PARIS — Apple Inc. has repeatedly raided the luxury world for senior executives, and now it’s Bernard Arnault’s turn to raid Apple.
The business titan has tapped Ian Rogers — who briefly headed up the launch of Apple Music — as the new chief digital officer at LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, a newly created position. The appointment could foreshadow new business vectors for the luxury giant, which in recent years has diversified from fashion, beauty, liquors and retail by expanding its holdings into hotels, yacht building and media.
“I am happy to welcome Ian into our group to strengthen our digital ecosystem,” Arnault said, noting that Rogers would “build on the foundations laid by Thomas Romieu,” an LVMH executive specialized in digital, and “take the houses to the next level and explore new opportunities for the group in the digital sphere.
“Ian will bring his extensive experience in high-end digital ventures and his innovation-driven spirit to develop LVMH leadership in the digital luxury field,” Arnault added.
Rogers last year joined Apple’s iTunes team as its senior director, only to exit shortly after the launch of its new streaming and radio service, Apple Music.
Rogers became chief executive officer of Beats Music, a maker of high-end headphones, in 2013 following a five-year stint as ceo of Topspin Media. Prior to that he founded Mediacode, which was purchased by Yahoo, where he became vice president and general manager of music. Rogers has also served as a Web master for Nullsoft and Beastie Boys, according to LVMH.
It is understood Arnault recently spent several days in Silicon Valley meeting with executives and touring companies there — and with his twentysomething son Alexandre in tow. Formerly a DJ, the student and budding luxury executive already works in the digital area at LVMH.
Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Dior, Sephora and Le Bon Marché are among brands in the group that already boast substantial online businesses.
“There seems to be among investors the perception that LVMH is lagging some of its luxury peers in terms of digital strategy. We disagree,” said Thomas Chauvet, luxury analyst at Citi. “LVMH has been working on these issues for many years, in particular at Sephora. Mr. Arnault has also been one of the first investors in Internet and e-commerce in the late Nineties.”
Chauvet said he does not expect major changes to the group’s digital strategy other than a gradual shift to a more efficient, service focused omnichannel strategy through technological investments.
“LVMH has always put the product and the physical store experience at the forefront of its strategy, with the digital experience and e-commerce sites being mainly used as communication and information tools about the brand before a physical transaction happens in-store,” he added.
But Luca Solca, managing director sector head of global luxury goods at Exane BNP Paribas, said the hire suggests LVMH is escalating its involvement in digital.
“They are not first, but ahead of the average,” he said. “My sense is that they are planning to focus more resources on this, and bet on internal development and management of this strategic side of the business.”
Donald Marchand, a professor of strategy execution and information management at Lausanne-based business school IMD, said he would expect Rogers to usher in a period of “testing and learning and new partnerships in order to figure out what to do for their businesses” and to attract new generations of customers weaned on online commerce.
He noted he could envision LVMH transforming its business through acquisitions of “adjacent businesses” on the one hand, and innovation and digital technology on the other by leveraging Rogers’ network of contacts and in high-tech fields.
“Clearly they have the resources to do that,” he said. “They need to do some experimenting, testing and learning what’s appropriate. What products the customer wants is going to be the guessing game.”
Ashok Som, a professor of global strategy in the management department at ESSEC Business School, said he expects to “see more digital presence of LVMH brands that reinforces their omnichannel strategy while focusing on more innovation across the group in terms of digital media communication and reaching out to potential consumers across the globe.”
In addition, Som said he anticipates a “shift within the Millennial consumers using more and more digital media for making decisions on their purchase. To start, it may be for information gathering, following and knowing brands, knowing their story, knowing about the new products, testing new products.”
He forecast that entry-level and affordable luxury goods through e-commerce sites could reach as high as 20 percent of the revenues by 2020.