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Driving Consumer Experience through Intuitive Technology

By Charlie Cole, Chief Digital Officer, VP, TUMI

Charlie Cole, Chief Digital Officer, VP, TUMI

1) Retailers have to integrate data across the retail enterprise to have a 360-degree view of the customer, but it’s not an easy thing to do. What are your thoughts on getting this act right?

It’s easy to overcomplicate. 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 and age is primarily email address. You need to design a system verticalized from supply chain and warehouse that ties the data back to the SKU/UPC, and ensure the system has the capability to talk to the customer side of the home.

2) Changing consumer expectations are intersecting with a confluence of cloud computing, analytics, social, business, and mobile to fundamentally reshape commerce—with huge implications for retailers. What have you done to successfully run a business in the midst of rising tech expectations?

We are a premium brand with more than 40 year heritage built on 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.

3) Your thoughts on how technology is revolutionizing some of the following segments essential for a Retailers’ success.

a) Reporting and Analytics (social, mobile, reporting)
b) E-Commerce (B2C, B2B, Mobile Commerce)
c) Core Operations (Store operations, merchandising, Infrastructure)

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.

"Digital leadership ends up being the hub of data proliferation across an organization"

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 machines to offer personalized experiences which earlier used to be impossible.

4) How are big data and analytics transforming in-store experience for retailers?

There is slow-paced improvement in the in-store experience for retailers through big data analytics. The limitations are not related to the available analytical technologies. 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 with many retailers that needs to be removed by executive endorsement of analytics.

6) Over the years, we have witnessed a massive change pertaining to the role of CIO’s/CXO’s/CEO’s depending on the organization, the industry, the business strategies, the prevailing market conditions and the financial climate in terms of business value. How would you describe your own role as CIO has changed in the past couple of years?

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 most important trait one needs to have in order to succeed.

7) With your rich experience of managing IT organization and steering technology for your enterprise, can you please share some of the unique lessons learned and your advice for fellow CIO’s/CXO’s/CEO’s.

Communicating weekly with everyone in your leadership team (merchants, marketers, retailers, etc.) is imperative for success. There are disparate mindsets across a retailer in the form of traditional brick and mortar, technologists, designers, merchants, eCommerce professionals, analysts, finance. Communication has to be done at the highest level, in a cross functional manner, in order to make effective decisions.

8) What does the Internet of Things (IoT) mean for the retail sector?

As consumer expectations change, IoT will be more important. However, the reality is people’s expectations for shopping still revolves around personal service and I hope that doesn’t change.

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