Meet the Marketer: Henry Ferris

In this ongoing series, we're chatting with our customers to learn more about the different ways they are using customer data to drive growth. Henry Ferris is the Director of Marketing at VENUS Fashion, the Florida-based retailer that pioneered "mix and match" in swimwear.

Hi Henry. We're interested to hear what made you want to become a marketer?

Believe it or not, it was the way companies used their logos on race cars!

What’s one funny marketing mistake you made early on in your career?

In my very first role in marketing I was responsible for very tactical elements. One time I had just finished putting up an inflatable at an event when a freak wind storm blew through. The inflatable quickly took on the qualities of a Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon and sailed over the event and ended up in a parking lot about a mile away! The fact that the local newspaper caught a photo if it flying away and published it the next day was just icing on the cake!

We are seeing more and more companies use their first-party CRM data to improve ad-targeting. Are you already leveraging data to make Venus's ads more relevant? Is it working?

As primarily an online retailer, it has been important for us to constantly improve our online ad targeting. Currently we are leveraging data to better target ads to both current and prospective customers with partners such as Google and Facebook with positive results.

Personalization tech is only as good as the tremendous amount of resources which may need to be put behind it.


Henry likes...

  • Working at the "speed of retail" (starting with planning but making necessary changes on the fly!)
  • Working to break down silos and create marketing programs that are fully cross-functional across the organization
  • The Atlanta Braves

Henry dislikes...

  • Getting important information piece-by-piece
  • Analysis without proactive recommendation
  • The New England Patriots

One-to-one personalization has dominated retail marketing vernacular for years. It’s fed by a large number of technology vendors promising to deliver an elusive experience so differentiated and personal your customers won’t be able to help themselves from adding items to their cart. What does marketing personalization mean for your business? Do you think 1-to-1 personalization technology really delivers on its promise?

Retail is light-years ahead of where we were just five years ago as far as personalization marketing to customers. It used to be that “personalization” meant talking to a smaller group with similar interests. Now we have the opportunity to reach directly out to customers and connect with them individually, with messaging that is relevant to them, and therefore more likely to create a positive and ongoing relationship. Unfortunately, having the opportunity is not always the same as having the ability. With more personalization comes the need for more creative, more versioning, more scripts for the customer service teams, etc. Consequently, the personalization technology is only as good as the tremendous amount of resources which may need to be put behind it.

How are you using segmentation today? Do you think segmentation still matters?

Segmentation has been, and continues to be, an important part of our marketing efforts. This is especially true in our Direct Mail marketing, as it allows us to be more efficient with our spending and more effective with our sales results. Like many retailers, we used to look at segmentation based solely on the last time someone bought, and how much they spent. Now, we utilize much more information to create “better” segments, including CLV, Online / Offline buyers, AOV, etc.

Now, we utilize much more information to create “better” segments, including CLV, Online / Offline buyers, AOV, etc.

At Custora, we often talk about two big challenges retail marketers face: “smarketing” and “farketing.” With “smarketing,” you’d like to do smarter marketing but you struggle to extract customer insights from your data. With “farketing,” you have great insights, but there’s too much friction in the the marketing department to turn your insights into actionable campaigns. Would you say you have more of a smarketing (trouble extracting value from data) or farketing (great insights, but too much friction) problem? Why?

Depending on the timing, either one of these terms can be an issue at VENUS. As an online and traditional direct retailer, collecting customer data comes with every order. That being said, it has taken us a while to extract the right customer insights from our data, and our partnership with Custora has definitely helped in this regard. Consequently, for our current efforts, we find we have some friction in coordinating campaigns around some of the traditional marketing elements that we have been doing. Furthermore, as the best marketing programs are done cross-functionally, it often takes time to make the necessary strategic changes throughout the organization that lead to a successful campaign.

What marketing initiative or campaign were you (or are you) most excited about? It can be something VENUS is driving or an inspiring approach from another brand.

While we have a number of new marketing initiatives being implemented at VENUS, one of the most exciting ones for me is our upcoming program aimed at discount sensitivity. As a marketing team, our goal must be to maximize both sales AND profit, the opportunity to find ways that allow us to incentivize only those that need it through promotions is something I look forward to!!

As the world of marketing becomes more and more automated, templated, machine based, predictive, dynamic and data-driven, how do you see the role of the marketer evolving? What advice would you give young people looking to become our next generation of marketers?

While analytics and automation become more prevalent in today’s world it will always be important for the marketer to think like a customer. Too often we get caught up in what we can do versus what the customer actually wants, and it is the responsibility of the marketing team to act as a representative of the customer, especially if it means playing devil’s advocate against a business decision. Additionally, I have never seen a marketing campaign succeed without the buy-in and support of other departments within the organization, such as Merchandising and Operations. I have always seen it as the responsibility of the marketing team to break down silos and serve as the hub of the wheel in coordinating all departments to execute a successful program.

Too often we get caught up in what we can do versus what the customer actually wants, and it is the responsibility of the marketing team to act as a representative of the customer, especially if it means playing devil’s advocate against a business decision.

What is one technology or trend emerging today that has the potential to fundamentally change how we approach marketing?

Technology in marketing (and in everyday life for that matter) is changing so quickly, that there will probably be something new and better by the time I finish this interview! New technology, however, is not always a good thing. I believe the technology / trend that most affects marketing today is that people are getting away from television to different platforms that are specific to just their interests. It may be content online, it may be buying only specific programming, it may be “binge watching”, etc. In the end, it has resulted in such a proliferation of customer touchpoints (with undoubtedly more to come) that reaching a large audience can be very difficult for marketers. 

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