C4 CIOInsider: The customer experience is key

The Canadian Channel Chief Council’s most recent CIO Insider featured Catherine Chick, Senior VP of IT at Canada Goose, and Alex Buhler, CTO at Indochino.  The event – held in partnership with the CIO Association of Canada – was hosted by President Corrine Sharp and had 40 C4 members and guests in attendance.

The Role of the CIO

The discussion opened with observations about the impact of changes in the competitive marketplace on the role of the CIO. Touching on the solution-oriented nature of an evolving sector, Catherine Chick described these changes as reinforcing the importance of technology in finding solutions. “CIOs need to know how to drive the business, they need to understand the business, they need to know how to use technology strategically,” she said. “The pandemic has highlighted and accelerated shifts in the industry, and sometimes the answer is in finding ways to implement technology more creatively – not necessarily implementing a new solution or platform.”

For his part, Alex Buhler agreed. “At Indochino, we were digital natives. We started online and moved to retail after,” he said. “Though there was some resistance before to a remote working model, we unfortunately needed a pandemic to see that we can still be productive and effective with employees being remote.” According to Buhler, the key role of the CIO is to leverage technology to provide new sources of revenue , better value, improved systems, and customer experience enhancements that increase the overall conversion rate.

Retail and Security Considerations

In response to a participant’s question about how growing security risks affect planning and attainment of business goals, Buhler was quick to advocate for multiple layers of security, including working closely with a security partner, audits, penetration tests, and following industry standards to know what you are doing and where your security stands at all times.

Echoing the importance of security, Chick said that ongoing tests of security are essential. Voicing her belief that the status quo may not be good enough for the future, she advised that staying ahead and challenging yourself to do more proactive testing of your processes and systems is also a good practice. In her opinion, there is great value in raising the awareness of security through end-user training, as well as in considering the vulnerabilities inherent in data management – especially for global companies, such as Canada Goose.

How and When to Introduce New Technologies

In response to a C4 member asking if there is a new focus around retail technology solutions now that brick and mortar retailers are beginning to reopen, Buhler shared that Indochino is always looking to improve and to make sure in-house systems are more efficient – potentially through technology partners.

As an example, Buhler described a process the company uses to evaluate external software and technology, which includes looking to their network of peers to see what and who they are using, and how their experience differs. A more formal process (business use-cases, metrics, requirements, etc.) is used to create a vendor shortlist, but ultimately a large part of Indochino’s decision-making for technology is based on how a vendor can be integrated long-term. Buhler’s priority as CIO is vendors who will act as partners and offer long-term support and collaboration as Indochino continues to use its software and services.

Chick’s take on new technology relates to the convergence of online and in-person to push the leading edge and heighten the retail consumer experience. Looking to technology that offers customers seamless communication between online and in-store, she cited the advantages of being able to shift smoothly and create a hybrid functionality, describing this as the next evolution of retail. Before introducing (or considering) new technology, she encouraged organizations to consider the future of their industry.

How Vendors Bring Value and What CIOs Want

After posing a question about the most effective way for vendors and their teams to connect, President Sharp probed the best and most creative way to break through the noise of the inbox, considering what actually encourages people to sort through (potentially) hundreds of cold pitches and read an email. For Chick, the immediate answer was personalization. In her experience, if vendors and service providers want CIOs to read their emails, those emails should present themselves as something worth reading. Rather than a generic “let me present my pitch to you” email, she advised something like, “this is what we know about your company, and here’s how we can help.” Specific examples, use-cases, and white papers were some of the strategies she suggested for getting people to read an email.

Reiterating Chick’s sentiment, Buhler emphasized the power of telling success stories that explain how CIOs will benefit from engaging with vendors and service providers. In his estimation, any approach should highlight just what’s in it for the recipient. For example, Buhler said that he receives many approaches for technology that are not applicable to Indochino, when what he really needs is something that is good for retail.

In summary, both Chick and Buhler agreed they are open to partnerships with innovative technology, from vendors large and small. However, in the retail industry, the main point of consideration when approaching a CIO should not only be the needs of that company as a customer but of the company’s customers as well. The parting message was the critical importance of providing a service or software that will enhance the customer experience.