CEO Nick Stowe on Nixon restructuring, updated strategy

Last week, Nixon made some adjustments to its internal structure that included a round of layoffs to reposition the brand for growth.

Although there wasn’t much elaboration on the positions that were cut, the brand was able to share with us which areas of the business they are strengthening moving forward — specifically, Nixon will be shifting its resources to digital in both the marketing and commerce sides of the business.

nixon restructuring

Nixon lives in many spaces centric to adventure sports and travel lifestyle, but their Mission Watch is core to the action sports market where the brand got its start.

“The changes we are working through aren't dramatic,” said Nixon CEO Nick Stowe. “We've seen our consumers changing, moving much more into digital in terms of where they go to discover and learn about brands and where they go to shop. What we are seeing is as much about marketing as commerce, lots of social and some real blending of the two on platforms like Instagram.”

Nixon is mirroring the fast-paced digital growth they are seeing among their retail partners, and looking at ways they can lean on those partners’ — many of whom command mass followings of their own — while also driving consumers back to Nixon’s own e-commerce platform, explains Stowe. “We're seeing consumers look to a range of sites when they shop: Amazon is clearly the largest, but our accounts like Zumiez and Nordstrom are really important, and consumers also want to go directly to the brand, to Nixon.com.”

The brand is making a significant push to move from traditional practices to a more streamlined, all-encompassing approach when it comes to e-comm. Stowe shares how the brand’s strategy has been realigned to meet these goals.

nixon restructuring

Nixon CEO Nick Stowe

Interview has been edited for length and clarity.

In terms of restructuring the brand, can you speak to what areas of the business you are looking to strengthen? Can you also give us insight into the new positions you have created / will be hiring for?

We're adding positions mainly in digital. We have a search underway for a VP of e-commerce and marketing, and have set aside several positions for that person to build out the team we have, add some new roles in digital and social marketing and super-size the e-commerce team.

In some areas, we'll continue to use agencies to help us, and we've seen a benefit to the right blend of internal and external expertise. We're also looking geographically, and will be adding some more support to our business in Japan, working alongside our distributor partner there, launching Nixon.com in Japan and doing more in terms of digital marketing for that market.

We'll also be strengthening a new area of the business, something we're excited about in terms of reaching a whole new set of consumers, and will be announcing that more formally in the next few months.

Making cuts is never easy, especially with a close knit team like yours. How did you decide which areas of the business needed to be adjusted?

It's hard to lay people off and we've tried hard to avoid it. As we looked at the organization we tried to focus on positions, not people. Some of it was just about filling gaps in terms of getting the right capabilities in place and putting in some depth.

But it was also about looking at efficiency across channels and geographies. That has mainly been about making our US wholesale business more efficient, as well as improving our overall business in Europe. Explaining that to the people affected doesn't make the news any better, but it's the analysis we did and it should serve us well as we look ahead in terms of having our people and resources focused in the right places.

Nixon restructuring

Nixon Mission Watch in action.

How much will we see Nixon’s marketing strategy change over the next few months with this realignment? What types of marketing is resonating with the Nixon consumer and what strategies will the brand use to leverage this?

It won't really change in terms of what the brand stands for. But you'll for sure see more in terms of how we publish on the major digital platforms, and that includes social platforms like Instagram and Facebook, as well as commerce-focused platforms like Fancy. And our investment in search is also ramping up, getting sharper in the terms we use. Our goal is to get better at how we target different groups of consumers, what we publish to them, where that takes them in terms of e-commerce landing pages (ours and our partners').

E-comm is an area that most companies are looking to ramp up and it sounds like this is the case for Nixon. Can you describe what your strategy currently looks like and how you plan to modify and build it to reflect your current audience’s needs? How is Nixon attracting a broader audience?

We've had a pretty traditional e-commerce strategy up to this point. We redesigned the site for more commerce, moved it onto Demandware to get that platform's robust performance, and we've added some better imagery and more recently with The Mission, customization, which has been a huge hit for us. Some of the changes we have coming are more evolutionary: for instance, changing up content and imagery to reflect what we've seen work on social.

But our ambitions are bigger than that. The big direction for us is to move away from hierarchical navigation and much more into search. Navigating using our drop-down menus is kind of like Yahoo! back in the day, and our consumers are much more likely now to use search on the site or enter the site straight from Google search. That means they want relevant results, strong recommendations, and reviews. They want a set of products that is more curated and specific than our hierarchical navigation. Think of many more curated landing pages than we currently have, some pre-merchandised, others created on the fly.

In terms of reaching a broader audience, some of that is about targeting our growing digital advertising to new consumer segments and backing that up with the right landing experience. But our retail partners are really important for growing our audience: individually many of them have much greater reach than we do as a brand, and collectively they have orders of magnitude. We want to extend what we're doing in e-commerce to help them.

We've focused very much on our "in-store" experience with retailers, and now we need to focus on the "in-digital" experience with them, as well. That includes simple things like better digital assets to represent Nixon and our product. It should include more commercial support, like helping them always be in stock with drop-ship programs: if you're shopping on Zumiez, and you search for The Mission but they don't stock it, it would be great if we served that up. And it should include extending more service offerings to them, giving authorized dealers post-sale service benefits like free battery changes for instance.

Nixon restructuring

Nixon Smart Watch

Along with the internal restructuring, will we see an outward realignment of Nixon’s brand image or focus in terms of who the brand speaks to outside of the core action / adventure sports demographic? If so, what will that look like?

You'll see some new approaches to campaigns over the next few months. I don't think we need to tell many of our core audience who we are and what we do, but we'll continue to work really closely with our athletes in our core space. But we need to introduce the brand more broadly, particularly with some of the product that we have that is very much on-trend (like our more simplistic Time Teller or Porter watches).

We're going to ramp up our digital marketing collaborations with friends of the brand who have an audience that overlaps with ours, but that stands more outside of our core demographic; we have a few people in mind in the music and art spaces outside of core action sports. We'll use imagery that reflects how they see us, and product they want to represent and share. It means publishing more to their channel and audience than we have in the past. We've occasionally blasted our voice pretty broadly, but this time it's more like an introduction from a friend. That feels like a better way to grow and reach out.

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