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VF’s hyper-digital transformation with Carsten Trenz

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VF Corporation, owner of Vans, The North Face and Timberland, has been undertaking a hyper-digital transformation in recent years, shifting towards an omnichannel business model, which has been accelerated by the unprecedented challenges and disruption from Covid-19.

To find out more about VF’s hyper-digital transformation, FashionUnited spoke to Carsten Trenz, vice president, digital EMEA, who is leading the VF's digital and technology roadmap for the region.

"Becoming a consumer-minded, retail-centric and hyper-digital enterprise is part of VF long-term growth business strategy and a key priority for the EMEA region,” explains Trenz. “VF is focused and investing in digital technology with an emphasis on consumer facing capabilities such as digital, omnichannel, marketplaces, digital product creation and design.”

What is VF’s hyper-digital journey strategy?

In the past year and a half, we have been actively working to accelerate our digital transformation journey with a continued focus on shifting towards an omnichannel business model. To allow consumers to get in touch with our brands seamlessly across a range of touchpoints and experiences and at the same time to evolve our digital capabilities to support our e-commerce growth. In addition, we have invested with our key strategic partners to allow VF brands to win with leading marketplaces such as Zalando across Europe.

How did the pandemic play a role in VF’s digital transformation?

Digital acceleration is not a new topic, but Covid-19 did allow us to shortcut the transformation: we achieved in one year what we would have achieved in 3 years! We were able to do that by fast-shifting gears and implementing new systems, processes, and capabilities that facilitate the consumers buying journey for our three main brands: The North Face, Timberland and Vans in a very tight and intense timeline.

How have you managed to motivate the team to get behind the transformation?

The team immediately understood the opportunity to innovate and use the pandemic situation to accelerate the digital transformation. By already working through distributed teams around the globe before the pandemic, it allowed us to seamlessly switch to remote working from home. Not being able to meet in person was compensated through intense virtual presence, not only for work purposes but also to create moments of belonging and sharing of personal topics, challenges and delightful moments.

What is VF’s most recent omnichannel development?

We have focused on creating a system where digital and physical retail environments are more interwoven by creating a seamless integration of physical and digital. VF omnichannel developments have been the main enabler for this transformation to move and move faster.

Over five months, our Digital Technology teams engineered solutions to enhance our e-commerce platform and stand up new omnichannel capabilities, including buy-online-pickup-in-store, ship-from-store and reserve-online-buy-in-store programs. These new offerings further simplified the shopping experience for our consumers and enabled us to utilize retail inventory through our digital channels when stores were closed.

In addition, we implemented 'virtual shopping,' 'pay by link,' and activated our store stock to fulfil online orders for our brand's e-commerce, as well as for the Zalando Connected Retail platform.

We also worked on making shopping possible during the difficult period of the lockdown by implementing tools to manage a virtual shopping experience by allowing appointments with our consumers.

And last but not least, we worked on the fulfilment optimization to ensure that our inventory is fully available for our consumers both from our DCs and our stores across Europe.

What about the results?

Throughout the past year and months, digital propelled our business forward. The Digital revenue for fiscal year 2022 digital revenue will be up ~20% versus pre-Covid/fiscal year 2020. These figures demonstrate the growing benefits of our omnichannel capabilities as we serve our consumers seamlessly across their choice of channel.

This is also a demonstration of how quickly the VF team adapted to the new reality with incredible speed and agility. The sense of urgency and agile execution was the foundation of this success. This did not only create opportunities for our brands to respond to the pandemic, but it is a powerful foundation to fuel our growth going forward.

One of the key learnings has been to build more confidence into the agile test, learn and apply the way of working with strong confidence into the ability to get quickly from launching new capabilities in a fast and furious way of working into maturing and creating long term new value drivers for our customers.

The digital shift in retail consumer behaviour has put unprecedented pressure on stores - how is VF reacting to this? Consumer behaviour is changing globally, with so many options now available, and the pandemic accelerated the move to online shopping. Retailers need to improve shopping efficiency, omnichannel capabilities, and technologies that support in-store activities to keep up with current and future waves of disruption.

That’s why we are focused on creating a system where digital and physical retail environments are more interconnected. Winning in retail, however, requires us to think less about channels as silos, and more about consumers’ path to purchase. As consumers’ journeys get less linear, we have a clear opportunity to reimagine the role of our stores and evolve how we connect physical and digital consumer touchpoints.

For example, in December 2020, we opened OREFICI11, VF's first multi-brand retail space in the heart of Milan. The store features the latest technology to provide immersive brand experiences and virtual journeys through the store. It has been designed to deliver innovative solutions to attract and respond to a demanding in-store Millennial generation.

What excites you most in the next months?

Our recent omnichannel developments are not the end of the journey, but just the start. We will continue to put a lot of focus on improving the customer experience, connecting the consumers’ touchpoints seamlessly and placing the customer in the centre of our thinking.

And we will continue to accelerate brand’s e-commerce, where we can establish and nurture a direct relationship with our consumers, supported by new digital capabilities such as the next-generation e-commerce platforms and new and improved immersive experiences.

Carsten Trenz
Partner Content
VF Corporation