A veteran marketer shares tips and tales.

Patrick Adams '83 M.B.A '86

Patrick Adams ’83, M.B.A. ’86 spoke to students at an Adelphi Leadership Certificate Program event in March 2014.

Patrick Adams ’83, M.B.A. ’86, (@PAdamsNY) knows retail marketing. As the head of e-commerce/marketing and digital marketing strategy for Victoria’s Secret from 2008 to 2013, he oversaw marketing for the mega brand’s direct-to-consumer division. When he left the company last September, revenue had grown to nearly $2 billion, and customers numbered about 35 million. Prior to joining Victoria’s Secret, Mr. Adams served as the senior vice president/head of customer marketing and the digital commerce group at Bertelsmann Media Worldwide.

In his spare time, Mr. Adams mentors undergraduates through the Adelphi Alumni Mentoring Program. He spoke to us about trends in e-commerce and digital marketing and the qualities he looks for in new hires. Our conversation is excerpted below.

What do you most love about either social media or e-commerce or both?

You know the thing I love the most about it all is the customer interaction. I love social media because it’s a great opportunity to start a dialogue and get feedback and put some ideas out there and get some reaction; it’s immediate. It always comes down to the customer, trying to nail a sweet spot for her and it’s always changing, which keeps it interesting.

How can retailers use data and digital marketing to create great experiences for their customers?

Any direct-to-consumer company has a tremendous amount of data, probably more than it can use. It’s about using the data in the right way. And so it’s not about being the kind of company that says I want to collect every little tidbit about you, but collecting meaningful, relevant information that can be used to better your experience—to surprise and delight you.

I believe that there was a point in time when success or failure at big-box retailers (like Target or Kmart) was judged solely on how good their prices were or how easy it was to transact at the cash register.  That’s still important, but today the customer wants more, and she requires more.

There are many reasons why I, personally, might engage socially with a brand. I might be looking for better customer service, trying to source a better deal or just wanting to tell the world that I love Brand X.  My channel usage might vary—Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest—and it’s incumbent on the brand to understand why and what my expectation is.  

The mobile device is a real game-changer to the retail shopping experience. Apps are being used to bridge digital and in-store experiences. Mobile is so versatile. It can be used to gain greater product information in real time. You can drop a product you see in the store into your online shopping cart and decide later if you want to purchase it, or you can check out expanded colors, sizes, etc. The possibilities are endless.

What skills do you need to be a successful marketer or e-marketer today?

In my opinion, the best digital marketers are those who come out of a direct-to-consumer discipline—vs. brand marketing. Digital or direct marketers are all about optimizing the customer experience so that you convert a browser to a buyer. The ultimate goal is a profitable sale—not just a sale, but a profitable sale—and talent that’s trained from a direct response perspective understands that.


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