Organizing for Digital and Social Media

Digital Organization | Source: LuxuryLab

Digital Organization | Source: LuxuryLab

NEW YORK, United States — Last Friday, BoF attended “Organizing for Digital and Social Media: Metrics, Structure, Culture,” an event with a long name that turned out to be refreshingly succinct. The half-day session at NYU’s Stern School of Business was hosted by Professor Scott Galloway’s thinktank, LuxuryLab, and attended by brands including Burberry, Gucci and Cartier.

Sarah Chubb, President of Condé Nast Digital (US), kicked off the morning, announcing that her team had just submitted a number of iPad applications to Apple in advance of the tablet’s much anticipated arrival (in the US market) later this week. “We want our brands to be wherever people want to consumer them,” said Ms. Chubb, adding that the iPad was the perfect platform for translating the “delicious” experience of print magazines into digital.

Initial user testing of the new iPad apps, which let readers page through an entire issue of a magazine, have yielded some impressive numbers, she said. On average, testers returned to an iPad issue about 2-3 times a month, for a total of 90 minutes, about the same as a print magazine and “many times” what Condé Nast has seen on its web properties.

Also speaking was Sharon Novak from MIT’s Sloan School of Management, who focused her presentation on a tremendously important issue: the impact digital media has on a company’s supply chain operations. Digital gives brands an “immediate interface with consumers,” said Dr. Novak. But the question becomes: once you’ve excited your fans and followers, how do you deliver something that’s special, and tangible, in realtime?

At the present moment, this issue is particularly acute in the fashion industry where live streaming runway shows have been generating waves of excitement amongst consumers, who are then forced to wait 6 months before they can get their hands on the merchandise. “What can you sell at the moment of excitement to satisfy that immediate impulse?” asked Ms. Novak, citing British megabrand Burberry, who were able to sell key pieces from their A/W 2010 Prorsum collection directly after the runway show was streamed online.

Digital is sometimes thought of as a great equaliser, but when it comes to operational flexibility, scale is a relative advantage, said Novak: “Burberry was able to leverage its ability to carry materials cost to satisfy impulse,” something smaller brands, who have a more rigid supply chain, would not have been able to accomplish.

But whether you are a global luxury brand or a small fashion company, your digital initiatives must be rooted in solid business strategy, said Sonia Marciano, Professor of Management and Organizations at NYU’s Stern School of Business and the most compelling speaker of the day. The core of Professor Marciano’s presentation was an insightful case study on sweeping changes to the business strategy of diamond traders DeBeers, following a strategic review by Bain & Company. But her underlying message applied to all brands. Before you craft your strategy, she said, ask yourself two fundamental questions: “What social problem am I addressing?” and “What ability can I leverage or create to solve this?”

So how do you know when you’ve succeeded? A revolution in battery power, chip technology and “cloud computing” is making digital technology available to consumers anywhere, at anytime, observed Lance Neuhauser, executive digital director at media agency PhD. But it’s also giving brands highly sophisticated methods for tracking and analysing the resulting “precipitation of participation.”

In terms of measuring return on digital investment, social intelligence tools that can monitor when, where, who and what people are saying about a brand online are of vital importance.

“You need to be listening,” said Mr. Neuhauser. Measuring success shouldn’t just be about quantifying “value received by the brand,” but about understanding “value delivered to the consumer.”

The Business of Fashion was an official media partner of the LuxuryLab conference.