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Pandora Chief Digital Officer: Omnichannel should be a “natural evolution” for retailers

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Karl Walsh: "We need to be where the consumer wants to be, when they want to be there.”
Karl Walsh: "We need to be where the consumer wants to be, when they want to be there.”

Earlier this year Danish retailer Pandora announced a new 5-year strategy which put digital right at its centre, focusing on creating a “digitalised brand experience” and “winning in omnichannel retail”.

 

The strategy has already seen the jewellery and gifting brand introduce a new dedicated digital team, establish its own in-house design capability and build new analytics functions focused on eCommerce. In August it announced it would reduce its staff by around 400 and implement new organisational changes in order to shift more resources to digital.

 

Figures from the retailer’s recent Q2 results, announced in August, appear to vindicate the changes at least so far – revenues from Pandora’s online eSTORE rose 54 percent in local currency year-on-year to take up 9 percent of overall sales.

 

The company’s first Chief Digital Officer and SVP for digital consumer experience & eCommerce, Karl Walsh, however tells InternetRetailing the move has been “a natural evolution” for the 36-year-old brand rather than a dramatic shift in thinking.

 

“We’ve not diminished our retail capabilities but we’re thinking in terms of omnichannel ,” he says. “You’ll never hear the store talked about separately to the online experience. We need to be where the consumer wants to be, when they want to be there.”

 

On the one hand, this means providing online-only customers with a strong brand experience on the website, helping them to understand dimensions, colours, and the look and feel of products.

 

On the other, it means offering the same capabilities to customers in-store as they can get online.

 

“If you’re in a store and you want to buy something but don’t want to take it home that day for whatever reason we can ship to you from our online eSTORE even if you buy in-store. That’s a service we are rolling out this year.”

 

In essence, the channels need to be “in lockstep”, with neither channel being short-changed. This means presenting the consumer with a consistent journey across these different touch-points.

 

For Pandora, this has meant breaking down silos within organisations. Marketing owns the brand, so everything online has to be done in accordance with the brand guidelines. The customer’s path to the site via marketing channels needs to link them seamlessly with the purchasing journey on the page itself.

 

Walsh, who has founded retail technology companies and worked in consultancies for the industry, doesn’t think that “old school technologists” or consultants from outside retail are what the sector needs.

 

Instead, he thinks retailers should fill their teams with proven innovators in retail itself and ensure the structures are in place for them to deliver change.

 

“Any big company that has grown this fast ends up with redundancy and duplication of efforts. So we have cleaned up how we deliver, reallocated resources to digital and made mandates clearer. It’s a buzzword but we have become more agile, moving faster at satisfying the consumer.”

 

Walsh’s role is a global one, which means he has to deal with the challenges of rolling out technology across markets which may differ in all sorts of ways.

 

“I don’t believe in an overly top-down approach,” says Walsh. “We don’t sit in our ivory tower and decide what is best, then roll that out across the whole global business over two years.

 

“In an ideal world, the same solution matches everyone, but it may not and that is ok.”

 

For example, the omnichannel tools the company uses in China are not being used in the US. But the key is that while the answer isn’t necessarily the same, the thinking is.

 

“Who are the consumers and what are their pain points, what motivates them, what energises them? The tech matches that.”

 

The guiding principle is seeking out a return on investment.

 

“We are managing our shareholders’ money, so where’s the best place to put it?” says Walsh.

 

But this needs to be balanced against strategic concerns, says Walsh. The ROI may be better in one market than another, but if that market is less strategically important then the money will go elsewhere.

 

All-in-all, Walsh is confident that Pandora is ahead of or in line with all of its competition in the sector. The endpoint of the strategy is the eSTORE accounting for over 15 percent of revenue in 2022.

 

Pandora features in InternetRetailing’s IREU Top500, our regular benchmark of the top European retailers. Read our latest annual report here.

 

Pandora in numbers:

2017 revenue: DKK 22.8 billion (€3.06 billion)

Market capitalisation: DKK 42.68 billion (€5.72 billion)

Employees: 27,350 employees (as of February)

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