Barneys New York is finally mining its data to better assess consumer needs and put them front-and-center.
“We are in a people-first world,” said Martin Gilliard, the company’s first chief information officer, while speaking at the Luxury Interactive conference in New York. “The companies that are successful are those that have put the customer at the center of their business.”
Gilliard, who was previously the global head of martech and data partnerships at Facebook, was brought on in April to help the old-school luxury retailer transform into one that’s built around consumer needs. He has no retail experience, but it’s of no concern to Barneys; CEO Daniella Vitale told Fortune that the company’s banking on his data expertise. It will help the retailer make sense of the reams of information it collects from shoppers each day.
One way Gilliard is helping achieve this goal is by combining the information received both online and in store about each consumer, rather than viewing those purchasing paths as separate channels. Key to that is syncing up the inventory and commerce systems used at each point of sale.
“Customers don’t think about channels; they think about relationships, which cross different mediums,” he said, adding that, as a result, the brand relationship should be the same across the board.
Combining the data you get from both pathways is crucial, according to Gilliard: “You have to be able to turn those multiple data points into a story [about your consumer].”
For instance, a shopper might search for a Chloé bag on the Barneys website, only to find that it’s sold out online. The next time she visits the store, an associate will be able to ask for her name, find that information point (among others) and direct her to that bag in store, or use it to dictate other recommendations.
Today’s customer doesn’t just demand these kinds of personalized experiences, they expect them, said Gilliard.
One problem that luxury retailers have faced historically is privileging their own desires over that of their customers, like pushing for in-store foot traffic and avoiding the online space, even as their consumer shows them that the digital world is where they’re at.
“It’s always been about us,” said Gilliard, citing the example of brands that try to incentivize customers to pick up online purchases in store. “But it’s not about us anymore; it’s about the consumer.”
As a result, he said, brands need to leave their options open and let consumers determine how they’d like to transact. “You cannot compromise a customer’s time today,” he said, “and those who don’t will win their dollars.”