On the Hot Seat: BCBG's VP of Omnichannel, Alex Golshan

Alex Golshan

Design house and retailer BCBGMaxazria has several brands, more than 700 stores and supplies goods to department stores including Bloomingdales, Macy's and Nordstrom. But while resources had been allocated toward growing the brand, omnichannel initiatives had lagged behind.

So BCBG partnered with Demandware to launch its Digital Design Solution, migrating from an on-premises one. The initiative has rolled out to 180 stores in the United States and will soon be expanded chain-wide.

From the deployment of in-store mobile devices to flexible fulfillment, BCBG is building an omnichannel operation one piece at a time. FierceRetailIT spoke with Alex Golshan, VP of omni-channel and international ecommerce at BCBGMaxazria to find out more.

FierceRetailIT: At that point, when you started this project, what services were you offering?

Alex Golshan: BCBG, as a brand, is both a retailer and a wholesaler. Our e-commerce business is fairly new, with new management that's really taking a somewhat under-optimized e-commerce business and [has] aggressive plans to grow it, domestically and globally.

When I started, we had the challenge of having very thin inventory in our stores. When a customer comes to a store, we may not have their size or the color. It was really left to the discretion of the associate to see if they had time to call around a bunch of stores. We didn't have very good inventory visibility across all our stores. A lot of times, the customer left without finding what they want. I wanted to solve that problem first.

Demandware had come out with this Digital Store Solution which taps into the same e-commerce platform that we offer online. It adds additional functionality. That product has matured quite a bit over the past few months. We've been working closely with Demandware, and we're upgrading it continuously to take advantage of all the changes. That enables us to now capture sales from the online channel and have free shipping to the customer. We try to expedite the shipping so that, if they really need something within a couple days, they can get it.

We're in the process of rolling out the next version of it, and we have a pretty long roadmap ahead for this product: To enable international shipping and roll this out to our Herve Leger brand, which is our very high-end brand.

FierceRetailIT: What did the early results reveal?

Alex Golshan: A lot of happy customers. We had the deepest inventory online. There are sizes that we just don't carry in the store, and the customer can now get those without having to go to a bunch of places. Yeah, a lot of happy customers.

This is our first step and the biggest benefit even outside of making the customers happy is the fact that we're laying the foundation for how we deal [with] our own P&Ls: Who gets the revenue, how we reconcile between our store channel and our online channel, how we manage our store operations team, how we deal with the training, and how do we deal with the help desk.

There are so many different processes that have to be wrapped around this to make it successful. We're really laying the foundation for this in order to roll out other initiatives.

One of our biggest initiatives this year will be our ability to ship to or pick up from the store. So when an order comes in, we can decide where to ship it and where to fulfill the order from. We may decide to fulfill from a store [rather than distribution center], and give the store the ability to ship items. That's going to take us a really long way toward being able to satisfy the customer and potentially offer things like same-day shipping, or the ability to order online and pick it up two hours later. [We could] tap into Uber, for example, and be able to have Uber deliver it to your home within a couple of hours. So, those are really the things that we're working on this year, in addition to optimizing this first initiative.

FierceRetailIT: Now, there's one other component to this, which is the data that you get back from the shoppers. Can you talk a little bit about that and what you're getting and your goal for it be?

Alex Golshan: Customer data is a huge, huge element. My plan and desire is really to bring the best of digital into the store, and take the best of store into digital [such as] fitting technologies. A big challenge is that customers order multiple sizes of the same product and use their home as the fitting room, especially in big cities where it's expensive to park or really hard to get to the store. [It would help] to have better fitting room technologies, or fitting technologies online.  Or, if we could include some kind of measurement as part of their profile to guarantee an item will fit, because we've measured you and we know our products.

The most common thing [for brands] is to capture email for marketing purposes, but I think we want to take it a step beyond. To really to create a customer database that's omnichannel. For us to really know who is a store customer, who's an online customer, and who's a multichannel customer. And that's a challenge. We're also rolling out beacon and WiFi technologies in our stores where we can get some level of store analytics.

We're trying to match [in-store] data with online data and understand customer behavior in our store versus our website. [We'd like to] create mobile apps or something really effective that people want to keep, as opposed to download and then delete. We're thinking through what those things should be.

Omnichannel really has multiple angles, and if you talk to a bunch of people, they have different answers. There's a very mechanical supply chain issue that you want to serve [such as shifting inventory due to weather or demand], and there's still that whole problem of resolving revenues across channels that you have work through your organization. And then, there's the whole customer data aspect and how you understand customers across these different channels. Do they go online, do they go to the store? Once they know what they want, do they order it online all the time, or do they still only go to the store? Those are the things that, if you have that data, you can implement in Demandware to personalize stores to that customer.

That's where we're driving [in addition to] making policies and pricing the same across all channels. These are all the things that we need to clearly work on to present the brand in the same light everywhere.