Building a rapport with customers at the local level can be a challenge for product makers who do not have their own stores. It can be an even more elaborate task for a brand such as SharkNinja, whose products have long lifecycles. That makes it all the more important to ensure digital marketing is effective in its reach, and cognizant of its customers’ needs, says Ajay Kapoor, the company’s vice president of transformation and strategy.
The company, previously known as Euro-Pro, changed its name in 2015 to a play on the product lines it is most known for: Ninja blenders and food processers, and Shark vacuums and steam mops. The products can be found on store shelves, but like most manufacturers, SharkNinja has to find ways to work with retail partners to reach customers at the local level. Kapoor, who is working to steer the company’s marketing in new directions, will speak next month at Street Fight Summit in Brooklyn.
What can you tell us about your role at SharkNinja, tackling digital transformation for the company?
There are three core mandates. I own everything e-commerce. That’s our direct-to-consumer business as well as our retail dotcom business. I own everything digital marketing. That’s social display, search, earned — they all funnel into me. There is a third component, which is step-forwarding our business into the digital age. That’s connectivity of our products, our IoT [Internet of Things] program as a whole.
What types of marketing tools, especially those that focus on local, do you make use of or have looked at as potential ways to further connect with consumers?
I stepped into this role about five-and-a-half months ago, to really set this business in the digital world. Prior to that, SharkNinja had dabbled in digital marketing. The goal, over my first months here and the coming months moving forward, is to do this at scale efficiently and effectively. When it comes to hyperlocal marketing, we’re very much focused on how we leverage our geotargeting capabilities within social, how we use search effectively from a geotargeting standpoint. There’s a ton of capabilities out there from display that tie back to retail sales, geofenced against that. We’ve been doing a lot more against all of those in a more systematic method to get a clearer understanding of what’s working and what’s not working within our categories, and then how we do that at scale in an always-on campaign.
Since SharkNinja does not have its own retail locations, what are some of the processes you go through when selling through third parties? How does local marketing come into play when you work with those retail partners?
It’s still early years and early months on that front. From a broader sophistication of our retail partners and as well as from a manufacturer’s standpoint, we’re all learning how to best collaborate. A lot of this has been early conversations on how we best support our retail partners. What I’ve been able to start doing is demonstrate back to them what the offline, incremental list is that we see through our campaign, and build the necessary joint business plan that we can better collaborate.
The thing that I’m building right now is formalizing a retail, dot-com trade marketing group at SharkNinja to lead that joint business plan on an ongoing basis. In the past, the company has been opportunistic with our retail partners, and our retail partners back with us. I want to get to a point where we can scale and codify that. In the past we’ve done e-mail blasts to user groups and CRM lists that our retailers have. We’ve done specific geofenced activations with a handful of our retail partners. We’ve done our own personal activation on our end just to understand the offline attribution list that comes from that, harkening back to a hyperlocal, geotargeted campaign focused on driving incremental sales at retail locations.
Are there specific intricacies with selling vacuum cleaners and household products that differ from other types of wares that consumers want?
I’m coming from Procter & Gamble where the purchase cycle is a lot more frequent. Replacement rates here are a lot lower. Therefore things like brand saliency, top-of-mind awareness, and more importantly identifying the core attributes that indicate if a consumer is on the path to purchase a vacuum or a blender or a coffee maker are ever so more important. Part of the journey so far is about how do we become more sophisticated in our consumer targeting? How do we use our first-party data, second-party data, and third-party data to help us identify from a 360-degree lens who are those people? Who are those prime suspects? Identify them and then hit them with the necessary sequential messaging across any and all digital advertisement to help persuade them to consider purchasing our brand.
Were there other lessons you brought from Procter & Gamble to SharkNinja?
Prior to P&G, I was a serial entrepreneur. I started three businesses, one in clean tech, one in biotech, and one in the e-commerce space. SharkNinja’s a sizeable business, but this company runs as a startup. I’ve never seen a business in the durable, consumer electronics space run at the pace and rate this company does with the agility that it does. A lot of things that took six to eight months from a process orientation standpoint at a P&G or her competitors — we’re setting up in two-and-a-half weeks.
We’re building and launching creative and activations in digital really rapidly. That allots us very tight feedback circles to allow us to recalibrate, get core learnings out of that, and figure out where scalability is.
This company runs on a different octane that’s provided it with the competitive edge that it’s had over the past years.
You came onboard after the company rebranded as SharkNinja; what does it mean to have the brand identity specifically targeted to the prominent product lines?
Coming from P&G, where brand means so much, the compound factor of having a further integrated corporate brand with our product brands is ever so important. The goal is not only playing for this year or next year; we’re ideally playing for the replacement cycles of vacuums, blenders, and coffee makers that are out there. Having that integrated, core megabrand that helps to drive this is ever so important.
Obviously we’re still very much focused on Shark vacuums, Ninja from our kitchen systems, all the way up to our coffeemakers. It’s still about those brands, but the further integration into the corporate brand, building that corporate presence, is ever so important in building trust and the ability to drive crossover with synergies between vacuums, blenders, and coffeemakers. Consumers can choose us in other categories that they maybe solving for some other need.
Joao-Pierre Ruth is a Street Fight contributor.
Join SharkNinja’s Ajay Kapoor and hundreds of other top local companies and brands at The Best Street Fight Summit Ever — a three-day extravaganza in Brooklyn on June 12-14. Click here to register now!