CSA Q&A with Ulta Beauty CIO
Diane Randolph, CIO of retail powerhouse Ulta Beauty, is among a distinguished group of female retail tech executives. It’s a network that continues to grow, and one that Chain Store Age honors in its annual feature, “Top 10 Women in Retail Tech.”
Randolph was a member of Chain Store Age’s sophomore class of honorees in 2015 — the year after she joined Ulta as CIO. Before that, she served as VP, CIO at Canada’s Reitman’s Ltd., for almost a decade.
Chain Store Age recently spoke with Randolph, who discussed her career path and shared insights for succeeding in retail tech.
CSA: What qualities would you say make you an innovator?
Randolph: I am extremely fortunate to be part of an organization that continually challenges itself to look for new ways to surprise and delight our guests. At Ulta Beauty, my team and I are encouraged to leverage our talents and experience and look for ways that we can provide technology solutions that enhance human interactions — for both our guests and our associates.
Collaborating across the entire organization has helped develop initiatives that look at all angles of an idea and that include many points of view. I’m particularly proud of the work we have done in building a mobile app that complements and enriches our in-store experience by offering features like GlamLab, which allows guests to virtually try products.
CSA: How has your career changed, and what keeps you motivated?
Randolph: IT, at its very core, is ever-changing. To continue succeeding in the field, IT professionals must thrive on the evolution and the challenges it presents.
Throughout my career, I have had many opportunities to learn and develop new skills — from training, development and management to executive leadership — all of which have offered exciting challenges that helped build my career. Earlier in my career, I also moved from providing solutions and services at a software company to a retail company that consumed those products and services — this was one of my most important choices.
I gained a critical advantage in seeing operations from both sides. I am able to impart what I’ve learned in building my team. Being able to shape and develop new retail IT leaders gives me my greatest satisfaction.
CSA: What advice would you give other female executives eager to achieve IT success?
Randolph: Being an IT executive today requires skills across many dimensions. My advice is to experience as many roles as possible, both within the IT domain as well as among other areas of your organization.
Exposure to different points of view is the key to continual learning and improvement. I also believe that networking is a powerful resource to be nurtured. Participating in retail CIO councils is also tremendously rewarding.
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Teen apparel chain inches closer to a unified shopping experience
Pacific Sunwear of California is taking steps to better connect with its customers — regardless of the channel they use to shop.
Since the teen apparel chain was acquired by Golden Gate Capital in Sept. 2016, it has made rapid changes to advance the business. One of its biggest priorities included a unified commerce strategy that enables PacSun to be more connected to its customers. This is a big undertaking however, as the company aims to integrate 422 stores across the United States and Puerto Rico, and an e-commerce business.
PacSun is taking aggressive steps to achieve those goals. By entering into a partnership with Columbus Consulting, the company is staying on point. The partners developed a Unified Commerce Roadmap, which serves as a blueprint to connect all technologies and ensure a smooth transition into a unified commerce environment.
“The Unified Commerce Roadmap that Columbus Consulting has helped us build is instrumental to our success as we work aggressively to meet the changing needs of our customers,” said Alan Flaesgarten, VP IT, PacSun. “Through Columbus Consulting’s work, we are now able to begin our journey to enable a seamless customer experience across all retail channels.”
The partners have completed the roadmap phase of the project, and are now selecting the products and solutions that will help PacSun realize their unified commerce goals, the company added.
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Discount giant embarks on newest mobile push
Walmart wants even more of its in-store shoppers to skip the checkout line.
The company is expanding the test of its Scan & Go mobile app to another 100 stores. Currently, the app is being tested in a few select markets, including Dallas-Fort Worth, Orlando, and Northwest Arkansas. By adding these new locations to the mix, the app will be available in stores operating in 33 states across the United States, according to a blog on the company’s website.
“As part of the test, some Walmart stores have been outfitted with Scan & Go kiosks where customers can pick up easy-to-use handheld devices,” Walmart spokesman Justin Rushing said in the blog. “This allows them to try out the service before downloading it to their phones.”
For customers who want to use their own smart phones, the app is available for Android and iOS devices. When customers launch the app, it automatically lists participating stores nearby. The app allows users to scan merchandise bar codes — including produce — as they move throughout store aisles, bag merchandise, and store their order in their shopping carts.
The app keeps a running total and itemized list of merchandise and prices throughout their shopping trip, and lets shoppers checkout directly through their smartphone — eliminating the need to checkout at a register. Once customers are done shopping and have digitally paid for their items, they simply walk through a Mobile Express lane on their way out, Walmart said in the blog.
Based on feedback from Walmart customers and associates, many users rated Scan & Go as their preferred way to check out in-store, according to the company.
“Scan & Go is one of many options we’re testing to give our customers the shopping experience they are looking for,” Rushing added. “We continue to listen, test and learn – all to give our customers more options to shop how they want while also helping them save time.”
Gave up trying Scan and Go at Sams club. 9 times out of 10, doesn't work, employee can not get device to scan my phone, to connect to their own wifi. Gave up using it. Complained to manager and corporate; nothing changed.