CMO50 2022 #8: Dan Ferguson

  • Name Dan Ferguson
  • Title Chief marketing officer
  • Company Adore Beauty
  • Commenced role January 2018
  • Reporting Line Chief executive officer
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 35 staff, 6 direct reports
  • Industry Sector Retail
  • 2021 ranking 10
  • Related

    Brand Post

    For Dan Ferguson, bravery in business is often linked with change – championing it, leading it or being open to change personally.

    “I encourage bravery in my team by showing willingness to acknowledge and fess up to mistakes and errors, and rewarding meaningful change wherever I can,” the Adore CMO says.

    Orchestrating change has been part-and-parcel of Ferguson’s tenure since joining the online beauty retailer four-and-a-half years ago. Whether it’s building Adore’s discovery commerce approach and content-led marketing strategy, to the more recent creation of the new Adore Media business division, there’s no doubt he’s played an instrumental role in helping the organisation embrace the new and benefit commercially from it.

    All this from an individual who was expecting to use his psychology post-graduate degree to pursue a very different career initially but was brave enough to take up a role in advertising instead. “In hindsight, it was a rare moment of wisdom on my part. I thrive on the mostly unambiguous outcomes and the clear cause and effect marketing and leadership roles in online retail allow for,” he says. 

    Business smarts

    Among Ferguson’s more recent accomplishments at Adore Beauty is creating a new business division: Adore Media. The function has been set up to sell the space and audiences developed through the ecommerce retailer’s articles, retail site, videos and podcasts.

    “This supports circular growth where we gain funding that powers more content, enabling further funding,” Ferguson explains. “I led this function to deliver over 700 per cent growth in income and returned value from FY21 to FY22.”

    It’s been so successful, new team members have been on-boarded with a focus to increase Adore’s media business by 50 per cent in FY23.

    Then there’s the reset of Adore’s wider business vision. “In FY20-FY21, our business vision covered our site experience, our data capabilities and our ecommerce functionality,” Ferguson explains.

    “I raised with our CEO that we needed a tangible and rallying purpose, especially in a hyper competitive market amid the great resignation. We conducted an all-staff survey and the results matched my concerns: Our people struggled to remember or relate to our vision.”

    So Ferguson kicked off work to reengineer the vision and re-emphasise purpose within Adore Beauty. Combining customer and market research, team surveys and interviews, the new vision statement, ‘Beauty Done Better’, has now become the question underlining every aspect of business decision making.  

    A third change Ferguson has been spearheading is Adore’s New Zealand operations. In FY22, he took the initiative to review existing trade across the Tasman and identified an opportunity to better utilise resources and customer base worth millions in incremental revenue over a 12-18-month period. The plans covered resourcing, investment and fulfilment, product and merchandise, pricing, site and tech as well as marketing.

    “This was approved as a key strategy for FY23, but immediate changes also delivered additional revenue within the last months of FY22,” he says.

    Innovative marketing

    As a pure-play retailer, Adore relies on marketing to create serendipitous shopping scenarios for our site visitors, Ferguson continues. “Discovery commerce creates a customer discovery experience, helping them find products they weren’t necessarily looking for,” he says.  

    To better realise such experiences on its site, the team partnered with Preezie to create more than 160 online customer journeys. Each acts as a form of assistant, asking customers questions to match them with product for their needs. To date, hundreds of thousands of journeys have been completed with a +92 per cent journey completion rate and conversion rate 3x higher than the average.

    “This project is all about adding value to the online retail experience,” Ferguson says. “Another aspect of our industry leading expansion is establishment of truly compelling retail media. We’ve focused on making each customer visit increasingly relevant and individualised, providing opportunities to discover, and reducing overwhelm.”

    This customer engagement initiative has produced dramatic growth in the number of articles, comparisons and reviews consumed by millions of users. In FY22, Adore once again increased views of onsite media, such as its BeautyIQ videos, year-on-year to over 8 million impressions. Its organic YouTube channel also almost doubled.

    It’s an interconnected universe of content, Ferguson says, stretching from masterclasses with hundreds of paid attendees, to how-to guides, videos and articles. “We’re helping customers interact with our site in the way that suits them. Because we all discover in different ways,” he adds.

    In complement, Adore launched its first brand campaign in 2020, building out dedicated campaigns, testing, measurement and research across TV, BVOD, YouTube, social, content and out-of-home using multiple measurement techniques from geo tests to market mix modelling and A/B split studies. Thanks to this work, 39 per cent awareness has lifted to 59 per cent awareness in two years, according to PureProfile data.

    Data-driven maturity

    Through all of these efforts, Ferguson is employing a healthy mix of data and gut. “Harnessing instinct is a skill built over time. Knowing when and how to use data in tandem is key to doing it well,” he comments.

    “I mostly start from instinct and use data to sense-check and validate ideas. Data also plays a pivotal role in risk assessment, especially when decisions, actions or campaigns are driven by an initial gut-feeling. At a certain point, data needs to be involved to analyse and justify the concept.”

    An example of data in action is Adore’s loyalty program, which has significantly scaled-up over the past 12 months, with membership growing nearly five-fold. “We’ve used data and real-time feedback to improve the customer experience of our loyalty program members and created unique campaigns to drive up the average order frequency and average order value of loyalty members,” Ferguson says.  

    “Our focus is integrated marketing - using the right message, on the right channel, at the right time. We use dynamic blocks in our communications to power our personalisation to customers. For example, letting them know how much more they need to spend to progress to the next loyalty level, and if they have a reward waiting for them.”  

    Adore’s masterclass program was a key innovation out of loyalty that has contributed to incremental revenue while forging tighter connection with members. Working with its email platform, Emarsys, Ferguson says his team were among the first in the world to launch with expanded functionality that enabled personalised and targeted marketing via multiple paid channels to highlight campaigns and rewards, encouraging conversion to membership.

    “These combined strategies have been incredibly effective. Launching March 2021, by end of June 2022 our loyalty program members contributed 60 per cent of total business revenue and the program has signed up 95 per cent of our most valuable customers.” The program itself also scored Adore three awards as a leading loyalty program in Australia and the APAC region.

    Another cross-functional initiative Ferguson led was with the product and merchandise teams to revise how they select new brands for Adore’s portfolio, using actual market data on prospective brands.

    “This produced an accurate estimate on revenue possible within the first three months of launch, and new customer volume predictions for each brand,” he adds.

    Leadership impact

    All this has required consistently high performance, which in turn, relies on engaging the team with a business’s purpose and vision. Thanks to his initiative to bring about a tangible and rallying purpose, Ferguson has been able to keep his growing and increasingly cross-functionally connected function aligned and performing.  

    Since starting at Adore in 2018, he’s grown marketing from three to 40 team members and increased spend four-fold. “Our business today is wildly different in scope and scale than when many team members started, necessitating constant personal and professional development,” Ferguson says.  

    “I’m engaged with helping our team excel, right from when we meet a candidate. To ensure a strong fit, I’ve inputted on every hire and met over 80 per cent as part of a selection process, sharing honestly about what it’s like to be on our team. We place equal weight on ability, capability and cultural fit. My team's average satisfaction scores maintained at above eight out of 10 over the past two years.

    “Every team member is clear on their role and key responsibilities and what constitutes strong performance. They’re given as much autonomy as possible, along with access to metrics and data to understand their impact and progress.”  

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