Digital innovation in the luxury industry is evolving at a rapid pace and what luxury brands do next is a hot topic. So, we thought there was no better time than now to speak with seasoned digital luxury industry experts and ask them the questions we all want to know about the future of digital for the luxury industry. You can view the full collection of interviews here.

This week we spoke with the impressive Tovi Heilbronn to learn about Harry Rosen - Canada's leading luxury menswear brand, and find out why they chose to move to a MACH architecture to strengthen their digital experience. Tovi is the Director of Digital Product and Experience at Harry Rosen and boasts more than 14 years of experience as a technical product management leader, with a focus on enterprise digital transformation in the retail industry. 

Sharing image Tovi Heilbronn Harry Rosen-2

Tell us a bit more about Harry Rosen and what makes the brand so successful 

Harry Rosen is a luxury menswear brand with 19 stores across Canada. Founded by Harry Rosen himself in 1954, the company is now a 3rd generation family-run enterprise. The business began as a single 500 square foot store and the focus was made-to-measure; the nature of which is a very high-touch experience. In order to sell you have to be close to your customers, to understand their fit preferences and get to know them personally - this is a very important part of our DNA even now. 

Harry was like a human CRM. He would get to know his customers and write notes about them on cue cards so that the next time they came into the store he could ask them how their interview went, congratulate them on their wedding etc. We still nurture those deep and meaningful long lasting relationships.

Who is a typical Harry Rosen customer?

Our customers continue to change. Typically, in earlier years, they were aged between 40 to 60, but affluence is now available to a much younger demographic and so the age of our customer keeps shifting down; this has influenced a change in our style. We used to be much more focused on tailored clothing and now we're serving a wider variety of categories including knits, polos, dress shirts with stretch fabrics, lots of jeans, casual footwear, and emerging suit styles like bomber jackets with drawstring waists.

What do you think customers of luxury brands expect from the digital experience?

Expectations are higher for younger customers. I don't want to over generalize, it's not just about age but it's easy to draw trends from these demographics. Many of these clients are very tech-forward: they want SMS notifications of every step of the order lifecycle, they want to share pictures of their outfits with our advisors for advice on the look, or see if the inspiration image in their Instagram feed is available from our product catalog.

Younger customers tend to expect that same augmentation in store, a great experience without any friction points, but older customers are more forgiving if this is not necessarily the case.

What initiatives have you prioritized to meet these expectations?

What we're looking to do is consider how we might bring more of a human touch to the online experience and infuse more use of digital in the in-store experience. With these two focus points we're thinking about how we make our advisors more available online, via an AI chatbot. If we can install more advisors to help clients online, they’re more likely to return for a 2nd, 3rd and 4th time. Likewise, for in-store, how can we playback your digital footprint and use those breadcrumbs of insights that you've left to strengthen the experience you're given in-store? Expectations are continually changing and we're always evolving to meet this.

Of course, we always keep up-to-date with trends but also have to stay very pragmatic and focus our time and dedication on what really matters to our customers and advisors. We're conservative in the sense of making sure an initiative really fits with us, and for the long-term. We don't want to make investments that we're going to be throwing out in a year. It's about solving practical problems and delivering a better experience.

What is your role at Harry Rosen?

I describe my role as sitting between both the business and the tech. My role is to understand what are the business's biggest problems and then take that back to the tech side and ask how we can solve those problems. I then conclude how we allocate resources to deliver best-in-class service. Digital as a team is a relatively new function within the business.

eCommerce needs were growing and so too was the department supporting it, and there came a point of internal friction driven by what eComm needed from internal stakeholders. Those stakeholders were thinking in silos and feeling that these needs were detracting from in-store needs, so we created a Digital department to realign the business goals and demonstrate that these asks were not just serving the website but were affecting every client touch-point, across channels.

Is there a specific digital experience you have built that has been especially successful?

We recently developed an innovative new application called Herringbone. Herringbone brings together the product catalog and our CRM data. 

With the Herringbone application, our sales advisors create what we like to call 'laydowns' for the client. Drawing from our heritage, a laydown is a curated assembly of items in the client's style and taste, literally laid down on a surface in preparation for a client’s appointment with their advisor.

Within the Herringbone app, advisors can digitally create a laydown and send it to their customer, with their sizes pre-seleceted; this way they can co-shop digitally from anywhere in the world. It's this fusion of the data being leveraged in-store to deliver an all-round stronger experience and unlock access to our full product assortment that may not necessarily be available in a particular store. So our advisors can now sell anything anywhere they, or their customer, may be.

Congratulations on your recent MACH award! Can you tell us what the main driver was for you to build a Composable/MACH-powered architecture?

During my 7 years at Harry Rosen, I've spent 50% of my time with our eCommerce team when we were on our monolithic tech stack, and the rest of the time with our Digital team when we are on our MACH tech stack, so I have this interesting exposure of before and after MACH. 

We knew that for us to excel digitally, we must be differentiated. Our website didn't express the foundations of our brand and the three pillars which make Harry Rosen so special: the expertise, the product curation, and the client-advisor relationship. There was also the siloed internal thinking, such as the belief that eComm was taking away from the rest of the business. We have super ambitious people in the company who had great ideas that we were often unable to deliver -we felt shackled and we couldn't realize our digital ambitions.

We began thinking 'can we deconstruct the whole .com that we all agree is holding us back and very labor intensive?', and then we started looking at MACH. It was Ian Rosen that introduced me to an article about MACH initially, and it just made so much sense for us because we had a lived experience of these constraints. Suddenly we saw a different way to take control of our technology and enable the business to deliver these creative concepts, and better outcomes.

What are the main benefits you have found with MACH?

Both our business and our tech users in the business now feel empowered and are in lockstep. We're all talking the same language and brought into the same conversations at an earlier stage. We are partners at the table at the highest level. That's what I think is most powerful and long-lasting.

MACH is being used across channels and in our back-office functions. The speed and agility that the business needs are highlighting the friction from the remaining legacy systems that we have, and the solution is to break them down. MACH enables us to do just that.

We're getting more leverage from our marketing spend and we're moving faster and reacting to business needs in more impressive ways than we have before. The difference is night and day. 

If you were to give one piece of advice to someone working with digital experience in the luxury industry, what would it be?

Tovi shares his best piece of advice for digital professionals in the luxury industry to Katarina Nilsson, CMO at Occtoo in the video below!


Follow Tovi on LinkedIn

In summary

Digital experience for luxury brands no longer needs to mean a lack of service, personalization, and exclusivity. Nor should digital experience be restricted to eCommerce. The overarching message from our experts is that for luxury brands to succeed in digital, they must find a way to create a unique experience, laced with the heritage and beauty that their brand is renowned for. Once the digital experience has been identified, then it becomes a matter of how you integrate the data for a true omnichannel journey.

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