Spencer’s Powers its Way into the Digital Age

Former CBS digital marketing exec Anthony Conti brought his hyper-local marketing approach to Spencer’s TV & Appliance.

By Alan Wolf, YSN

The timing was propitious for Spencer’s TV & Appliance.

For 48 years the BrandSource Power Dealer had flourished within the Greater Phoenix market, thanks to the outstanding service and competitive pricing promised in its tagline: “Shopping at Spencer’s is like having a friend in the business.”

Similarly, with a large retirement population once indifferent to the ways of e-commerce and social media, the company’s marketing was largely relegated to billboards, newspaper inserts and word of mouth. The strategies worked and Spencer’s thrived, extending its reach to 10 locations, from Gilbert to Goodyear, Ariz., all fed by a colossal 300,000 square-foot distribution center.

But as with all matters in life, things changed. Younger, more digitally savvy consumers from California and points east began relocating to the area, and the management team at Spencer’s, led by President Rick Biederbeck, realized it was time to step up to the digital plate.

Enter Anthony Conti, a past Vice President of Interactive at the CBS television network. His specialty: Hyper-local marketing, which, he discovered, can affect change more radically than going wide with media.

Once again, the timing was right. Conti joined the Spencer’s team one year ago as Director of Digital Marketing, just as the pandemic hit and a tidal wave of consumers took to shopping and socializing online, regardless of age.

“When I came in there was no digital department and the company was struggling with marketing and the digital space,” Conti recalled. “The Phoenix metro area is one of the fastest-growing markets with an insane housing boom and a huge 18- to 34-year-old audience, but Spencer’s traditionally never spoke to them. They had targeted customers age 45 and older with newspapers and billboards, but there’s no way to measure performance through billboards.”

His first order of business was an immediate review of Spencer’s ad agencies, and AVB Marketing — which was just then launching the company’s website — was far and away the winner.

“They’re an incredible team with a great platform in Alta,” Conti said. “They really know their stuff; it’s really like having your own team on staff.”

Working with his new Sacramento associates and leveraging the Google toolbox, Conti “went hyper-local with everything, down to the granular ZIP Code-level,” he said, breaking up Spencer’s territory into zones and expanding out from core markets in concentric circles, in five-mile increments. “It’s makes a big difference when you can really target eyeballs, vs. a spray-and-pray strategy,” he noted.

Spencer’s ranks high in both keyword Google searches and customer ratings.

Conti also worked closely with AVB Marketing’s SEO staff, then led by SEO Manager William Glade, to write and reformat all content for maximum search engine attention. “We took a much deeper look at how much we can drive people directly to the catalogs vs. the home page,” Glade said. “The idea is to capture Lowes.com viewers and send them straight to the products they are looking for, with the least number of hoops.”

Glade, who has since been promoted to Director of SEO & Analytics, praised Conti’s micro-market focus. “Anthony is a big user of content marketing with a local flavor,” he said. “We can’t beat the big boxes nationally because of their sheer number of stores, but we can build brand awareness and beat them at the local level by adding ‘Phoenix’ to searches of ‘best gas ranges.’”

Glade said an added advantage of AVB Marketing is its one-stop-shop design. “It’s nice that both the website agency and the marketing agency can make changes without going through a middleman,” he noted, which is something Conti can certainly attest to.

“I’m on the phone with Lauren [Rowert] and Jessica [Ting] five times a day,” the native New Yorker said. “We test everything. ‘Let’s try this, let’s move some money over here.’”

Combined with consistent messaging and joint social marketing efforts via Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok and others, the results were nothing short of startling. Year over year, online transactions grew 288 percent; conversions increased 310 percent; revenue rose 474 percent, and Spencer’s jumped 81 places in Google searches for select words.

Granted, some of the bump can be attributed to COVID and the concomitant shift in shopping behaviors, which would explain the year-over-year increases. But Conti reports that the company’s first-quarter results remain “phenomenal — we’re seeing absolutely no slowdown.”

The secret, he said, is Spencer’s plus AVB Marketing, which provided “the right surfboard to catch the wave. What we’ve accomplished together is jaw dropping.”

Of course, there would be no digital initiatives or a Digital Marketing Director without the support and backing of the Spencer’s leadership team. “Senior management is very open; they put their trust in the employees and let them do their thing,” Conti said. “It’s a mom-and-pop mentality rather than a corporate thing; if you have a good idea, ‘Let’s try it!’”

Despite its digital renaissance, Spencer’s still runs full-page ad inserts every week in the local papers. “There’s always a place for traditional advertising,” Conti noted, “and given the history of the company, I would never take that away.”

But once you’ve drunk from the digital hose, there clearly is no going back.

BrandSource, a unit of YSN publisher AVB Inc., is a nationwide buying group for independent appliance, furniture, mattress and CE dealers.