Nicolaj Reffstrup, chief executive officer of the contemporary Danish fashion label Ganni, is running the company like the tech entrepreneur that he is, although he’s not entirely convinced about all the innovation in retail technology.
Reffstrup lived through the dot-com crash, made money, lost money and pioneered one of the first chatbots. He has a “mission” rather than a business plan, and is willing to test small and fail fast at Ganni, which sells through a mix of online retailers, brick-and-mortar stores and concessions.
“We are fact-driven and, like Amazon, we’re ready to act on 70 percent of the information we have. Jeff Bezos says if you act on 90 percent, you are moving too slowly. We also trust very much in individuals. We try to hire people who are independent, entrepreneurial-driven,” he said.
He described Ganni’s approach to tech as circumspect, and much in-store digital technology as “immature.”
“We had a look in the intelligent changing room. I loved that idea. Who wouldn’t? Imagine if you could just pull out a dress and hold it in front of the mirror and see how it fits you. You can even have a look at your butt — the whole thing makes total sense. In reality, we’re not quite there yet. I’m not sure about the return on investment. It’s complex to implement, and does it actually drive sales?” he asked.
He’s also interested in looking at how other retailers are dealing with new technology. “I go to the Burberry store or the Kate Spade store, and intelligent displays or mirrors have malfunctioned. It looks extremely bad in a retail environment.
“It’s also quite often difficult to train and teach your staff to use technology in a natural and embedded way. The retail industry is quite advanced when it comes to engaging with the customers, but immature when it comes to enabling the workforce to use digital tools,” he said.
Despite his experience — and wary approach — Reffstrup has certainly made a few of his own missteps, including not launching a loyalty program soon enough. “Combining off-line and online data is a no-brainer. We should have done that a long time ago. We’ve also had to abandon a few initiatives like ship-from-store [because the stores weren’t able to handle the demand].”
“What we have done, instead, is focus a lot on back-end in processes. We admit to being an ‘old-school’ retailer, and we’re sticking to what is working for us. We are relatively advanced from a back-end perspective, and we are ready to adapt to retail technology once it becomes more mature.”
He said that, in many ways, Ganni’s business “is relatively mundane. We don’t do tricky stuff in the stores. From a brand perspective, I think we have been doing lots of great stuff. There’s nothing wrong with being innovative and moving first, as long as it doesn’t compromise the frictionless shopping experience.”
His mantra is to keep moving, keep things simple, and focus on the brand. “If you can deliver a brand experience you can also sell product.”