Cover Story: The Top Women in Omnichannel Retail
Welcome to Retail Online Integration's fourth annual list of the leading female executives in the omnichannel retail industry. The women chosen for this list hold top-level positions within omnichannel retail organizations, and are being recognized for their position and scope of responsibility, achievements within their own company, and their involvement within the retail industry. In addition to learning about the career paths of these top retail executives, each woman has provided her top tip for omnichannel retail success in 2014.
Kyle Andrew, Senior Vice President, Global Brand Director, Kate Spade Saturday
Kyle Andrew brings over 25 years of experience in brand development to the Kate Spade Saturday team. With a strong background in advertising, marketing and fashion, Kyle served as vice president of brand communications at Gap for six years, and later as head of marketing at Kenneth Cole. Kyle joined kate spade new york in 2008 as senior vice president of marketing, overseeing all consumer touchpoints for the brand on a global scale, including advertising, web design, social media and public relations. In January 2012, Kyle spearheaded the launch of Kate Spade Saturday, a younger, more casual sister brand to kate spade new york, in a new role as senior vice president, global brand director. Overseeing all aspects of the business, Kyle is responsible for top-level strategy and brand positioning for Kate Spade Saturday.
TIP: Put the customer first. Think about it from her perspective - she doesn't care what channel she's shopping in, she just wants it to be easy. She's in a hurry, she has a lot of options and she wants instant gratification. How can we create an experience that satisfies all her needs and at the same time surprises her? When you start with the customer instead of thinking about the channel, then you can create a seamless omnichannel customer experience.
Barbara Bradley Baekgaard,
Co-Founder and CCO, Vera Bradley
Barbara Bradley Baekgaard is the co-founder and chief creative officer at Vera Bradley; she also serves on the company's board of directors. Baekgaard's design and brand vision drives the development of all Vera Bradley-branded products. She's received numerous awards, including the Alumna of Achievement Award from Marymount College, the Country Living Entrepreneur Award, the IUPUI Spirit of Philanthropy Award, and the Virginia Jenckes Award for outstanding contributions in the field of business.
TIP: Shop through your customers' eyes. Visit and shop through all channels of your business often and take note of what went well and what needs improvement. Stay focused on your customer, as she's the No. 1 priority!
Julie Bornstein , Chief Marketing and Digital
At Sephora, Julie oversees all direct and marketing programs, including Sephora.com, the Beauty Insider loyalty program, in-store digital, mobile, social media, and brand and store marketing. In the past five years, Sephora has established itself as an innovator and leader in digital marketing, doubling the size of its dot-com business through its world-class website, becoming a major player in social media (5.6 million likes on Facebook and 1.24 million Twitter followers) and substantially growing Beauty Insider, among other accomplishments that have made Sephora a leading prestige beauty site online.
TIP: Align your whole organization with proper structure, incentives and domain expertise in the right places. Instill an understanding that it's one eco-system working together that leads to growth in all channels.
Ashley Bryan , Chief Marketing Officer, Moda Operandi
As chief marketing officer of Moda Operandi, Ashley is responsible for the company's marketing and communications, and was integral to Moda Operandi's launch, fundraising, brand building and strategic partnerships. Previously, she was head of marketing and sales at Net-A-Porter, as well as vice president of marketing at BCBGMAXAZRIA. In 2000, Ashley founded 501(c)(3) Safety Organization for Schools (since acquired by AnComm and Reliant), a leading provider of notifications solutions for educational institutions, which have been implemented at thousands of school districts in all 50 states. She has a BA in Economics from Occidental College and a MBA from UC Berkeley.
TIP: The key to success for omnichannel retail is having a comprehensive data warehouse and building a strong, data-driven CRM team to analyze customer information. Moda Operandi engages with elite clients worldwide through our website, app and directly via our stylist team. At the intersection of high tech and high touch, our data is paramount to how we serve clients.
Christina Callas , Senior Vice President of
E-Commerce and Digital Marketing, Hudson's Bay Company (HBC)
Christina Callas is the senior vice president of e-commerce for the HBC Department Store Group, where she manages the company's online businesses. In 2008, Christina relaunched Lord & Taylor's website. Since that time she's driven significant top- and bottom-line growth by revamping all aspects of Lord & Taylor's business, including site operations, marketing and fulfillment. In 2010, Christina relaunched thebay.com, rebuilding the business from the ground up. In addition to launching the e- commerce site, Christina developed and grew HBC's digital marketing programs. Prior to Lord & Taylor, Christina was the vice president of e- commerce for Aéropostale, a national teen retailer. Since its inception in May 2005, aeropostale.com has successfully catered to the growing and demanding teen market. As the vice president of e-commerce, Christina oversaw triple-digit growth rates two years in a row. Christina earned a MBA in General Management from Columbia Business School and a BA in Economics from Denison University. Prior to attending business school, Christina spent 10 years in Boston managing various fiduciary support functions for Bank of America's private wealth management group.
TIP: Think like the customer!
, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Macy's
Bernice A. Clark is senior vice president of marketing for Macy's Inc., a position she's held since April 2009. Bernice's current role is marketing operations and campaign planning, leading and driving all of the integrated marketing campaign planning and production across national, regional and online marketing teams, as well as ensuring synergy with visual and technology teams. In this role, she also leads all of the marketing operations functions - e.g., project management, print/digital production and the photo studio that "runs the Macy's marketing machine." Clark now leads a combination of teams encompassing almost 200 people. Prior to this role, Clark led a team of 50 people in the position of senior vice president for merchandise marketing, where she was responsible for marketing and merchandise content strategy for seasonal branding efforts as well as fashion, beauty and home marketing across all media, including TV, radio, direct mail, newspaper, magazine, digital/online, social media and outdoor. Prior to joining Macy's through its previous nameplate (Marshall Field's), Clark worked for 15 years at top-tier advertising agencies such as Leo Burnett, Young & Rubicam, NY Ayer, and Saatchi & Saatchi. She worked on marketing and advertising strategies for major clients such as Kellogg's, Philip Morris, AT&T, Sears, DuPont and KitchenAid.
TIP: Today's customer expects a seamless experience that appropriately surprises and delights her with exciting products and experiences. At Macy's, we're fortunate to live by a motto that was coined over 100 years ago: "Be everywhere, do everything, never fail to astonish the customer." We think that's critical to success in omnichannel retailing.
Kimberly Colby, EVP of Design, Vera Bradley
Kimberly F. Colby is executive vice president of design at Vera Bradley. Serving in various design roles at the company since 1989, Colby leads a design team of more than 35 employees. Colby's professional history includes retail advertising, public relations, direct mail, creative direction and management, special event planning, and interior design. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Speech Communications from Denison University.
TIP: Our focus has always remained on creating the best designed, highest quality and highest functional products for our customers. We know our customer shops across multiple selling channels, so we're continually evaluating how to simplify the shopping experience for her by tailoring our product lines accordingly.
, Chief Marketing Officer
and Executive Vice President of Marketing, Express
Elizabeth Crystal is chief marketing officer and executive vice president of marketing at Express, as well as a member of the Express executive committee. She's responsible for all the company's brand marketing initiatives, media, digital marketing, public relations, creative and in-store visual merchandising. Crystal's extensive career as a brand and retail marketing executive spans more than 20 years. Prior to joining Express in September 2013, Crystal served as chief marketing officer of Lane Bryant and Cacique. She also held a number of senior-level marketing positions with Revlon and Almay Color Cosmetics, including senior vice president of worldwide marketing. Prior to Revlon, Crystal was vice president of trade marketing for Buena Vista Home Entertainment, a division of the Walt Disney Company, where she held various leadership positions, among them executive director, customer marketing and promotions. Crystal started her career with several product management, media and public relations roles at Frito Lay, Edelman Public Relations Worldwide and NBC's "Today" show. She holds a degree in International Relations from Stanford University and a Masters of Management from the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management.
TIP: Put your customer in the center, keep your brand relevant with its target audience and stay at the pulse of the marketplace. Develop a seamless, innovative and exciting customer experience with consistent and effective brand communication across all consumer touchpoints.
Mindy Grossman ,
CEO and Director, HSN
Mindy Grossman is chief executive officer of HSN, Inc. and a member of the company's board of directors. She oversees a $3.3 billion direct-to-consumer retail portfolio that includes HSN and the Cornerstone portfolio of home and family lifestyle brands, including Garnet Hill, Chasing Fireflies and others. During her tenure, Grossman has positioned HSNi as a leader in boundaryless retail, offering customers a seamless shopping experience across multiple channels - e.g., television, catalog, online and mobile. Nearly half of the company's revenue is now generated through digital commerce. A 35-year veteran of the retail and apparel industries, Grossman joined IAC, HSN's former parent company, in 2006 as CEO of IAC Retail. In 2008, she took the company public and became the CEO of HSNi. Prior to joining IAC, Grossman served as a global vice president at Nike, Inc., overseeing its $4 billion apparel business. Earlier career highlights include serving as president and CEO of Polo Jeans Company, vice president of new business development at Polo Ralph Lauren, president of Chaps Ralph Lauren, and senior vice president of menswear for Warnaco, Inc. She also held senior-level positions at Tommy Hilfiger and Oxford Industries. In 2013, Forbes named Mindy one of the world's 100 most powerful women, an honor she's now received three times. In 2011, she was named Corporate Innovator of the Year at the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Florida Awards, and was recognized as one of Fast Company's Top 100 Most Creative People in Business. In both 2010 and 2011, the Financial Times named Mindy as one of the top 50 women in world business. Mindy serves on the boards of the National Retail Federation (NRF), Bloomin' Brands and the U.S. Fund for UNICEF.
TIP: In today's retail environment, the shopping experience is being redefined by technology, social networks and mobility. To successfully compete, you need to differentiate your brand, engage the customer on all levels, be agile and adaptable, and create a seamless shopping experience across all platforms.
Beth Guastella , President and Chief Operating
Beth joined giggle in April 2013 as president and COO with over 25 years of retail experience. Beth runs the day-to-day operations of the company. Prior to giggle, Beth was vice president of direct to consumer at Cole Haan, where she was responsible for all facets of the brand's retail and digital business, including strategy, development and execution of all function areas - merchandising, merchandise planning, real estate, construction, sales and store operations. Prior to Cole Haan, Beth held executive leadership roles at Calypso St. Barth, Stuart Weitzman, kate spade, Montblanc and Hermes.
TIP: Put the consumer at the center of everything you do! Provide an engaging and immersive two-way experience, using technology thoughtfully to add value without losing sight of the fundamentals, including assortments, stock levels, knowledgeable staff and efficient checkout.
Senior Vice President of Digital, Benefit Cosmetics
After more than 15 years leading account management and strategic services, dishing out advice at interactive agencies, Valerie Hoecke is finally getting a taste of her own medicine. Fortunately, it comes with a spoonful of sugar at Benefit Cosmetics, where the tagline is "Laughter is the best cosmetic, so grin and wear it." Valerie presently serves as the senior vice president of digital at Benefit Cosmetics, a global prestige cosmetics company and an LVMH brand. At Benefit, Valerie is responsible for the growth of the brand's global e-commerce channel as well as all digital media strategy and online marketing. Immediately before joining Benefit, Valerie served as the general manager for Method San Francisco, a brand experience agency, and prior to that as vice president of client services or vice president of strategy for a number of interactive agencies.
TIP: Our customer should find it simple and fun to purchase our product, no matter where or how she likes to shop. Putting our customers' needs at the center makes it obvious we need a shared vision for omnichannel as well as helps combat channel conflict internally. The metric for success needs to be improved loyalty and purchases from our brand. Everyone needs to recognize this is the proper measuring stick, rather than growth of a particular channel. It's simple to say but tough to do.
, Vice President of Global Marketing, Patagonia
Joy Howard recently joined Patagonia as global vice president of marketing. She's responsible for marketing across all sales channels and communication platforms for Patagonia, as well as for the wider portfolio of Patagonia initiatives in food, media and new brand extensions. Joy joined Patagonia from Nike, where she was the global vice president of marketing for Converse All Star, the world's largest and most iconic footwear franchise and beloved youth culture brand. Prior to Converse, Joy was based in Zurich, Switzerland as global marketing director for Coca-Cola's joint venture with Nestlé. She began her career in marketing at Johnson & Johnson Consumer Products Company. A Georgia native, Howard has lived and worked across Europe, Asia and Africa, and brings extensive experience in both developed and emerging markets. Prior to her career in marketing, Joy was a recording artist with Seely, the first American band signed to the '90s Britpop powerhouse label Too Pure. After hearing Ray Anderson speak and, at his suggestion, reading Paul Hawken's "The Ecology of Commerce," she was inspired to pursue her MBA in Sustainable Enterprise from UNC-Chapel Hill.
TIP: Pay close attention to what drives your customers to interact with your brand and each other online, then use those insights to drive interaction in-store. Keep it simple, useful and fun.
, Chief Executive Officer,
Avon Products, Inc.
Sheri McCoy is chief executive officer and a director of Avon Products, Inc., a company that's empowered and inspired women for more than 125 years. She's responsible for driving new long-term growth initiatives, developing earnings opportunities for women and advancing Avon as the world's premier direct seller of quality beauty products. McCoy joined Avon after a distinguished 30-year career at Johnson & Johnson. In 2013, McCoy ranked No. 20 on Fortune's "50 Most Powerful Women in Business" list, which she's been on since 2008. She serves on the boards of Partnership for New York, Catalyst, Stonehill College and FIRST, a nonprofit organization created to inspire young people's interest and participation in science and technology.
TIP: Find out what your customers need and when they need it; then create touchpoints for them to receive a fulfilling experience. Beauty is a word-of-mouth business, which makes our primary channel of direct sales - or the world's 6 million Avon ladies - so effective. But we also touch consumers with our brand through social media, Avon brochures, mobile and, in some markets, e-commerce.
Susan Neal, Executive Vice President
of Marketing, E-Commerce and
Digital Technology, Men's
Susan Neal is the executive vice president of marketing, e-commerce and digital technology at Men's Wearhouse, a $2.4 billion specialty retailer of men's apparel with over 1,100 stores. Prior to Men's Wearhouse, Susan was with Gymboree for 13 years, during which time she oversaw various divisions, including e-commerce and online media, direct marketing, public relations, international, strategic planning, and investor relations. Before Gymboree, Susan worked at Deloitte (formerly Touche Ross) in its management consulting division. She holds a MBA from INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France and a BA in Economics from Harvard University. She's served on the board of directors of Shop.org, the online retailing division of the National Retail Federation.
TIP: Start always with the customer. Define a seamless customer experience across all channels and focus the organization on working towards implementing and achieving this vision.
Michelle Peluso, CEO, Gilt.com
Michelle Peluso is the CEO of Gilt.com, the innovative online shopping destination. Prior to assuming the CEO role, she served for over three years on Gilt's board of directors. Michelle was previously the global consumer chief marketing and internet officer at Citigroup from 2009 to early 2013, and prior to that she was the CEO of Travelocity for six years. Michelle has received multiple awards for her business prowess and achievements, and was recently named one of Fast Company's "100 Most Creative People in Business."
TIP: The world is shifting, and for the first time younger generations prefer shopping online to a physical store. Make sure your digital experience is front and center and awesome, and not an afterthought or extension of the physical environment.
, Executive Vice President, General Manager, Old Navy
Deborah Podberesky serves as executive vice president, general manager, Old Navy, leading the brand's merchandising, inventory management and online teams to deliver accessible American fashion essentials for every family. A 23-year veteran of Gap Inc., Deborah has held roles throughout the organization in merchandising, planning, marketing and finance. In her previous role as senior vice president of Gap Inc. Direct, she was responsible for all aspects of the e-commerce businesses for Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic, driving multichannel strategies across the enterprise.
TIP: Always think about the customer first through any experience. Different channels can uniquely serve varying needs of the customer, and those distinctions should be maximized. However, when different channels complement rather than compete, you can unlock real brand value.
Catherine Sadler , Global Chief Marketing Officer, Banana Republic
Catherine Sadler is Banana Republic's global chief marketing officer, leading all aspects of the marketing organization to create brand advocacy and awareness worldwide. She's spearheaded successful partnerships and collaborations with "Mad Men," Virgin America and L'Wren Scott, to name a few. Throughout her career, Catherine has been a proven innovator and creative leader for retailers like Coach, Urban Zen and Conran's. Catherine also led her own creative and marketing agency, with clients including Donna Karan, Tiffany & Co., and Safilo. Catherine has been a guest lecturer at Essec Graduate School in Paris as well as an expert panelist at Columbia Business School. Her work has contributed to personal and brand awards, including induction into the Academy of Women Achievers, Catalog Age Awards and the Gold Lion award for retail marketing from the Cannes Film Festival.
TIP: Consistent and seamless omnichannel integration is critical in today's cluttered retail marketplace. Consumers now engage wherever and whenever they desire and are seeking personal and relevant brand interactions at each and every touchpoint. It's no longer just about the store experience; it's equally about the one they're having with the brand right in the palm of their hand.
Jennifer Sey, Chief Marketing Officer, Levi's Brand at Levi Strauss & Co.
Jen Sey currently holds the post of global chief marketing officer for the Levi's brand. She assumed the role in September after holding a variety of marketing, strategy and commercial posts at Levi's. Sey began her career 20 years ago at advertising agency Foote Cone & Belding, where she "learned the ropes" working with a variety of brands, including Levi's and Taco Bell. She went on to become Banana Republic's advertising manager and was a key driver of transitioning the brand from "safari" to "sophisticated." In 1999, Sey joined Levi Strauss & Co. and held a broad range of positions, including director of marketing for U.S. Levi's, senior director of global strategy for Levi's, vice president of global marketing for Levi Strauss & Co., and senior vice president for Dockers global marketing. In 2012, Sey stepped into the role of senior vice president of global e-commerce, driving the business and replatforming efforts for both levi.com and dockers.com. In 2006, Sey was named one of the "Top 40 Marketers under 40" and in 2008 she released her first book, "Chalked Up," a memoir detailing her triumphs and struggles as a young girl within the world of competitive gymnastics. Sey now lives in San Francisco with her two sons and lends her voice to online outlets Salon.com, Mommytrackd.com and BasilandSpice.com. She also continues the work she started with "Chalked Up" as an athlete advocate.
TIP: Be fluid, stay future focused. Iterate, test, learn, roll. Nothing is stagnant; the world is ever changing in omnichannel retail. Therefore, flexibility and a test-and-roll mind-set are critical to future success. That and strong IT partners!
Leontyne Green Sykes, Chief Marketing Officer, Ikea
US As chief marketing officer for Ikea US since 2009, Leontyne Green Sykes focuses on game-changing programs that deliver significant growth and consumer awareness for the global lifestyle home furnishings brand. During Green Sykes' tenure, overall awareness of the Ikea brand has risen 10 percent. Green Sykes approaches the role of CMO as a change agent, focusing her efforts on dismantling silos and maximizing integration between the marketing and communications functions within her organization. She's established new ways of working within Ikea and is leading an effort to transform the way the organization creates its annual strategic business plan. Green Sykes formalized an integrated marketing communications leadership team designed to drive bigger, more impactful direct-to-consumer programs, and has championed an integrated process that begins with the business goals of the U.S. operation, involves the input of all internal stakeholders, and results in a more efficiently managed marketing communications plan rooted in driving business performance. Green Sykes joined Ikea as a regional marketing manager in 2006. She began her marketing career at Johnson & Johnson's McNeil Consumer Healthcare, where she worked as a marketing manager across several brands.
TIP: My best tip for succeeding in omnichannel retailing is to keep the consumer at the center; respond to how consumers want to engage with the brand; and don't be afraid to test and learn from mistakes.
Catalina Maddox-Wagers , Senior Vice President,
Chief Merchandising and Marketing Officer, Things Remembered
Catalina Maddox-Wagers is senior vice president, chief merchandising and marketing officer at Things Remembered, a retailer of personalized gifts. In this role, Maddox-Wagers applies her cultivated industry expertise and multichannel retail experience to further evolve the Things Remembered brand in product development, brand marketing, and in-store and online merchandising. Prior to joining Things Remembered, Maddox-Wagers served as executive vice president and general merchandising manager for wedding specialty retailer David's Bridal, where she was respected for breaking norms and expanding the brand's marketing footprint, including the introduction of three of the retailer's most successful brands: "White" by Vera Wang, Melissa Sweet and DB Studio.
TIP: Always consider the customer experience, and remember that every contact should build your brand. We also need to realize that customers move seamlessly between mobile, in-store and online platforms; each touchpoint isn't finite.