Ramona Tudosescu, Head of Innovation of Galeries Lafayette Champs-Élysées, reveals how she brings the latest digital technology into the retail experience and how ESCP Europe's MSc in Creativity Marketing (MMK) equipped her with the right tools to thrive in her career.
How do you bring the best of the online world in to physical sphere and challenge the traditional department store model?
In our strategy, there is no split between the digital and physical worlds. We wanted to position an "augmented mortar" experience and make it accessible through digital and innovation to all our clients. That is why, when I first started working on the project, my obsession was reinventing the core of the experience by democratising the service of Personal Stylists by making digital invisible. No screens, no standards, but an organically integrated digital strategy aimed to redefine the physical space and support the new role of a sales assistant.
I led two main projects to bring in this "augmented mortar" strategy into the store:
- The creation of a completely new IOT: the connected hanger. Totally unique and trademarked by the group, the traditional hanger was reframed into an IOT that marks the ambition of organically integrating digital into the physical world to better serve the client; it positions the personal stylists and also captures data for future innovations developed within the Galeries Lafayette Champs Elysées platform. An intelligent object, the hanger is capable of recognizing the product, connecting instantly to the main IT system to answer one crucial question: the garment size availability in store. The customers that prefer to be autonomous will be able to select the desired size and have the garment sent to the fitting room in under 10 minutes.
- Support a conversational retail approach by empowering 300 Personal Stylists to communicate directly with their clients via:
- a dedicated mobile application for 300 Personal Stylists
- a virtual" assistant presence aimed to bring on-going training to the staff
- an instant messaging client approach
- a fully interactive website
This continuity of the relationship is crucial not only for our clients, but also for our staff, the personal stylists themselves. They are the key audience of the mobile application. Their functionalities allow them to be empowered with KPI, get on-going training from platforms such as Tagwalk as well as create a micro-community supported by team messaging, chat-based interfaces, shared client pages and support systems.
In reference to your strategies of innovation, how do you build the omnichannel experience for this high-end leading retailer?
In our innovation strategy, we assume that our clients live in a post-digital society that looks beyond a website, a social media account; they aspire for meaning, connection, fulfilment, and digital can help augment all of these aspects. We focus on augmenting the human connections and making them the link to an omnichannel experience. Imagine you have a Personal Stylist: he/she is the one that knows you, delivers you the right message at the right time, offers you only the services you want, puts products aside, sends products wherever you are, books a table for you at the best restaurant in Paris. And all this through digital tools that help him or her be the link in any channel.
How do you incorporate sustainable product and responsible consumption into your strategy?
When I started working on the connected hanger, one of our main concerns was to develop a new IOT that has low energy consumption, reactive to the client and not always on, so we developed everything in that sense. Special attention was given to the product's sustainability: the hanger recognises movement to activate, has its own autonomous charging system, and uses low energy technologies to communicate.
As a marketing leader in today's world, how do you think business can help shape a sustainable future?
I believe a sustainable future will come about by focusing on progress and simplicity. One of the main risks I keep witnessing is the desire to do everything for maximisation of impact. I think digital, and especially progress in technology, could help us shift the world as we know it - but in very different ways according to each company's needs.
I believe that focusing on progress and simplicity instead of standardisation could bring more efficiency, higher differentiation and, most of all, more time to vertically control all human aspects of impact on our planet.
Tell us about your experience as a judge in the 2019 Big Picture Challenges
When L'Oréal Professor of Creativity Marketing Marie Taillard asked me to be part of the judging panel of the 2019 Big Picture, my first reaction was excitement at the opportunity to dive into the minds and creativity of the brilliant students at ESCP Europe.
What I found especially interesting in this year's Challenge was that there was one group that was so imperfect, but they had one brilliant idea. In another context it might have gone unnoticed but, maybe thanks to my years of experience, I realised that they had thought of something that could actually shift the beauty sector for the next 10 or 20 years. Challenges like this help students meet professionals that can reassure them that they are on the right track - maybe even show them how far they can reach. A project can become more than just that when there is a spark of innovation in each of them. Dare to think big!
How did the MSc in Marketing & Creativity help you in your career and in harnessing a creative mindset?
I remember one of the first things we were told on the programme was that we would not be taught theories; rather, we would be taught how to think, how to challenge the status quo, and how to get inspired by any creative industry. The MSc in Marketing & Creativity is a forward-thinking programme that transforms a student. It made me understand that I wanted a career in innovation; to think creatively about problems, find solutions, and to know that every day is a new day. We have to reinvent ourselves constantly to keep up with our fascinating clients.
Feeling inspired by Ramona's career? To follow in her footsteps, check out ESCP Europe and its Marketing & Creativity programmes: