Harvard Business School hosted the 12th Annual Retail and Luxury Goods Conference with a daylong event on February 21. Brands represented at the conference included Richemont, Baume & Mercier, Cartier, Marc Jacobs, Tory Burch and other retailers. The theme of the conference was Reinventing Retail. I attended the conference and felt that the brands I heard were having a message of blending their traditions with insight’s from data. I will include my key takeaways from the two sessions I attended: The Future of Tradition and Innovation with Insight.
The Future of Tradition
- Mercedes Abramo, President & CEO, Cartier North America
- Michelle Giguere, Director of Buying, Tory Burch
- Scott Cameron, Chief Strategy & Business Development Officer , Canada Goose
- Jody Hall, Chief Food Adventurer & Director of Sourcing, HEB Grocers
- Pippa Morgan: Executive Vice President-Retail Division, Aritzia
The biggest issue with online shopping was how to create the online experience that is true to the brand’s in-store experience. Mercedes Abramo (Cartier) also talked about trying to find out how high a price point could be online to buy jewelry. For Cartier like other retailers it is a trial and error process. Luxury especially jewelry has been later to the online market. Pippa Morgan (Aritzia) had the best explanation and advice, “measure twice, cut once”. Execution is crucial for the online market.
What has worked for luxury brands? The panel talked about success with Instagram in reaching and interacting with customers. Mercedes Abramo (Cartier), claimed YouTube was the best channel in reaching a Cartier customer. The reason was due to needing longer amounts of time to educate potential buyers on a product. Instagram is only a photo or a 15-second video, not enough to give the detail necessary to tell Cartier’s story.
The final thoughts were to look to your physical store for answers. You have a chance to talk to your customer and see what they are experience. Do not think that being involved in the stores daily activities is beneath you, it is a great resource. My thoughts for those with only an online presence be on your website and see if you can get feedback from customers and employees.
Innovating with Insight
- Omer Artun, CEO/Founder, AgilOne
- Paul Hatch, Senior Marketing Director, Walmart
- Thibault Munier, Co-Founder/COO, Numberly
- Jessica Schinazi, Senior Manager-Marketing Service & Business Development, Richemont North America
*Customer Insights with data
The speakers on the second panel had very clear views on the actions needed to innovate their company. The major need was how to get away from the single view of a customer and use the data mined to be more responsive to that customer’s shopping experience. One suggestion was to get away from the ‘silos of data’ and to start to create data action strategies. The benefits of getting a better understanding of different customers can create new marketing opportunities. Jessica Schinazi (Richemont) gave one example of how insights from their data provided them answers on a new type of customer group. There was increased activity of online shoppers in the Midwest. Richemont has stores in the area but they found out these customers were Chinese students coming to college. So Richemont discover a ‘micro group’ that it could understand how to serve better. Paul Hatch (Walmart) also added that understanding the data benefits the customer by using the insight to improve the mix of product in the store.
Another topic was A/B testing in order to find out which way was best in customizing the online experience. One tip was to add common sense to your algorithms. You do not want to run into the ‘Bread and Bananas’ issue, if a person has bread in their basket they will most likely buy bananas. So instead of recommending bananas (that the customer will most likely buy anyway) try to get another product that they might want so that you can increase the items in that basket.
The final thought were not focusing exclusively on the data but take time to talk to the people involved in the business and learn all you can about your company’s core business.
The conference was a great event for me. In addition to meeting the panelists, I ate lunch with an employee of Baume & Mercier who talked about how his passion for the watch industry lead him to the job he holds now. He worked at Hertz, before landing his dream job. If you are in the Boston area in February of 2017, I highly recommend attending the Harvard Retail & Luxury Goods Conference. Sign up for my email at the top right of the page to keep up to date on more posts!