In this President's letter, Frederica Bolgouras, our Director, Executive Technology Recruitment, interviews Gilles Rousseau, to gain his perspective on the importance of Omnichannel.
President, JB Homer Associates
Gilles' hybrid career path is indicative of our tech-centric times. He has extensive experience in both Brand Management and Technology. This combination of expertise has grown in demand, as evidenced by the recent flow of talents between top tech companies (Apple, Tesla, Google) and leading luxury and retail companies (LVMH, Burberry, L'Oreal).
As Chief Sales Officer at The Digital Marvels, Inc., a leading provider of cloud-based Omnichannel Solutions for luxury and fashion brands, Gilles has been working at the forefront of Omnichannel technology over the last four years.
He began his career in advertising at Publicis and held senior brand management roles at LVMH, Van Cleef & Arpels and Christie's. Gilles was also part of the management team at TripleHop Technologies Inc., which became one of the most innovative software providers of search engine and CRM solutions (acquired by Oracle in 2005).He is also a Foreign Trade Advisor for the French Government and a Jury Member of the French-American Entrepreneurship Awards.
Frederica Bolgouras: What are the key fundamentals of Omnichannel from a brand management standpoint?
Gilles Rousseau: In today's market where commoditization, lack of differentiation and technology create brutal market dynamics, it is not sufficient to simply maintain the highest level of relevancy with brand aspirations and product offering.
A brand must also deliver an "Omnichannel" experience. Until recently, brands have been dictating how, when, and where the brand should be "consumed" based on their organization, infrastructure, sales channels, capabilities and touch points. This resulted in a siloed multi-channel approach delivering, at best, only limited branding and product/inventory management synergies.
A consumer should not be forced to experience inconsistencies and friction, depending on the touch points. Instead, they should be understood and served in a holistic, seamless, and personalized manner. The consumer "owns" the brand and should be able to shop on his/her own terms. This is a crucial shift in consumer consciousness that must be taken into consideration by brand executives.
Omnichannel developments should start with a shift in mindset. In my opinion, the purest approach to Omnichannel is to redefine the brand experience from a strict client standpoint. With this model in mind, the concept of sales channel becomes irrelevant. The ultimate goal is to deliver the best brand and shopping experience wherever and whenever the client needs it: before, at, and after the point-of-sale.
Frederica: How do you see Technology contributing to an Omnichannel Approach?
Gilles: Cloud technology is certainly a key driver to building an Omnichannel model with analytics, commerce, POS, CRM, content, and inventory management systems.
The most innovative brands and retailers are also breaking new grounds in:
- Artificial Intelligence, (i.e. search and recommendation engines, virtual assistants such as Amazon's Alexa and Nuance Communications' Nina, IBM's Watson, Robo advisors in FinTech/Wealth Management)
- Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, (i.e., luxury and fashion, real estate, and entertainment).
- The Internet-of-Things with wearable devices and appliances
All of these are redefining the traditional Brand Management model and deliver a more seamless, personalized, immersive, and high touch experience.
Frederica: What changes does the Omnichannel world trigger in terms of leadership?
: Since Omnichannel is a holistic practice covering all customer touch points and relying heavily on technology, the traditional Chief Marketing Officer is morphing into a Chief Customer Officer role (also called Chief Consumer Officer or Chief Customer Experience Officer) with competencies and responsibilities encompassing:
Some of the Competencies of the Chief Customer Experience Officer will require:
- Brand and Omnichannel vision
- Marketing & Communications
- Sales experience across all channels (physical and virtual)
- Technology & processes impacting the customer experience (consumer facing and back-end)
- CRM at large: customer database/applications, analytics, CRM activity, Customer Service/Support
- Visual, Display & Packaging
A close partnership between the Chief Customer Experience Officer and IT, Sales, R&D/Product Development, Logistics and Finance will assure the greatest chance of success.
There is no typical profile yet for such a role. However, a blend of management experience in Sales, Marketing & Communications, and Technology is certainly a relevant foundation.
Frederica: What is the competitive advantage to companies embracing Omnichannel?
: Brands and retailers that fail to embrace the way consumers want to shop will not fully convert their market opportunity. Eventually they might vanish from their consumer's top-of-mind and shopping list.
I see Omnichannel as an opportunity for brands and retailers to differentiate themselves through new dimensions in order to gain a competitive edge. Therefore, Omnichannel is a matter of relevancy, a growth opportunity.