“We’re going beyond the bangle.”
This story first appeared in the October 8, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
That was the mantra Alex and Ani’s vice president of digital strategy Ryan Bonifacino put behind his presentation on the brand’s digital strategy. The accessories brand, known for charm bracelets, has seen a 5,221 percent growth in sales over the last three years, Bonifacino said, citing 2013’s revenues of $230.1 million, compared to 2010’s $4.3 million. That growth has been similarly reflected in the brand’s digital presence, which Bonifacino attributed to a commitment to centralize digital strategy across three main areas: e-commerce and analytics, social media and digital marketing.
“Play nice,” he said. “When you play nice, you have to provide an internal service that allows other channels to depend on you. To be able to integrate your traditional and your digital marketing, it’s a partnership that once it’s formed the right way and conflict is eliminated, it’s a partnership that is permanent.”
The first step in centralizing, said Bonifacino, is to define team roles so to avoid a disconnect between departments, such as chief marketing officer versus chief information officer. The next is to research what each department oversees, excels at, and can contribute to other channels. “If you’ve got product-design teams, understand that you are the single source of truth for customer data,” Bonifacino said. “So with the centralization of digital, you are also centralizing your customer data, your sales information and your product information.”
That internal database is key for the brand when looking at what markets to enter, or “going beyond the bangle.” Outside of accessories, Alex and Ani has products in leather and home goods. “The relationship that has to take place between a digital unit and product development is permanent in nature,” Bonifacino said. “For example, are we only selling men’s product to men? No, because we’ve got three million records that are female only.”
Bonifacino also cited “overanalyzing your workflow” as a key to a successful digital strategy. “Understand that when you put these things in place and you’ve got a lot of people making decisions what type of processes need to go in place to approve things, such as campaigns,” he said. “Invest in DAM [digital asset management] and work with professionals who can master this workflow.”
Looking outside of internal workflow is just as important, he noted. “Go across your landscape of brands that you admire and look at what [programs] they use.” Looking to outside brands is also the key to identifying emerging talent and advances in technology within the digital sphere. “Every member of digital is assigned a publicly traded retailer to follow,” he said. “They are on every earnings call, reading every annual report cover to cover, and following the executives of companies.
“It allows us, as an industry, to find what it is we’re accepting and how we’re progressing with digital, and ultimately it allows us to create our own road map — what are the things we want to do, what are the big concepts and how can we execute those concepts? It’s not just our brand making those decisions. It’s a wide web of complex agencies, consultants, system integrators, research providers and so on. It all starts with the centralization of digital,” said Bonifacino.