Skullcandy taps ‘passionate’ experts to educate associates and customers alike

This article was published in the August 2016 issue of STORES Magazine.

While traditional marketing and advertising still dominate the promotional efforts of retailers and brands, digital and social media is coming on strong, especially with younger consumers. These tech-savvy, information-addicted shoppers have changed the marketing landscape — and the process and data required to help them make a buying decision.

In 2015 branding firm Experticity released a study showing a disconnect between marketers and consumers in terms of what influences purchasing decisions. The study showed that 83 percent of marketers think that traditional advertising is the most effective in influencing buying decisions, yet only 47 percent of consumers trust brand advertising.

72 percent of consumers ranked family or friends as their most trusted sources when making a buying decision, tied with online reviews.

Source: Experticity

The study also showed that the majority of consumers (72 percent) ranked family or friends as their most trusted sources when making a buying decision, tied with online reviews; third-party experts came in at 61 percent.

“The essential challenge for retailers and brands today is trying to keep up with the ever-changing consumer decision journey,” says Dennis O’Malley, chief customer officer at Experticity. “The new customer journey is ‘always on’ and has dozens of different touchpoints. Retailers and brands see it as almost impossible to stay in front of their consumers on their own.

“The essential challenge for the consumer is to find a trusted, relevant source of content.”

Going grassroots

To address those issues, Experticity works with more than 600 companies such as Garmin, Under Armour and Purina to enhance customer engagement through education and creating a passion for the category and brand.

One of Experticity’s clients is Skullcandy, a manufacturer and online retailer of headphones, earbuds and Bluetooth speakers. These products are designed to be used in sports and other active lifestyle scenarios across a number of different demographics.

Skullcandy was conceived while founder Rick Alden was riding a chairlift during a snowboarding trip. After needing to switch earbuds from his music player to his phone to make calls, he saw the need for headphones that can seamlessly switch from music to phone.

Alden “realized that people on the slopes wanted to have an experience with a lot of style and enjoy themselves,” says Diego Nunez, Skullcandy’s senior director of digital marketing and e-commerce. “At that time headphones lacked personality and passion, and he wanted to bring better technology, color and expression to a functional and plain scenario.”

Nunez is responsible for the company’s entire digital ecosystem, the online business and for supporting retail partners by having the right promotions with the right products. He also has responsibility for customer service and reviews.

“We offer very good and broad demographics … women, men, the sports and music cultures all over the world, and we are the number one most preferred brand by units and the most preferred by Millennials and Gen Zs, which are our core,” Nunez says. “We provide quality in an accessible and available way in various price points and style and cross many categories.”

Skullcandy had a need to reach customers at the “grassroots” level; the sheer size of Experticity’s influencers both online and offline provided the opportunity to engage in real conversations with customers about what products to buy.

“We were able to broaden our reach in an authentic way without having to pay influencers for endorsements.”

Diego Nunez

“A lot of consumers don’t trust traditional advertising methods anymore, and we wanted to find a way to reach new and existing customers in an authentic way,” Nunez says. “Since Experticity has such a large network of experts that are unpaid, they have been a natural fit for what we’re after.

“This enabled us to reach people who are selling our product in-store, where a lot of really crucial buying conversations are taking place, as well as on social media,” he says. “We were able to broaden our reach in an authentic way without having to pay influencers for endorsements.”

Incentivizing influencers

O’Malley points out that in many instances, brand field representatives don’t see retail associates on a regular schedule to keep them up to speed on new products and innovations. This is where Experticity comes in.

“We make sure that the person is knowledgeable and has first-hand experience with a brand or a product to the point where if a customer comes in asking for something, that person has the credibility, knowledge and passion to fuel the purchase of that brand’s products at the point of sale,” he says.

“We help them make the conversations better by helping the associate to apply brand content and information and make better recommendations based on customer needs.”

Content from Experticity gives employees insider information and access, O’Malley says, providing associates “greater confidence in dealing with customers who have really done their research.”

One of the ways Experticity provides this service is through a program called “3point5.” Named for the optimal distance — 3.5 feet — between two people in a one-on-one conversation, it trains retail sales associates through an online educational gaming format. When a sales person completes an educational module, he is rewarded with free or discounted products from sponsoring brands.

The “reaching out and touching someone” part of the program is the ProMotive platform, an online marketplace for experts with significant personal and professional industry influence. According to its website, these Experticity “influencers” number more than 2 million in 78,000 retail locations and 4,000 organizations. They enjoy incentives that include product offers, discounts and samples, and also receive insider knowledge and information that pertain to their category and interest.

O’Malley says these are the people that live, breathe and are passionate about their categories, having online and social conversations and posting content on the topic and products.

“We are seeing more emerging online influences on social media. They are the ‘magic middle’ and they are creating content, always talking about their ventures and capturing thousands of followers,” he says.

Experticity also offers ReadyPulse, a digital platform with tools that allow brands to capitalize on social influence and create connections and engage audiences through earned and owned content. It even allows for measurement and ranking/scoring.

Using ReadyPulse, Skullcandy made its Instagram accounts “shoppable and were able to display shoppable, user-generated content on our e-commerce site to drive traffic, conversion and sales,” Nunez says.

“We saw a significant increase in transactions made within the first 30 days of displaying shoppable user-generated content on our homepage, and a three-times lift in e-commerce revenue attributed to that Instagram content.”