Retail tech executives on how to remain agile and innovative

Leadership challenges and opportunities to create a seamless customer experience
Maeson Cerami
July 25, 2023

Retail technology is nothing if not everchanging. Yet the industry continues to adapt and innovate to consistently create a seamless customer experience. Three executives — Karen Etzkorn, Janet Sherlock and Grant Anderson — discussed the challenges of bridging the gap between digital and physical experiences and how to build a team prepared for constant change at NRF Nexus. The conversation was moderated by Martin Gilliard, CEO of Stealth Retail Data Science Company.

NRF Nexus

Miss the event? Check out the event recap and read the latest coverage on NRF Nexus 2023 where technology, marketing and digital innovators intersected.

It starts with managing each company’s unique customer journey. Loyal customers purchase from Qurate Retail Group more than 20 times a year, CIO Karen Etzkorn said. The “secret sauce” is experimenting with how to expand outreach to acquire more customers digitally and helping them experience the joy of discovering something new.

Recognizing that post-pandemic consumers have seen a multitude of new tactics come into play when it comes to how we shop, Ralph Lauren’s Chief Digital and Technology Officer Janet Sherlock said the company reevaluated which pandemic implementations — whether virtual stores, apps or in-store pick-up options — were hitting the mark with consumers. It then assessed the behaviors that were driving key metrics to help keep things in place to maintain customer satisfaction.

The company has built a strong infrastructure that’s used across all platforms to ensure a seamless customer experience. From shopping online and managing clientele to pulling up customer wish lists, Sherlock said, “everything is interoperable.”  The architectural makeup of systems must work in harmony across all platforms to accommodate customers.

“If you don’t have a sound architecture ... you’re building on quicksand,” Etzkorn said. No matter where a customer decides to experience a product and brand, it should be an experience that doesn’t make them think twice about buying from the same retailer again.

“If you don’t have a sound architecture ... you’re building on quicksand.”

Karen Etzkorn, Qurate Retail Group

Good infrastructure requires a good team, one that’s durable and able to adapt to new situations. Etzkorn said employees that connect to who your brand is, the work it’s doing and the technology it creates are essential.

Grant Anderson, CIO of Living Spaces Furniture, has found success in bringing people who have previously worked in the company’s stores into higher IT positions. As the company helps them develop their talent, those people tend to stick around and build the innovative and adaptable team every company is looking for.

As for navigating through new challenges, Anderson said it’s important to create a vision for the future and revise annually to account for uncertainty. Assessing a team and where support is needed for new technology being introduced is key for technology leaders to drive positive results.

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