Who wins based on anything your organization does? How about everything it does?

“If you have your consumers – in our case ‘fans’ – benefit at the heart of everything that you do, everyone is going to win,” Josh Ehren, Gibson Brands global head of Direct-to-Consumer, told SAP at NRF 2023. “It is not just a technology that goes into it; it is an understanding of how you communicate.”

Gibson’s communications strategy is playing lead, informing how tech enables its fan engagement, Ehren stated after a fireside chat with Emarsys, now part of SAP, at SAP’s booth. And the Nashville-based guitar manufacturer’s fanbase extends beyond its legendary Les Paul collab and into its family of brands that include Mesa/Boogie amps, Maestro Electronics pedals, KRK Systems, and more.

“We have the most amazing, loyal, obsessed fans for our instruments and for our brands,” Ehren said. “It’s our job to make sure that we connect with them in the ways that they want to connect with us – and [in] an easy way for them.”

This is where technology joins the band.

How Gibson Keeps Its “Massive Span” of Fans Happy

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How Gibson Keeps Its “Massive Span” of Fans Happy

When Tech Plays Rhythm

Technology helps Gibson understand what each fan wants, what makes an individual’s journey unique, and how fans interact with the brand, according to Ehren. And fan journeys can range from a noob who has never touched catgut all the way to an artist who makes her living strumming six strings.

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“That is a massive span of different individualized types of fans that we connect with,” Ehren said in an SAP video. “We take that information, and that’s how we can actually craft how we stay connected with them.”

This might mean inviting the aforementioned novice to a try a lesson via Gibson’s app or to watch a video on Gibson TV, according to Ehren. Or it could include recommending select accessories to an artist for a specific guitar in his quiver.

“That’s really how we are utilizing that [tech] to connect,” Ehren said. “We go through all the way to the end of that spectrum.”

Gibson wasn’t the only brand at NRF singing the praises of a strategy/tech duet. Other retailers also see tech-driven engagement as essential for growth.

Everything from A to G

Before the pandemic, American home improvement retailer Lowe’s Companies Inc. updated its legacy e-commerce platform, according to Chairman and CEO Marvin Ellison. Similar to Gibson’s broad customer spectrum, Mooresville, North Carolina-based Lowe’s serves everyone from full-time contractors to a new homeowner’s first do-it-yourself (DIY) project.

“If we had not made those investments in retail fundamentals, it would have been a catastrophically bad environment for our customers and for us as a company,” Ellison said during an NRF keynote. “We put the investments in place…continuing to grow our online and omnichannel capabilities, merchandising, selection – making sure we serve our pro and DIY customers at the highest possible level.”

Such savvy use of tech and data can help organizations ensure they’re serving all segments of their customer base, as Gibson’s Ehren noted. He advocates for both internal stakeholders and those across Gibson’s vast dealer network to let the data tell them what is and isn’t working.

“That data is really going to help us understand: Are we connecting with our fans? To what extent are we connecting with our fans? Is it working?” Ehren said. “That will inform our road map. That will inform how we optimize…Data is absolutely imperative in everything that we do.”

This includes how Gibson meets customer experience challenges, especially those that are even bigger than competing for share-of-wallet.

Putting Customers First Ensures That Everybody Wins

“It starts with the share-of-time,” Ehren said. “To me, that’s the biggest hurdle.”

The point of sale can’t be the end of a customer’s journey, according to Ehren. Gibson wants its fans to rock on – and on, and on.

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“I care way more about getting over the hurdles of getting a share of their time because that means that I’m telling the right stories [and] connecting with them,” Ehren said. “If we can keep people playing…they’re happier, they’re engaged, and it works for us as well.”

All of this engagement supports the entire business – regardless of where they buy, according to Ehren. His job as global head of D2C is to help them decide on the right products for their individual needs.

“If they want to understand a little bit more about this guitar, a little bit about more about this amp, etc., and then go to gibson.com or to the [Gibson] Garage, or to one of our dealers – wherever they want to make that purchase – they are absolutely able to,” Ehren said. “And I encourage it because, again, everyone wins.”

Derek Klobucher is a video producer at SAP.