5 Minutes With Paul Lewis, Senior Director of Marketing, VoucherCodes

VoucherCodes is a unique online marketplace that allows customers to purchase vouchers that can be used at retailers and food & beverage destinations around the UK. It is also claims to be a leader in multichannel retail, which is why Retail Gazette spoke to senior marketing executive Paul Lewis for this week's '5 Minutes With' profile.

Paul Lewis VoucherCodes

Tell us a bit about your responsibilities as Senior Director of Marketing at VoucherCodes?

I oversee marketing at VoucherCodes, ensuring the business continues to grow to meet the omnichannel needs of both its merchant partners and UK consumers.

I support the team to drive our traditional and online marketing plans as well as VoucherCodes’ mobile-first strategy. This includes the launch of new features to our existing mobile application.

In what ways can bricks-and-mortar retailers ensure their marketing campaigns are consistent across both “traditional” and “online” campaigns?

It’s important that marketing is consistent across channels, shoppers expect to be able to get the same promotion in-store that’s advertised online and vice-versa.

This seems obvious but a surprising number of retailers do not have a consistent marketing strategy for all of their channels.

More and more brands across the UK are working on an omnichannel approach – ensuring they can reach consumers across all touchpoints. Businesses are cottoning on to the need for a joined-up user experience, with an emphasis on creating a seamless journey for the consumer.

How is VoucherCodes addressing of the challenges facing the wider UK retail industry?

As increasing number of consumers browse online via mobile, so this creates a new challenge for bricks-and-mortar stores. We’re already working with retailers to use geo-location technology to drive value, but over the next 12 months we will see retailers add even greater functionality, mining for more intelligent data and creating more personalised options and messaging.

Another way that brands can look to maintain their position in an increasingly competitive marketplace, is by having a strategically operated voucher strategy. This approach works much better than a blanket sales strategy as it allows brands to control both their in-store and online offers, and drives people into store without having to blanket discount products.

What sort of “traditional” marketing plans does VoucherCodes have – how are they different to online marketing plans?

We are merging traditional marketing methods with digital marketing methods. Using techniques such as geo-location and innovations such as updates to our mobile app, we are driving footfall in the stores of our retailers, and also increasing their online presence. We’re all about creating a traditional marketing strategy, but in a non-traditional and innovative way.

Tell us a bit about yourself personally and your career background.

I joined VoucherCodes with over 12 years’ experience managing marketing for various online brands – often on a global scale. My early digital career began by working for a venture capital backed credit card company, Accucard, bought out by Lloyds TSB.

Afterwards, I moved to Ancestry.co.uk, where I was the third person on the UK team, responsible for building country-specific marketing channels and attracting talent. My later roles included heading up marketing teams at Moo.com and Hassle.com and working as head of acquisition marketing at Betfair.

How has your previous experience aided your current job?

As part of my role at Betfair, I drove the user acquisition strategy and at Moo.com and Hassle.com, I built successful in-house marketing teams, encompassing pay-per-click, SEO, search engine marketing, customer relationship management and content marketing. This has given me extensive knowledge across the marketing spectrum with expertise in launching new products to market in both established and start-up environments.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

Omnichannel retail is an ongoing challenge, and has become an increasingly prominent part of my work in recent years.

Businesses are very interested in creating an omnichannel experience, and nearly 49 per cent of major retailers in the UK consider it best practice to invest in both the physical and digital shopping experience. At VoucherCodes we try and help retailers to achieve this balance.

The main challenge with omnichannel though, is effective communication – not only between businesses but within a company itself. Businesses are often guilty of not communicating enough between the on and offline teams, and part of our challenge is how we change this behaviour.

Another obstacle that we encounter is that there are some retailers who just aren’t bought into omnichannel yet. Big retailers often understand that they need to update their approach but this is an arduous task, so helping them understand the benefits, showing them the data and the value of an omni-channel offer, is of vital importance.

And the most rewarding?

As cheesy as it sounds, I’m at my happiest when I’m with my team and I can see them growing in their roles. Seeing the results of the team’s hard work translating into successful campaigns for our retailers and customers is rewarding. It’s always great to see the fruits of your labour, and when this hard work equals happy customers I feel very lucky to have such a strong team.

What advice would you give someone who is considering embarking on a career in retail?

First and foremost, make sure that you love retail – it’s important that you have a real passion about what you do. It goes without saying that the retail sector is highly unpredictable, and this unpredictability about the future is the biggest concern for 65 per cent of UK retailers.

You’ll also need the creativity and vision to excel at it, on top of a real willingness to learn – the skills required for careers in retail can be learnt on the job, but with the ever-changing retail landscape, these skills are shifting and expanding all the time.

From a marketing perspective, you might need to be wearing multiple hats dealing with traditional forms of marketing as well as new emerging forms, so the ability to try your hand at many things will be very beneficial.

What would you say is the biggest risk for the retail sector, given the current climate?

When thinking about the most difficult challenges facing the retail industry, I continue to come back to customer expectations as a key business challenge. Nowadays customers expect a consistent experience across all channels, no matter where or how they are shopping. It doesn’t matter whether they are browsing or shopping online or offline, consumers expect a seamless, integrated proposition.

This creates a real challenge for traditional single channel retailers who are under pressure to adapt. With the rise of social media, all consumers have a powerful voice with a potentially worldwide reach and it can take just one complaint to take a brand down.

Not adapting to trends, particularly the latest updates in technology is a huge risk for brands. However, businesses need to invest in relevant technology to make sure it is targeted to their business needs and benefitting their bottom line. There is a multitude of technology currently available, however, when you boil it down, the most important piece of technology that has revolutionised marketing and how we engage with consumers is the mobile phone.

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