Customized Retailing is the New Black

Charlie Cole, Chief Digital Officer, VP, TUMI
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Charlie Cole, Chief Digital Officer, VP, TUMI

It’s easy to over complicate. Ultimately retail is divided by two lowest common denominators of data—at the product level and at the customer level. Product may be SKU or UPC and customer in this day in age is primarily email address. You need to design a system verticalized from supply chain, warehouse that ties data back to the SKU/UPC, and ensure the system has the cabaility to talk to the customer side of the home.

A Confluence of Trends

We are a premium brand with a 40+ year heritage that’s built upon Quality, Style, Functionality and Iconic Design; which is why we have to be very selective and thoughtful about how we work with every medium. This includes tailoring merchandise selections based on certain partners, as well as making sure we have clear goals and expectations based on device type. Are people using their mobile devices to BUY Tumi or LEARN about Tumi? Those sort of questions are what we obsess over.

In our department we have a rule, if you can’t analyze your own functional area of expertise, you can’t lead it. More simply, if you are not able to understand the numerical nature of your business in the modern environment, I don’t believe you can grow in retail.

  Communicating weekly with everyone on your leadership team— merchants, marketers,a and retailers—is imperative for success 

In the bounds of reporting and analytics, the key is to automate as much as humanly possible. If a retailer is running well, there is simply too much for a human being to analyze. Advances in predictive analytics allow for machines to offer personalized experiences that used to be impossible.

Big Data and Analytics are transforming in-store experience for retailers, slowly.

The limitations are not the analytical technologies available, instead, it’s about retailers being limited by legacy systems and more importantly, legacy rules around compensation and staffing. I also believe that there is a major cultural mind block within a lot of retailers that needs to be removed by executive endorsement of the practice of analytics.

Both technology and VR will be hot topics this year. While they are important trends to be aware of, I don’t believe they will immediately impact the landscape this year. Wearables will continue to something businesses try to get into, but I also think that technology is evolving so fast that it’s hard to stay ahead of it and you’re destined to lag.

Changing Times. Changing Roles.

Digital leadership ends up being the hub of data proliferation across an organization. It used to be that analytical and technical abilities were the priority of a CIO/CDO/CXO role, but now I would say interpersonal communication is the #1 trait one needs in order to succeed.

Communicating weekly with everyone on your leadership team—merchants, marketers, and retailers—is imperative for success. There are so many disparate mind sets across a retailer—traditional brick and mortar, technologists, designers, merchants, eCommerce professionals, analysts, finance—if communicate is not done at the highest level but also in a cross functional way I don’t believe a C-suite can be effective.

I think as consumer expectations change the trend for IoT will be more important but the reality is people’s expectations for shopping still revolves around personal service. I hope that never changes.

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