MarTech Interview with Theresa McEndree, VP Marketing at Blackhawk Network

MarTech Interview with Theresa McEndree, VP Marketing at Blackhawk Network

“Millennials are more likely to be engaged with new purchasing options, such as VR shopping and pop-up stores, than older generations.”

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Could you tell us about your role and journey into Technology?

It was a happy accident! I had a public relations internship in college at a firm that worked with really exciting early stage and growth companies on everything from foldable OLED displays to emerging FinTech. That became my first job, and since then I have worked with awesome companies that are changing the way people pay and engage with commerce through technology. My current company, Blackhawk Network is shaping the future of branded payments – creating value for brands in the new payments ecosystems. It is such an invigorating time as we see new and novel mobile payments converge with physical retail and traditional payments.

As a woman in Marketing Technology, what unique challenges did you meet and overcome in this journey?

As an industry veteran and female executive, I’ve been able to forge a path in what was a historically male-dominated industry. It has been an ongoing dialog to champion the rapid changes in Marketing – and its potential impact on growth and culture –  as the industry has evolved over the years. It is not a challenge unique to me – but definitely Marketing! As a woman, I have had the great fortune of working with some amazing leaders, both female, and male that championed growth of employees regardless of gender.

At Blackhawk specifically, we empower and support female leaders. Nearly 50 percent of Blackhawk Network’s leadership positions are held by women, which is highly unusual for the industry. As a part of the leadership team, I work to nurture and carry that core value through within the teams that I oversee.

Could you tell us how Brand-Audience relationship has evolved over the last 12-18 months?

The Brand-Audience relationship continues to insist on an on-demand, personal and seamless channel experience. What we are seeing emerge is the expectation of immersive physical experience. Gen Z – our newest generation – likes both physical retail and IRL experiences, but are native technophiles. Brands are challenged to connect the traditional and physical to mobile and novel technology. They are poised to become the largest generation of consumers by as early as next year, and not only control their own spending, but the spending of their parents, grandparents and anyone else looking to shop for them.

Brands have started to look at and consider the behaviors and preferences of the next generation apart from older demographics. Those that are thriving and will continue to thrive are those actively looking for ways to overcome new challenges by creating fresh, seamless experiences to engage all of their customers across the channels they find most valuable. With the rapid improvements in technology we’ve seen even in the last year or so, there is no reason why brands shouldn’t be able to maintain an Omnichannel experience that allows consumers to easily operate in their preferred channel and shift from one channel to the next.

How Millennial behavior influence Marketing campaigns?

With digital innovations and the preferences of younger generations continuously transforming the shopping landscape, we often conduct consumer research to be able to pinpoint key differences in behavior and payment adoption across generations. Some of our most recent studies have revealed a generational divide in the way younger consumers shop, pay and engage. This inherently impacts how brands and marketers are reaching and engaging those audiences through their Marketing campaigns.

As far as millennial behavior, in particular, our research found that millennials present one of the largest opportunities for retail marketers. Millennials are more likely to be engaged with new purchasing options, such as VR shopping and pop-up stores, than older generations. The research also identified that although younger generations enjoy in-store shopping experiences, digital and mobile shopping continue to increase in popularity. Millennials and Gen Z are more likely to shop using their mobile phones and more likely to try new purchasing methods than older generations. Brands look to these unique generational insights when they are crafting Marketing campaigns, which is key in meeting and engaging younger generations wherever they are.

Why has “The State of Retail” evolved in the last 2-3 years?

We’ve seen a measurable shift in the state of retail over the past few years because consumers, technology, payments as well as commerce have dramatically evolved. Through this transformation, retailers and marketers have begun to realize that consumers actually do adapt their behaviors easily. Modern consumers are making nimble shifts to adapt to trends such as more immediate “real-time” marketing and purchase opportunities. Click to Collect, same-day delivery, the delivery ecosystem (Uber/GrubHub/Instacart) have changed the very nature of the consumer path to purchase. Companies like Ibotta have changed the way people engage with deals and cashback currency. Digital Wallets like Venmo, Alipay, and Zelle introduce new forms of payment. We have new ways to shop, purchase, pay and get deals that didn’t occupy mainstream consciousness 3 years ago.

The gig-economy has certainly shifted consumer mindset about the ease of paying via mobile for services like transportation, food, and convenience. And of course, we’ve seen a seismic consumer shift in the past decade in regard to the “review culture” where peers and influencers, and their reviews and opinions of products hold major weight in the shopping and buying experience.

That being said, our latest consumer research found that despite the growth of e-commerce and the reporting of mass brick-and-mortar closures, consumers across age groups still love shopping in-store. In fact, more retail stores have opened than shuttered in the last year. However, they are different brands, consumer propositions, and formats.

Sixty-three percent of the consumers we surveyed are purchasing in-store as often as last year. Twenty-eight percent of consumers surveyed said they are using retail stores more frequently, compared to just nine percent of shoppers who report using retail stores less often. Even with the meteoric rise of expedited shipping, brick-and-mortar shopping is meeting consumers’ needs of convenience and speed by providing the highest satisfaction out of all purchasing options and driving the greatest repeat use for retailers.

What are the unique opportunities for Omnichannel Marketing teams in retail and mobile commerce? How does Blackhawk help such marketers identify the Omnichannel goals?

Evolving payments, especially branded payments like those that we offer at Blackhawk, give brands and marketers immense opportunities to improve consumer Omnichannel experiences with their brand. Specifically, retailers are now able to seamlessly offer more nimble payment options for a more rewarding customer experience. The actual payment process is becoming more invisible, clearing a path for a more controlled and dynamic customer experience.

Today, we are focused on connecting the Mobile Payments and Digital Wallet customer to traditional retail, and consumers continued desire for cash and other traditional payment formats. Retail is Omnichannel, payments have to be Omnichannel. Creating a meaningful, branded experience across format is powerful.

Retailers need to continue to make it extremely easy for consumers to pay and move on with their day – removing barriers like remembering card or account information, streamlining the credential and authorization process to further remove those pain points that may send a consumer elsewhere.

Of course, gift cards have always done this. Digital and mobile branded payments will move even further in this direction, helping brands to move more of the structured payments process into the background, and leave consumers with a simple, hassle-free shopping experience in more places.

What do you think about the fine combination of Content Marketers, Digital Anthropologists and Data Scientists in modern retail?

It’s a combination that has proven beneficial for both retailers and consumers when executed correctly. Rather than having to rely solely on traditional demographics like age or gender to define, motivate and engage with consumers, today’s marketers have access to data collection technology and analysis that allows them to tailor experiences to the individual. Looking at shopper attitudes and buying behavior provides deeper insights that complement what marketers likely already knew about their customers based on more traditional demographics.

Consumers today demand hyper-personalized retail experiences, whether it’s targeted ads or tailored rewards and offers. Marketers can now use data and analysis to meet consumer’s demands for a tailored experience and deliver it in a way that their customers prefer.

How does all the buzz around AI ML and Automation help to sell more to retail customers?

In the last few years, AI, ML, and Automation have become a huge part of consumer’s lives – maybe without even realizing it–and changed the way many retailers conduct their business. In our instant gratification culture, consumers demand a satisfying, seamless and timely experience from retailers. In many cases, AI, Machine Learning and Automation are what is allowing retailers to deliver and take a customer’s experience to the next level.

These technologies are helping retailers do everything from reducing shipping costs to personalizing shopping experiences and improving supply chain efficiencies, which helps to keep shelves stocked. All of these things better serve customers, helping retailers move more product.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology?

Technology is a powerful enabler, and we are always hungry to see what’s next. However, it is always important to know that technology is not the answer, it’s the enabler. You always need great people, vision, and processes to deliver results.

One word that best describes how you work.


What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

Email, MAP, CRM, and a great analytics platform.

What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?

Test and learn. Marketing is never perfect.

What are you currently reading?

Currently, I have customer VOC scores, industry news and CMO benchmark reports open. I voraciously consume news, research and analyst reports that relate to our markets, customers, payments, retail, and marketing.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Hire great people and get out of their way. It’s Tina Fey quote – she didn’t tell me directly, but it resonates.

Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?

Insights-driven planning. Marketing should be the heartbeat of organizational growth and partnership with Sales, Product and the Executive team is critical.

Thank you, Theresa! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

Theresa is Vice President of Marketing at Blackhawk Network, a global financial technology company and a leader in connecting brands and people.

Theresa brings more than 15 years of B2B marketing expertise to her role overseeing product marketing, content and insights, demand generation and creative efforts for the corporation. Her marketing background is complemented by direct sales experience; prior to her current role she led the new business team at Blackhawk’s incentives division, Hawk Incentives.

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Blackhawk Network delivers branded payment solutions to retailers, corporations and agency partners to increase reach, loyalty, and revenue.

At Blackhawk Network, we look for people who want to shape the future of the global branded payments industry. Collaborating with our partners, we deliver the innovative solutions required to meet our partners’ business objectives — extending commerce opportunities, introducing innovative incentives and creating meaningful employee engagement.

You could be part of this entrepreneurial culture, while experiencing the stability and benefits of a robust, global corporation.

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The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.