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Boden: Digital transformation is an organisation-wide phenomenon

Phil Lewis, director of digital experience at Boden, says retail executives who want to make the most of digital transformation must treat change as an organisation-wide phenomenon.

Lewis joined the online fashion retailer in May 2016 and has spent his time in-situ assessing digital challenges and opportunities. His time at the firm has coincided with a significant period of change at the organisation. Boden opened its flagship store in London’s King’s Road recently and has also moved to new offices in the capital, built around agile working principles.

Lewis, who chatted with Essential Retail at a recent Adobe customer experience event in London, says these changes form part of a wider transformation strategy that will help the retailer to continue keep existing clients happy, and to acquire new customers across a broad range of channels and geographies.

Expansion

“We want to deliver experiences that are personal and engaging – and, where possible, exceed those experiences by daring to be different,” he says. “We’re investing to transition from being a UK-focused business to a global, multi-channel retailer. Digital will play a key role in that transition.”

Indeed, since speaking to Lewis, the retail brand has strengthened is US presence through a partnership with Nordstrom, making its lines for women are available on Nordstrom’s website and in select shops of department store chain.

Meanwhile, Boden is beginning to open its own high street stores in the UK, its success was built through catalogue and online channels, and 95% of trade still takes place through web channels. Lewis, who runs digital insights, digital trading, and digital design and user experience as part of his role, spent most of 2017 focused on establishing the elements that would help the business achieve its transformation goals.

Customer mapping

He ran a customer mapping exercise and identified how and why customers sometimes suffered broken experiences. Lewis used insight from this mapping process to pull together a cross-functional, agile team to think about how the organisation could continue to develop great customer experiences.

“I think the biggest thing is just engaging with the whole organisation – you've got to bring the business along with you,” he says, reflecting on best practice transformation lessons. “The customer is clearly crucial to everything you do as retailer, but you must get everyone on board with your change initiative. Some of that approach relies on awareness and education about what digitisation means and why it is important.”

“I think the biggest thing is just engaging with the whole organisation – you've got to bring the business along with you"

Content management

Lewis says his digital transformation initiative at Boden is all about putting the right tools and capabilities into the hands of the right people. He says there was a need to elevate design experiences outside the traditional development team. Boden has now introduced a content management system, in the form of Adobe Experience Manager, to help push creativity into the hands of workers across the organisation.

“I could have maybe got a platform implemented by myself, but the scope for that would be quite narrow and I don't think we'd ever really get the biggest benefits,” he says. “I think the success of everything that we've done is due to getting everyone involved, getting the buy-in early and making people across the organisation a part of the process.”

Lewis says the kick-off meeting for the introduction of the Adobe platform involved 50 people out of a head office of 500 members of staff. “That’s quite a large proportion of the business,” he says. “We had people from merchandise, products, design, garment technology and marketing. All areas of the business were involved, so that would be the biggest piece of advice to other digital leaders who want to ensure success.”

Transformational change

Data and content are not the only areas of attention when it comes to technology. Lewis says current priority projects in the business include a review of enterprise architecture and a tighter grip on product information management. “What is clear is transformation involves a significant amount of change for our company,” he says.  

Lewis and his colleagues continue to develop a multichannel strategy. He recognises the move to high street stores is a significant step for a company that has traditionally relied on web-based sales. Yet it is a transition Lewis is relishing – and he says the combination of online and offline retailing will help Boden to grow with confidence.

“It’s quite unique and it’s the reversal of the approach that faces traditional retailers who need to establish online channels,” he says. “We recognise that, despite our online success, 80% of retail still takes place on the high street. For Boden, stores are an important component that can allow us go out to customers and get our products in their hands.”

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