Enterprise social networking strategy fuels e-commerce success at Tory Burch

Lauren Horwitz

When you go to the Tory Burch website, it feels as though you've entered a self-contained universe of high-end fashion that was designed just for you -- if your taste is preppy boho and you have the bucks, of course.

Mike Giresi, Tory Burch CIOMike Giresi

The Tory Burch website -- as well as its brick-and-mortar stores in 41 countries -- sells luxury fashion for the Hamptons set. And as chief information officer CIO Mike Giresi notes, the site is designed to offer up a specific, "authentic" customer experience that is hardly accidental. The company's use of enterprise social networking tools has helped develop a mega-brand. The company’s successful use of enterprise social media has echoes among growing retail companies across the globe.

The company's CEO and designer, Tory Burch, is well-covered in the media and a relative celebrity in the fashion world, so she informs every aspect of the company's brand. If you troll around Tory's blog, you sense this branded universe in every click, with video, text and plenty of other elements that reinforce the customer experience. There are recipes, interviews with "experts" such as the former supermodel Iman, Tory's guide to jeans, and reader comments posted on blog pages.

And while the website is carefully crafted -- right down to the color scheme, borders and font choices -- you might call the company's social networking strategy an example of "bottom-up branding": It allows website users to reinforce the company's culture and brand. Climbing in revenue since its launch in 2004 -- Tory Burch raked in about $800 million in revenue in 2012 -- the company has further shored up its e-commerce presence through social media, with Burch herself actively participating. Unlike other CEOs who might be hesitant to speak publicly through these channels, the fashion icon tweets frequently.

Giresi, who has been at the company since 2011, was previously at Columbia House and Doubleday, Godiva Chocolatier, and Estée Lauder. He sat down with SearchContentManagement recently to talk about how technology -- and particularly enterprise content-based and social tools -- fuel customer experience, branding and value creation at Tory Burch.

We're about finding people who can deal with ambiguity and constant, constant change.

Mike Giresi,
CIO, Tory Burch

Since its launch in 2004, the company seems to have undergone a meteoric rise. Have social networking tools been a big part of that?

Mike Giresi: The company has grown up in the new age of brand representation and [focuses on] how to communicate to customers the proposition of the brand, the value of the brand. We have done little traditional advertising. It has all been done in the social, digital space and in the stores.

Older companies often have a bit of legacy infrastructure that is a hurdle in migrating to cloud and mobile strategies. Is Tory Burch free of these obstacles given the relative youth of the company?

Giresi: The company is only 9 years old, so it is early days. And because it grew up during the era of social media, it is part of the DNA of the company. It is one of the advantages of being a younger company. It makes a huge difference, for sure.

Was there a learning curve in implementing the company's e-commerce and social networking strategies?

Giresi: In terms of the brand and the culture, yes. My role has been to introduce new ways of supporting the growth of the business. On the social media side, it's less technical and more about the content. We were pretty advanced in that space. But we were less advanced in what I would call core operations; we had a lot of work to do there, and we're still doing it.

Is enterprise content management or Web content management an important part of the business?

Giresi: Our e-commerce platform was by far the most advanced, and we had outsourced that to Demandware. We made the decision that it wasn't in our interest to host the e-commerce core infrastructure. We wanted to focus on content and customer experience [so we didn't want to have] staff resources managing core operating systems.

What was one of the more challenging aspects of running the e-commerce operation at Tory Burch?

Giresi: When I first joined, we were looking at outsourcing fulfillment for our e-commerce and direct business. We were on a very aggressive timeline. My role was to help facilitate that discussion. We didn't have enough people, but I have helped in terms of prioritization of projects, timing and change management.

Why is change management so critical? Is it because the company is in growth mode and needs to be agile?

Giresi: [Change management is about] being able to scale and support the growth; it's being able to help people focus on the things they do best. We're about finding people who can deal with ambiguity and constant, constant change. Everything we do is about creating agility, speed and scale. [As you manage change], you become very solution-oriented about doing what's best for the organization instead of focusing on cutting 30% of spend because the company can't afford its costs. We've been fortunate to do both and be economically and fiscally responsible, but we're growing the business.

For more on social networking strategy

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Social networking tools emerge

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Is mobile e-commerce difficult to support?

Giresi: It's not different from any other channel. You have to be comfortable with how you're going to reconcile those sources, the technologies. But if you have the right people in place, it's actually easier. And we have the benefit of not having a lot of legacy.

What are the challenges of being a global company?

Giresi: Anytime you take your business global, you deal with global regulations, compliance requirements, distribution and relevancy perspective. For a young company, it is a great opportunity to learn and to think globally, act locally. Each country has certain interpretations and likes, and we're trying to figure out [how to balance our own practices with that] -- how to adjust to local tastes.

What social media strategies have been most successful?

Giresi: We don't try to be something we aren't. The company is principled, has high integrity, and our brand reflects that. We may not have the most Twitter followers, the most 'likes,' but the people that do like us like us for who we are, and we absolutely have more customer engagement as a result. We want to understand how the customer feels about us at all times.

How has technology moved Tory Burch's business forward?

Giresi: Technology here is a strategic enabler. We help enable the right change, the right balance between focus on our value chain and interjecting technology around and through that to enable us to drive amazing customer centricity and experiences. Every day that we talk about our business, it's ultimately about how the customer will feel.

Lauren Horwitz is the executive editor of SearchContentManagementand SearchCRM. Write to her at lhorwitz@techtarget.com.

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