Steering retail through the omnichannel revolution

Morgan Whitney shares her insights on growing an omnichannel business as Indochino changes the customer experience game.

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EY Alum Erin Godard
Morgan (Hartley) Whitney
CFO, Indochino
EY Vancouver, 2005-2008

In recent years, the retail industry has witnessed its share of disruption, a trend that some high-profile brands have not survived. But a new generation of retailers is resonating with shoppers, mixing digital business strategies with brick-and-mortar success and a willingness to be bold. Few know this better than EY alum Morgan Whitney, Chief Financial Officer at Vancouver-based Indochino. The specialty menswear retailer launched in 2007 as an online store, but now finds itself undertaking a massive showroom expansion across North America.

 

QHow are you supporting your business as it opens locations across North America?

In an increasingly information-abundant world, the CFO has become the shepherd of data and I’m fortunate to have a team of data architects to support me as we grow our experiential showroom network offline.

It is with a rigorous approach to information analysis that we know that traditional retail metrics such as sales per square foot are no longer relevant because they place all the emphasis on the initial in-store transaction and not on the multichannel effect over time. For example, we know that many of our customers browse fabrics and get measured in store before ordering online at their convenience.

Finance plays a critical role in assessing the true effectiveness of retail in an omnichannel business by questioning traditional reporting frameworks, challenging the benchmarks that we need and enrolling stakeholders in these changes.

QWhat steps are you taking to optimize your supply chain? How else can you reduce costs or find more efficiency in your processes?

At Indochino, we’re continuously innovating and looking at new ways to perfect not only the end product but the entire customer experience cycle. We’ve set a new standard in apparel through personalization and fit and our next challenge will be to reduce the time it takes from the moment when our customers order to the moment it gets delivered to their doorstep. Last year we reduced our delivery promise from four weeks to three weeks and our next goal is to offer a custom garment in two weeks or less.

QTo what extent are you taking advantage of robotic process automation (RPA) technology?

In today’s retail landscape, customers have never had so much choice. They demand the very newest and best products and retail experiences that truly surprise and delight—and they are willing to hand over information about themselves so that we can deliver this.

In order to stay relevant and continue to disrupt, we have to predict what it is that our customers will find exceptional. This means investing in new technology, whether that’s through internal resources or intelligent partnerships. We have very progressive partners who are already doing the groundwork of robotics in the manufacturing process. The newest trends including RPA, AI, VR and blockchain are already on our doorstep so it’s vital that we continuously innovate in order to stay ahead of the curve.

QWhat impact will blockchain have on your industry and your operations?

We work with a manufacturing partner in China so, for us, the biggest benefit of blockchain will be to eliminate the hurdles of doing business overseas by simplifying and speeding up cross-border payments.

QWhat’s next for your business?

We’re focused on growing the business on an omnichannel level. We’re continuing to expand into new markets and extend our presence in current markets, with as many as 18 showrooms opening this year across North America.