We always say that we feel the true magic of our brand comes to life during the holidays, and we cannot wait to highlight everything from new partnerships, to exciting product collaborations, experiences for our customers and more this holiday season.

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