Profile: Allison Welker, Executive Vice President, General Manager, Edge Marketing
What motivates Allison Welker? Happy people doing smart work and delivering results.
In her 20-year career, Welker has had the opportunity to work with many such individuals. She began her agency work as an account manager and then joined IN Marketing (owned by Advantage Solutions), serving as vice president and executive VP of client services.
Five years ago IN Marketing saw a need for a new omnichannel activation agency, and Welker was tapped to manage the spinoff. “We needed to build a solution that could compete in an increasingly saturated shopper marketing agency environment,” she says. Her role included building the team and infrastructure of Edge Marketing.
“Along the way, we built and evolved the Edge brand to stand for courage, heart, hustle and creativity,” she adds. “It has been the coolest journey I could have ever imagined.”
Welker credits her many years with Advantage Solutions as instilling in her the power of forward thinking. “What is happening now, what is new and what is next all impact our ability to deliver today while being prepared for the marketplace of the future,” she says.
Edge is organized around three pillars – strategic services, creative inspiration and business fundamentals – all working closely together. The organization is also part of Advantage Solutions’ network of agencies, each with its own core competencies and allowing for flexibility in meeting clients’ needs.
Looking ahead, Welker sees Edge focusing on ways that clients can seamlessly connect with shoppers. She and her team are keeping a close eye on what impact software platform Blockchain will have, from transactional enhancements to food traceability. And Welker says facial recognition is helping the agency better understand in-store shopper satisfaction “and will rapidly start to influence the ability to target and personalize the shopping experience.”
Since Edge’s founding, the agency has doubled in size four times. “We have the critical mass needed to thrive while continuing to leverage the entrepreneurial mindset it took to get us here,” Welker says.
Long before the term “shopper marketing” was ubiquitous, Welker says they were doing it with clients, just calling it “building brands.” She believes the definition of shopper marketing can change based on the client, but that at its core it’s a strategic partnership between brands and retailers to optimize a shopper’s experience and meet their evolving needs.
When it comes to her own purchasing experiences, she says she’s a digital-only shopper. “I literally shop anytime, anywhere, for personal and household needs. Where I turn up as an omnichannel shopper is bigger ticket items. I am more likely to do a combination of showrooming and webrooming to ensure I am informed on quality and product so I feel confident in my choice,” Welker says.
When it comes to the transformation of physical retail locations, value—in terms of experiences and convenience—are a must. “Physical or hybrid store formats will need to show up in more convenient locations where people already are, such as work or educational facilities,” Welker says. “The online communication and store experience has a way to go to supplement what people get out of the physical experiences specifically in the area of trying new items and buying on impulse.”
More targeted, more localized and more personalized is where she sees shopper marketing headed in the next few years. “It will be recognized as equity building and sales driving,” Welker says. “Technology will make the experience and shopper engagement more meaningful.”
The main challenge – to the industry and to the agency – is speed of change. Being able to innovate and react quickly to shopper needs. “There is no longer a three- to five-year time horizon, we operate on Bezos Amazon time,” she says, “12 to 18 months out is the new long term.”