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When Gregoire Baret joined Aldo Group in 2015, “omnichannel” wasn’t the industry-wide buzzword it is today. But even now, there’s some mystery around his unique, trendy-sounding position of senior director of omnichannel experience design.

“Omnichannel experience design is about the consumer journey,” said Baret. “It’s about improving the shopping experience through communication, services, tools — anything that’s going to help someone discover the right and relevant products.”

In addition to the in-store and e-commerce experiences, the focus of his role — which was new when he joined the company — encompasses customer touchpoints from pre-purchase to post-purchase, including customer service. 

“I was brought in to be a kind of neutral agent that would connect people across [Aldo] departments, but also to be a voice for the consumer,” said Baret. 

His first orders of business were revamping the Aldo website and establishing 25 stores to act as “connected retail” pilots by testing technologies to improve the shopping experience. Everything he does now, he said, is related to making enhancements, because “what you launched three years ago may not be relevant today.” 

In this week’s episode of the Glossy Podcast, Hilary Milnes sits down with Gregoire Baret to discuss how Aldo internalizes innovation, what role the physical store plays today and how successful brands are keeping up with evolving customer behavior. Edited highlights below. 

Consumers’ omnichannel expectations:
“A big change is that there’s no big boundary between e-commerce and a store, and there are new consumer expectations about how all of these should work together. Consumers believe it is natural to have continuity between all the channels. If you spend the time to look for something online, you expect that [experience] to be easily connected to your future experience in the store; if you go to the store, you expect you’ll find the product you’re looking for. More than 70% of our consumers go to the website before going into the store. It’s also pretty natural for them to come to the store to do some discovery or showrooming, and to finalize their transaction later. We have to facilitate the sense of circularity and continuity between one channel and the other. There’s also a high expectation of simplicity and convenience, and it has to be fast. When you’re in a store, the time you spent should not be about waiting to get a product that you’re not sure you’re going to get. Instead, it should be about face time and the quality of time you have with an associate.”

The evolution of the physical store:
“We’ve evolved the stores to act as distribution centers for e-commerce. Right now, almost 90% of the orders coming from e-commerce are shipped from stores. This is fostering more proximity, more speed and better service. The stores have evolved to be totally meshed and embedded into e-commerce activity. We’ve developed ongoing tests and experimentation to clearly assess and understand what people want and what is best for them, and we evolve following an agile principle: We do fast-paced sprints, and every two weeks, we do some other iteration, whether that has to do with visual presentation, operations, design or brand amplification. The trick is to not be obsessed with what other companies are doing. We spend as much time with consumers as we can, in the field, iterating through these tests to determine the best level of service we can offer.”

In-store tech that works:
“We’ve had the chance to test a lot of tech configurations, and what we’ve come to is that we don’t want the tech to be that visible. We don’t want people to feel like they’re in a tech store when they’re in a footwear and accessories store. It should be a sensory experience — touching the product and interacting with human beings. We tested some of these interactive touchscreens, where people are supposed to discover the product, but [we found] it’s not what they like or want. So we pivoted. If customers come to the store, they want to feel the vibe of the store. We want tech to be there and enabled, but discrete. It should empower the associates to be faster and better in the way they serve the consumer, and the consumer should naturally experience the technology through their mobile phone.”