Cover Story: The Top Women in Omnichannel Retail
Retail Online Integration's fifth annual list of the leading women executives in omnichannel retail features some of the brightest minds in the industry. This year's nominees were chosen for being in a top-level position within an omnichannel retail organization, along with several other criteria, including their scope of responsibility, achievements within their own companies, and their involvement within the retail industry. Take advantage of this opportunity to learn about the career paths of some of today's leading retail experts, as well as find out what they believe will be the top tip for omnichannel retail success in 2015.
Kavita Baball, Senior Vice President, Customer Experience and Retention, Shoebuy.com
Kavita focuses her passion for shoes on delivering an outstanding customer experience for Shoebuy. She brings a combination of e-commerce, technology and strategy expertise to her role, ensuring that Shoebuy shoppers have the confidence that they can always find and buy the perfect items across the company's range of websites and digital platforms. Kavita previously served as director of site optimization for Staples’ websites globally, and as a management consultant at Bain & Company. She holds a M.B.A. from the Wharton School of Business and Bachelor of Science and Master of Engineering degrees from MIT.
TIP: In today's hectic world, retailers must provide a seamless customer experience. Making it easy and delighting customers during their shopping journey is key to driving engagement and, in the long term, loyalty.
Debra Berman, Chief Marketing Officer, J.C. Penney
Debra Berman is the chief marketing officer at J.C. Penney. Since August 2013, Debra has been responsible for leading the company's marketing campaign efforts with a focus on revitalizing the J.C. Penney brand, building the brand architecture and communicating the "fit" promise to customers.
Debra brings over 25 years of experience as a marketing strategist and communications expert for major consumer brands, including Kraft Foods Group, where she was vice president of global brand strategy for all Kraft-owned brands in addition to leading the marketing communications Center of Excellence.
Prior to joining Kraft in 2009, Debra spent nearly five years as strategic planning director at DDB Advertising. Before that she held senior strategy planning roles at Sterling Brands, Young & Rubicam, and Swander Pace & Company. Early in her career, Debra progressed through roles of increasing responsibility at advertising firms JWT, Saatchi & Saatchi, and Lintas. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Pennsylvania and a M.B.A from UCLA Anderson School of Management.
TIP: Anticipate each customer and serve him or her one consistent brand, a touchpoint at a time. Price of entry is and will continue to be delighting the customer with the right experience for the channel they're shopping. Present goods, offers, and payment and shopping experiences that are right for the moment she is in — when she uses your channel. Go to market recognizing every day that other service areas are driving her expectations and you need to stay agile to deliver this moving target. Leverage the heck out of your customer-level data to deliver one customer at a time.
Krista Berry, Executive Vice President, Chief Digital Officer, Kohl's Department Stores
Krista Berry is the executive vice president, chief digital officer at Kohl's Department Stores. She's responsible for developing and executing Kohl's long-term omnichannel and customer-driven digital innovation strategies, including overseeing Kohl's fast-growing e-commerce business. Under Krista's leadership, digital sales have doubled since 2011 to just under $2 billion, while maintaining a focus on innovation and customer experience. Prior to joining Kohl's in 2012, Krista was the general manager, North America retail, for Nike, where she and her team oversaw the evolution of the North America Nike Experiences in-store and online. Previously, Krista was part of the Target team for 19 years in various leadership roles with both Target and Marshall Field's.
TIP: Build a world-class team focused on putting the customer first and delivering a seamless shopping experience that continues to excite and inspire the customer across all channels.
Kathryn Bufano, President and CEO, Bon-Ton Stores
Kathryn Bufano is president and chief executive officer of The Bon-Ton Stores, Inc., as well as a member of its board of directors.
Kathryn served as president and chief merchandising officer of Belk Inc. from August 2010 till August 2014, and previously served as the retailer's president, merchandising and marketing, from January 2008 to August 2010. From 2006 to January 2008, Kathryn was the CEO of Vanity Shops, Inc. Kathryn pursued higher education from 2003 to 2006, and from 2002 to 2003 was executive vice president, general manager, soft lines, for Sears Roebuck & Company. Prior to 2002, Kathryn served as president, chief merchandising officer for Dress Barn, Inc., and in various positions in the Macy's East and Lord & Taylor divisions of Federated Department Stores. Kathryn is a graduate of the University of Illinois-Urbana with a Bachelor of Science degree in retailing. She also earned a Master's degree in Business Administration from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management in Lake Forest, Ill.
TIP: It's critical to align your merchant, marketing, planning and IT departments so they think and plan as one to achieve a seamless brand and shopping experience for the customer.
Sona Chawla, President of Digital and Chief Marketing Officer, Walgreens
Sona Chawla is president of digital and chief marketing officer for Walgreen Co. She's responsible for advancing Walgreens’ omnichannel vision by creating customer experiences that drive loyalty and enhance the company's brand; developing the right mix across the full portfolio of marketing assets; innovating through digital offerings; and evolving the Balance Rewards loyalty program.
Previously, Sona served as Walgreens president of e-commerce from January 2011 before being promoted to her current role in February 2014. She joined Walgreens in July 2008 as senior vice president of e-commerce. Prior to Walgreens, Sona was vice president of global online business at Dell, Inc.
TIP: Be open to change and follow the customer. Imagine the possibilities enabled through technology that will drive the best customer experiences and uniquely align with your company's core business and strategic positioning.
Emily Culp, Senior Vice President, E-Commerce and Omnichannel Marketing, Rebecca Minkoff
Emily Culp leads the e-commerce and omnichannel marketing teams for fashion brand Rebecca Minkoff, focusing on consumer marketing and driving revenue-leading programs like the eBay/Rebecca Minkoff store of the future, redesign of rebeccaminkoff.com, omnichannel branding both for Rebecca Minkoff's brick-and-mortar stores and e-commerce site, and continually pushing for new and innovative ways to connect with customers. Emily is an innovative omnichannel marketer who combines over a decade of experience from PR agencies Ogilvy, Digitas and Arnold with client-side experience at Estee Lauder Co. and Unilever. She has a successful track record of leading global brand teams that deliver measurable results.
At Unilever, Emily led the formation of the company's partnership with Amazon.com to open e-commerce brand stores. She also oversaw all 30-plus Unilever brands in the social media space.
At Estee Lauder, and in particular its Clinique brand, Emily established the brand's global integrated marketing strategy and department, which launched omnichannel brand campaigns and apps across social media, mobile, search, CRM, an online consumer panel and the first in-store/online skin diagnostic tool in the company's history.
Emily holds a M.B.A. from Columbia University and a B.A. from Wake Forest University. She currently lives in New York City with her husband and two children.
TIP: There are three elements to omnichannel success. First is creating a vision that articulates innovative ways to connect the online and offline worlds via technology in a seamless and beneficial way for consumers. Second involves organizational readiness, which includes identifying omnichannel key performance indicators/incentives and obtaining C-suite support. Finally, you need a budget to invest in not only the technology, but also the internal talent to implement it.
Soraya Darabi, Co-Founder, Zady
Soraya Darabi is the co-founder of Zady, a shopping platform and lifestyle destination for the next generation of consumers who care about the origins of the items they purchase. Zady launched to rave reviews in August 2013, and was featured in The Wall Street Journal's "Off Duty" section with an article entitled, Feel-Good Fashion: The New Black.
What Whole Foods has done for the organic food movement, Zady does for sourced products. Zady is amongst the first online retailers to seamlessly integrate commerce, rich media content and social media to provide customers with a dynamic shopping experience. On Zady.com, customers can learn about the conscious consumer movement and purchase beautiful goods that were created with craftsmanship and artisanship — qualities that have been sacrificed in a world of cheap prices and fast production. Last year, Zady was named to Fast Company's Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Retail list, as well as one of BuzzFeed's 22 Instagram accounts fashionistas should follow.
Having begun her career as manager of digital partnerships and social media at The New York Times, Soraya quickly became recognized as a thought leader with her finger on the pulse of today's ever-changing digital landscape. While at The New York Times, Soraya positioned the global news leader on networks such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter; partnered with startups large and small; and established award-winning campaigns. She was also tasked with teaching journalists and chief executives alike how to best use and leverage social media. Renowned Times columnist Nicholas Kristof credits Soraya as being "the only reason why he has [millions] of followers on Twitter."
Following her tenure at The New York Times, Soraya served as product lead for drop.io, a real-time online sharing, collaboration and presentation service (since acquired by Facebook). She then went on to co-found the mobile application Foodspotting, named by Apple and Wired magazine as an "app of the year" before being acquired by OpenTable.
Soraya was recently featured on the cover of Fast Company's "Most Creative People in Business" issue, Brandweek's "Hot Digital" issue, was named one of Inc. Magazine's "30 Under 30," and was included in AdAge's "25 People in Media to Follow on Twitter."
Soraya received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History from Georgetown University.
TIP: "Experiment with new online mediums as they arise. Meet your community at the earliest point where they are naturally migrating and want to engage."
Robin Domeniconi, Chief Marketing Officer, Rue La La
Robin Domeniconi is the chief marketing officer at Rue La La, a leading e-commerce destination. In her role as CMO, Robin is responsible for driving the growth of Rue La La's business platforms, including men's and women's fashion, and living and travel. Robin oversees Rue La La's customer file and drives the strategy for member engagement, integrating editorial and experiential content throughout the Rue La La shopping experience.
Robin most recently served as chief marketing officer at vente-privee with American Express, where she oversaw the vision, mission and strategy for the U.S. launch of the $1.5 billion global fashion and e-commerce brand. Before joining vente-privee, Robin was senior vice president and chief brand officer for ELLE Group at Hearst, managing content, advertising, marketing, digital platforms and brand development across the group's titles.
Between 2008 and 2010, Robin was Microsoft's vice president of U.S. advertising sales, marketing and publishing, working on the organization's media properties and network partners including MSN, Windows Live, Xbox, Bing, Facebook, MSNBC and WSJ Digital.
Prior to that, Robin spent eight years at Time Inc., rising to the position of president of Time Inc. Media Group between 2005 and 2007, with responsibility for all corporate sales and marketing efforts for the corporation's 130-plus global brands. She also served as the president and publisher of REAL SIMPLE magazine.
TIP: It's important that we always find balance between creativity and analytics. When we allow data to drive creativity, we encourage innovation that delivers tangible results.
Sharon Price John, CEO, Build-A-Bear Workshop
Sharon Price John has more than 20 years of business experience with an expertise in brand strategy and change management. She's been CEO of Build-A-Bear Workshop, Inc. since June 2013. From 2010 to 2013, Sharon was president of Stride Rite Children's Group, a division of Wolverine Worldwide. From 2002 through 2009, she held positions of increasing responsibility at Hasbro, Inc., including general manager and senior vice president of the global preschool business unit and U.S. toy division, working on brands such as NERF, My Little Pony and Transformers. Prior to that, Sharon worked at Mattel, Inc. as vice president of the Disney division and director of Barbie. She holds a B.S. from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and a M.B.A. from Columbia University. Sharon also serves on the board of directors for Jack in the Box, Inc. and KaBOOM! She's also a member of The Committee of 200.
TIP: Be consumer centric, brand building and data driven in your decision making. Your online experience doesn't need to attempt to replicate the store experience. Guests are often shopping different channels for different reasons. Leverage the differences.
Karen Katz, President and CEO, Neiman Marcus Group
Karen Katz is the president and chief executive officer of Neiman Marcus Group (NMG), the premier retailer of luxury and fashion merchandise in the United States. In her postion as president and CEO, Karen oversees the strategic direction, operations and expansion of the omnichannel retailer, which conducts integrated store and online operations under the Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Last Call, Horchow, CUSP and mytheresa brand names. Karen joined NMG in 1985 as a merchandise manager. She assumed her present position at the company in 2010. Karen was educated at the University of Texas and also received a master of business administration from the University of Houston.
TIP: Always keep the customer at the center of what you do.
Mary Lou Kelley, President of E-Commerce, Best Buy
Mary Lou Kelley is the president of e-commerce for leading electronics retailer Best Buy. In this role, Mary Lou leads BestBuy.com, along with the company's overall digital strategy to advance Best Buy's global e-commerce vision, retail omnichannel capabilities and online business. She's responsible for all of Best Buy's global e-commerce channels, including BestBuy.com and mobile commerce. Mary Lou has extensive experience in online retail. Prior to joining Best Buy, she was the senior vice president, e-commerce for Chico's FAS, where she was responsible for the direct-to-consumer business for its three brands — Chico's, White House Black Market and Soma Intimates.
In addition, Mary Lou spent nine years with L.L.Bean, Inc., primarily as its vice president of e-commerce. Prior to her time at L.L.Bean, Mary Lou held positions of increasing leadership with McKinsey & Company and Ben & Jerry's Homemade, Inc. Her earlier retail career experience included stints with Sears and other small multichannel brands.
Mary Lou holds a B.A. in Economics from Boston College and a M.B.A. from the Darden Graduate School of Business at the University of Virginia, where she is a member of the corporate board of advisors.
TIP: Keep the customer in the center of your decision making. If you truly focus on the customer at all times, you'll make the right choices.
Julie Lyle, Chief Marketing Officer, hhgregg
Julie Lyle, chief marketing officer at hhgregg, spearheads marketing innovations in an evolving digital landscape. In her role as CMO, Julie is responsible for marketing, branding, e-commerce and store design for the 60-year-old appliance, electronics and furniture retailer. Julie helped elevate hhgregg's online presence and service excellence, leading to company recognition as a fast-growing retail e-commerce site and a J.D. Power award as category leader for online customer service. Prior to hhgregg, Julie served as chief marketing officer for Prudential, Plc Hong Kong. She also held the role of chief merchandising and marketing officer for Pamida Holdings Corporation, and senior vice president/corporate officer, marketing, advertising and administration for Walmart Stores, Inc.
TIP: With the velocity of digital and mobile evolution, success is often a result of focus. Use data to ensure your priorities are aligned around when — and how — customers want to engage with your brand.
Rose Marcario, President and CEO, Patagonia
Rose Marcario assumed the role of president and CEO of Patagonia in January 2014. Prior to this position, Rose served as CEO of Patagonia Works, the parent company of Patagonia, Inc. Prior to serving as the CEO of Patagonia Works, Rose was COO and CFO of Patagonia.
After joining Patagonia in 2008, Rose quickly embarked on transforming the company's infrastructure to improve its operations and financial performance. In addition to broadening business throughout Europe, Japan and Australia, Rose has helped Patagonia focus on innovation and the development of new product groups, processes and technologies. During her time the company has doubled its scale of operations and tripled its profits.
Rose came to Patagonia with 15 years experience in corporate finance and global operations, including serving as executive vice president in charge of mergers, acquisitions and private placements for Capital Advisors, and senior vice president and CFO of General Magic, a spinoff of Apple Computer, Inc. Rose got her start as a senior consultant for accounting firm Arthur Andersen LLP. As director of corporate finance for L.A. Gear, she oversaw the shoe and apparel company's initial public offering and rapid growth to $900 million in capitalization.
For Rose, one of the most rewarding aspects of working for Patagonia is the opportunity for hands-on involvement in tackling environmental crises. In response to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, for example, she spearheaded an initiative to send Patagonia employees to join in relief efforts for the Gulf region. Rose serves on the board of trustees for Naropa University (a Buddhist liberal arts college in Boulder, Colo.), and her environmental activism also includes preservation-focused work with organizations like the Joshua Tree National Park Association and the Mojave Desert Land Trust.
TIP: Put the customer first. Customers’ shopping habits are changing, and we need to change to accommodate them. Some solutions require technology, but the key is you have to make it easy for your customer to have access to your products wherever they are sold.
Kelly McGann, Chief Marketing Officer, Consumer Electronics and Connected Solutions, Sears Holdings Corporation
In her current role as chief marketing officer, consumer electronics and connected solutions at Sears Holdings Corporation (SHC), Kelly McGann is leading the marketing and omnichannel transformation of electronics at Sears and Kmart from simply selling traditional electronics products to uniquely positioning the company as the leader in smart technology solutions across all product categories powered by the benefits of integrated retail and Shop Your Way. Prior to her role at SHC, Kelly was vice president/general manager, e-commerce brands at Guitar Center Inc. She's also held e-commerce leadership and general management positions at Liz Claiborne Inc. and E-Commerce Experts LLC. Kelly has been involved in all areas of B-to-C and B-to-B omnichannel retail, from business plan creation and strategy to digital marketing and e-commerce operations.
TIP: Think big and act small.
Tricia Nichols, Global Lead of Consumer Engagement, Gap
As global lead of consumer engagement, Tricia Nichols oversees digital, social, media, emerging platforms and brand partnerships for Gap. Her passion for bringing a consumer-first approach to planning provides a strong compass for navigating an ever-changing marketing landscape as well as bringing the physical and digital worlds of retail closer together.
Prior to Gap, Tricia's career spanned both agencies and brands, including roles of managing partner at MediaCom; senior lead of portfolio projects at PepsiCo; and a group leader role at TracyLocke. In these roles, she led activations in media, emerging platforms, multicultural and local marketing, social and mobile loyalty, and retail media and branded entertainment. Tricia also helped launch the first-ever PepsiCo10 platform, which incubated 10 startup companies for the PepsiCo beverage and food brands.
Tricia currently lives in New York City and is an active advisor to startups within the digital, entertainment and music spaces. She was once an adjunct professor at Southern Methodist University.
TIP: Think like a consumer. Consumers don't think in channels, but rather in experiences. Therefore, we want to create a shared experience, in various platforms, that lead to one common consumer goal.
Karen Peters, Executive Vice President, Retail and Wholesale Sales, Vera Bradley
Karen Peters oversees Vera Bradley's full-line and factory outlet stores, its indirect channel (including specialty and department store relationships), store visual, and store real estate. Karen has 25 years of retail experience, including multistore management and merchandising. She previously served as senior vice president, director of stores for Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5TH, where she significantly grew the store base and meaningfully improved the customer experience. Karen has also held key positions with Sears, Target and Kohl's.
TIP: Look at the shopping experience through your customers’ eyes. Ensure that the brand is consistently represented, no matter how she chooses to shop.
Liz Rodbell, President, Hudson's Bay and Lord & Taylor
As the president of Hudson's Bay Company and Lord & Taylor, Liz Rodbell oversees merchandising, marketing, creative, stores, e-commerce direction and overall strategy for both brands. She divides her time between the company's dual headquarters in New York City and Toronto, and also serves on Hudson's Bay executive committee.
Liz is a seasoned retail executive with over 30 years of experience in the industry. She's held several senior leadership positions at Hudson's Bay and Lord & Taylor, having risen through the ranks of the merchant organization. Prior to her current role, Liz had been executive vice president, chief merchant for Hudson's Bay and Lord & Taylor, where she was responsible for overseeing the merchant organization at both banners since 2012, and successfully integrated the senior leadership of the newly combined company.
Liz joined Lord & Taylor in 1985 as a buyer for dresses. Within two years she was promoted to divisional merchandise manager for the dress category. She was then promoted in 1992 to senior vice president, general merchandise manager of suits, coats, intimate apparel and children's. In this position, Liz had responsibilities in every business category Lord & Taylor carried over the years until being promoted to executive vice president of merchandising, overseeing the women's merchandise categories.
Liz also serves on the board of Fashion Group International and the Two Ten Footwear Foundation. In May 2014, Win, a nonprofit organization dedicated to breaking the cycle of homelessness for families, honored Liz at its annual dinner gala for her commitment to providing homeless women and their families the opportunity to transform their lives. Liz began her retail career at A&S in the executive training program and became a buyer before joining Lord & Taylor. She and her husband, Mitchell, have two teenage daughters.
TIP: The No. 1 priority for our team is a seamless experience for the customer. Whether in-store, online or on a mobile device, the entire experience must be seamless. For us that means staying committed to offering our customers the very best assortment of fashion at a great value however, wherever and whenever they want to shop. Having a customer-centric mind-set is key.
Anne Saunders, President of the Consumer Division, FTD Companies
Anne Saunders is the president of the consumer division for FTD Companies, Inc. FTD is a premier floral and gifting company with e-commerce brands such as FTD, ProFlowers, Personal Creations and Shari's Berries. Previously, Anne held executive leadership roles at companies including Redbox, Knowledge Universe, Bank of America Corporation and Starbucks Coffee Co. She's served on the board of directors of Nautilus, Inc. since April 2012. Anne received a Bachelor's degree from Northwestern University and a Masters of Business Administration from Fordham University.
TIP: I like to focus on the customer experience rather than on omnichannel. One is externally focused and the other is internally focused. You'll always win when you focus on the customer!
Lori Twomey, Chief Merchant, zulily
Lori Twomey serves as the chief merchant of online retailer zulily, overseeing a merchandising team of over 500. Lori joined zulily shortly after it was founded in 2009 as its first and only merchandiser at the time, and has since been instrumental in growing the company to one of the largest online retailers.
Prior to zulily, Lori was the president of Charming Direct/Crosstown Traders, where she launched the Lane Bryant catalog in 2007, and led the strategic direction of the Lane Bryant, Catherines and Fashion Bug websites. Prior to joining Crosstown Traders, Lori spent 16 years with Eddie Bauer in merchandising, product development and new business development, including working as the general merchandising manager of Eddie Bauer Direct. Lori's education is in fashion merchandising and business. She loves to spend time outdoors, especially running marathons and half marathons.
TIP: With all retail, it's about putting the customer first. Make every single day new and exciting to customers to keep them coming back. Deliver the unexpected and continually innovate.
Jennifer S. Warren, Chief Marketing Officer, At Home
Jennifer S. Warren recently joined At Home's executive team as chief marketing officer to continue building a top brand experience for the home décor superstore. Formerly, Jennifer worked for RadioShack as chief marketing officer, and was responsible for its "Goodbye 80s" Super Bowl campaign that was proclaimed the winner of the night by many. Prior to joining RadioShack, Jennifer's time was spent on the agency side with Razorfish and GSD&M. In December of last year, Jennifer was elected to the American Advertising Federation's Hall of Achievement. She's also been recognized as an AdAge Woman to Watch, and a CMO Club "Top CMO" award winner.
TIP: Disjointed experiences typically result out of organizational silos or lack of customer focus. To provide a seamless experience, map out the customer journey and plan all efforts and investments around making that journey better.
Chantel Waterbury, Founder and CEO, Chloe + Isabel
Chantel Waterbury is the founder and chief executive officer at Chloe + Isabel, a fashion jewelry lifestyle brand. After a 15-year career in jewelry design, development and merchandising at industry heavyweights like Target Corp., Macy's, Gap Inc., LVMH and IPPOLITA, Chantel launched Chloe + Isabel in 2011. Her vision was to create an opportunity to empower and inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs through an innovative business model where they were at the center. Today, she continues to follow her vision to help women reach their goals, whether they're financial or skill-based, through her passion for jewelry.
TIP: Understand your brand identity and be consistent at every touchpoint. Your audience needs to sift through a lot of noise, so leverage each channel's strengths to find ways to stand out in an authentic, personal and valuable way.