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Joining Google mid-pandemic to be its global consumer marketing director for commerce wasn’t an obvious next step for Stephanie Horton. Prior, she held roles that were comparatively more fashion-centric, including CMO at Farfetch, chief strategy officer at Alexander Wang and global head of communications for Shopbop. But she was up for a new challenge.
“I’m not really a career architect. Things kind of come my way, and [the draw, for me] is really about the scope and what I can learn, and whether there is something new or innovative there,” Horton said on the latest Glossy Podcast. “[Google] seemed like a great chance for me to be a part of something that was in the building stages — it was building blocks and really looking for an identity. And there were so many cool things on the table on the product side that I found really interesting and innovative.”
Now a year-and-a-half in, she’s making great progress on bringing the Google Shopping product vision to life and educating consumers on the tools the platform offers. Among them: Google Lens and a new interface that makes it easier for people to “window shop” on Google.
“We want to make Google the place where you start your shopping journey, no matter where you finish,” she said. “We’re not a retailer and we’re not a marketplace. We’re the place that you can go and really compare, find, narrow down, be inspired, and then make your choice.”
Below are additional highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.
On changing shopper behavior
“People are turning more to e-commerce, and that change looks to be a little more permanent than we thought at the beginning of the pandemic. For sure more consumers are turning to digital for inspiration. They’re searching for ideas [online], and it’s increasingly become a place where it’s no longer just a destination for a quick transaction. It’s a place where searching for ideas has really come into play. We’ve actually seen searches for ideas increase by 60% over the last year, which shows people are really turning to Google for more than just: ‘I need to find something right now, quickly.’ Shoppable search is also something that we’re seeing a lot. People are shopping online more than ever, but they still want that visual, inspirational experience you get in the store. That’s why we’re working hard to bring the traditional window shopping experience to life — so that we can make online shopping for beauty and fashion even more enjoyable. Also, omnichannel used to be the new way forward, but now it’s the new normal. People have the expectation that they can find what they’re doing online, in-store. And Google’s in a unique position to be able to marry the [two worlds by] working with retailers to offer options like [find] nearby and click-and-collect.”
Shopping destination vs. inspiration
“We cover almost all aspects of the customer journey. So if you don’t know what you want, we can inspire and help you discover. If you do know what you want, we have great mid-funnel tools to help you get the right price or shop Black-owned, if you want, and filter those options. And when you’re ready to pay, we have great payment options, as well. So as far as we’re concerned, it’s about servicing the customer at every point of the journey and doing it well — that’s the goal.”
Marketing beyond digital
“I have a few teams. I have a brand marketing team, and they concentrate on our brand campaigns – [they’re behind] all the amazing work you see out on TV and outdoor [ads], and all of our great display ads are concepted by that team. We’re also launching a native Instagram for Shop With Google in April. So that team is also working on that, and that’s something we’re really excited about because it’ll give us a different way to express what and how we want to bring things to life… Marketing is … I call it windy; it blows like the wind. We have to be cognizant of how we want to meet consumers where they are online, and we want to meet them where they are when we’re marketing, as well. So digital is huge, but I never discount other avenues. There are always really cool, new innovative things coming up, and we don’t want to miss those, either. So I’m never one to be like, ‘It’s all about digital marketing; that’s all we’re doing.’ Or, ‘It’s all about TV, and that’s all we’re doing.’ Having that 360-degree approach is really, really important.”