The American, of Italian origin, is chief digital officer for VF Corporation since 2018. The executive defends that the digitization must cover the entire value chain, from production to the store.
Velia Carboni is, since February 2018, chief digital officer of VF Corporation. She is currently in charge of the innovations and technological applications of the company, which controls brands like Timberland, The North Face and Vans. As part of the opening of the new VF offices in London, Carboni reviews the challenges that a company like VF faces when it comes to addressing digitalisation along the entire value chain.
Question: What is a good digitalization strategy?
Answer: Many people are trapped in what digital means. For us, a true digital transformation is done through technology, such as through a cloud or an advanced API (application programming interface), that help us to deliver content more efficiently to consumer-oriented platforms, to allow us to create products in a much more interactive and fast way. It really is a much broader discussion and the way we used to talk about technology years ago is very different from the current conception.
Q.: When did VF start this process? What objectives did the company have when planning it?
A.: I joined about a year and a half ago, but we have followed a journey of several years, even before joining the company. Our main goal is to see how we stay relevant and always ahead of trends. The big key indicator for us is how we stay focused and make sure we have agility within the system. The beauty of technology today is that it is much more efficient than it was before. But at the same time we can get trapped doing a hundred things at once and it is very important to focus on the most relevant things and have a well-established framework. This allows us to prioritize where we want to go next.
Q.: What is the relationship between trends and digitalization?
A.: Keeping the consumer in the center is the key. That is why it can not separate the commitment of the brand from the commitment with technology. Both have to go hand in hand, and when you look at the way we work today, it is understood that the communication between business and technology must be bidirectional. Technological trends do not dictate the progress we have to make, such as 3D modeling, but at the center of everything is always the business. Brands must see what is relevant to the consumers they are serving. And once that reflection has been made, the ideal is to apply those relevant ideas within the technological element.
“Brands must think what is relevant for consumers and, once that reflection is done, apply it with technology”
Q.: What changes in the organization has caused this strategy within the company?
A.: We have made some changes and there are some more planned changes, but the important thing is that we gathered all the digital and technology teams within the same department, the D&T team. We are now all working within a common framework and strategy, with strategic teams that are physically decentralized but all interconnected allowing us to leverage on the various skills and expertise across the regions.
Q.: Which of the VF brands has led the digitalization strategy?
A.: Each of the brands contributes a different component to what we are doing at a technological level. Small brands give us the opportunity to innovate without exposing ourselves to a great risk. But the big brands, like Timberland, The North Face or Vans allow us to work with a much higher visibility. For example, Vans has been at the forefront of the brands in which we have implemented new technologies.
Q.: Are you addressing omnichannel?
A.: At the end of the day, consumers do not buy at Amazon, they will buy at our online store. A good story in terms of connectivity is key to when we start to integrate ecommerce. Omnichanneling means much more than just visual channels, everything goes back to the supply chain and a good work with digitalization is knowing how to take that holistic vision of the creation of that product to the consumer.
“Having a multi-channel distribution network accelerates the process of digitization”
Q.: How is the value chain transformed?
A.: It is important to explain from supplying to creation, manufacturing and delivery. All parts of the chain are important in the holistic history we want to transmit. So that goes back to the supply of materials and the distribution of manufacturing. An example will be the 3D mannequin, with which we have begun to work, which will allow the supply chain to be simplified, since the manufacturer will receive accurate information of what the consumer wants when it comes to manufacturing and making.
Q.: When would these mannequins go to stores?
A.: I can not talk about specific dates. We are working hard on the technology in stores in Europe and how to integrate our partners with our brands, so that we get a holistic view of the whole ecosystem, in each region or brand. We are being very methodical about where we experiment. But these 3D models will definitely arrive at some point in the stores, but there are other experiments that we are doing in parallel that are also very remarkable.
Q.: Does having a multichannel presence stop the digitalization process?
A.: Actually what it does is accelerate it. Technology lovers want to have differences within different channels. The underlying technology is a great opportunity for us to take advantage of this process in a generalized way and to go faster to develop the technology in different versions.