Surprised that the company behind one of the freshest and most exciting clothing brands in Canada was established way back in 1957? According to Canada Goose SVP IT Catherine Chick, age is just a number. Leveraging technology and innovation, the company continues to build up its rock-solid reputation by focusing on putting customers first.
Canada Goose, a pandemic-era success story (one that doesn’t just sell in Canada but also manufactures their products here), is in the business of selling quality clothing. And it’s doing very well – it continues to expand in the global marketplace, particularly through online channels. But what the company really does, said Chick, is serve.
“We serve people. That’s our focus. Through large investments in technology, we want to provide that premier customer experience that sets us apart.”
In today’s hypercompetitive market, where the superconnected customer can fully assess what you offer in a few taps or clicks, the experience must be top-tier. Chick said Canada Goose has recognized the importance of their website as a customer experience tool.
“We recently relaunched our North American website,” she said. “Our content, from the photography to the video and layout, appears to be setting us apart in terms of being a luxury brand.”
Our goal from day one has been to offer customers a digital version of the experience they would get in one of our physical stores. So far, offering content interaction in place of human interaction has given us great results.”
Chick talked about Canada Goose’s “shop live” experience where, instead of chatting with an AR bot, customers are able to book time with a real sales associate. Customers hit the “shop live” button, an associate is pinged, and a video call is started.
“It gets close to ‘real feel’ — like visiting a store,” said Chick. “We don’t have a massive footprint, so this is a feature that’s proving useful for people who don’t live close to a store. People can get all the help they would get in-store from their living room.”
People and Tools
Chick said it’s important that a company looking to evolve get the right technology in place, but said that is only half the equation.
“Some of our success in getting our brand out there has been about the tools we’ve been using. We have made many solid investments. However, without people, tools are just tools. Our marketing team has done a superb job. Through social media and our own CRM, marketing has extended our reach and greatly enhanced our reputation.”
Free download: “Profiles in Innovation Series: Retail”
Working to Untangle
Chick spoke plainly about the challenges Canada Goose have around operational complexity – something the company is not alone in battling.
“We have a platform approach with our systems. There’s a need for a multitude of niche subsystems – it’s a complex ecosystem for us to work inside. It’s no small feat to offer a seamless experience while keeping internal operations efficient. We’re not alone in this struggle, but in our case we’re talking about dozens — perhaps 100 plus — applications.”
Canada Goose has made a strong commitment to cloud. While this has helped ease the burden of complexity, it’s not a cure-all.
“We now have hardly anything on-prem. Being able to take advantage of what cloud vendors have to offer is good, but we still need a strong enterprise architecture to orchestrate all the pieces. We’re not unique in this need, but we’re very aware of it and are doing everything we can to stay on top of it.”
Any organization — especially those in retail — must dedicate energy to both thrilling customers today and wowing them tomorrow. The tomorrow piece is not easy, rarely if ever a straight road, but Chick said Canada Goose is looking at it from several angles.
“These ‘360’ views of products you see on websites like ours are great,” she said, “and we do well to go further down this avenue. The online experience is still very 2D, and the challenge for retailers is to find ways to seamlessly build a bridge between the so-called traditional online experience and a more virtual reality type experience.”
“It’s not just about bringing in a virtual world but making it immersive. Companies have been trying to do VR for a long time, and it’s still nowhere close. That’s because it’s too far out and far away for people to engage with. If we can bring customers into our virtual environment in an immersive way — to blur the lines, so to speak — there will be familiarity, and people will interact with it.”
Some Advice for the Road
Chick stressed the vital importance of common purpose in an organization — from the top down — and warned of the perils of overcomplication through technology.
“Clear vision drives the work. With technology you can easily get dragged into just the operational day-to-day. This leaves you with tunnel vision, where big picture and future planning suffers. Maintaining your focus on innovation, and pushing forward and finding those boundaries, requires a clear strategy — a set of goals you’re aiming to achieve.”
“If I could offer any business leader any advice at all, it would be to find your vision and then design your technology strategy around that. And the vision must be truly long-term. You want a guidepost well out in front of you so you know where you’re headed. A roadmap is going to be the piece that ties the whole thing together.”