Ian Rogers on the LVMH Innovation Award and the group’s digital future
One luxury executive who just had a mighty busy week was Ian Rogers, the Chief Digital Officer of LVMH, and the mastermind behind the giant luxury group’s innovation award.
We caught up with Rogers as he toured the LVMH Luxury Lab inside VivaTech, the giant technology conference that the conglomerate helped found in 2016.
“The 30 finalists we have chosen on the LVMH booth span AI, visual search, omnichannel commerce and more. At LVMH we are focused on the evolving journey of our connected customers,” explained the former iTunes executive who joined LVMH in 2015.
Judging by the sheer numbers of LVMH executives attending the event, technology is clearly a key obsession of the company, the world’s largest chain of luxury brands including Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Givenchy, Fendi, Veuve Clicquot, Moet & Chandon, Hennessy and the Sephora beauty chain.
“I think we’re beyond thinking about digital. It touches everything we do. If you think about the future of the luxury business it is not about e-commerce versus retail. Every dollar of the commerce is going to be omnichannel. And I think that the lines between e-commerce and retail are going to become very blurry. If I discover a product on Instagram and I WhatsApp or WeChat with a sales associate and I go in a store and pick it up, is that e-commerce? If I Facetime with a sales associate at a Hublot store is that e-commerce? It is just customer experience! In the future our brand relationships are going to be a lot like our personal relationships. Whether it is my 12-year-old daughter of my 75-year-old father I see them in person and in-between time I talk with them on my phone! It is not this or that, that is not how we live,” enthused Rogers.
What is the criteria for picking applicants?
“Out of the 1,000 there were probably about 100 we really considered. And then we turned to partners, like venture capitalists, people in tech press, people inside LVMH, people whose job it is to evaluate startups. And we asked them, ‘who do you think has a shot?’ And that’s how we came up with our 30.”
In a sense, the Innovation Award is the techy version of the group’s LVMH Prize, the most expensive annual award in fashion for young designers, which also has over 1,000 annual applicants and attracts major media coverage.
“Picking our 30 is very hard to be honest. It is somewhat subjective. But it’s something we learned from the LVMH Prize, the winner is a very arbitrary notion, as all of them are winners in the sense of how we do this. Because, just like the LVMH Prize, everyone who comes to Paris who gets to interact with the designers is really winning. Same way, what we want is to build relationships with these startups. Because our goal is to build a relationship with the top startups. Then, taking a stake, is a separate conversation,” concluded Rogers.
The actual jury consisted of 10 notables, including LVMH honcho Bernard Arnault; his eldest son Antoine; Vuitton menswear designer Virgil Abloh; Robert Kynd, chief business officer of YouTube; Pierre Louette, chairman and CEO of Les Echos and Le Parisien; and Bozoma Saint John, CMO of Endeavor.
Later, addressing the audience of 500 inside VivaTech’s CEO Forum, Rogers recounted his own personal journey to Paris.
“For more than 15 years I lived in Los Angeles and worked in San Francisco. At AOL, Yahoo, Beats and Apple. It’s a one-hour plane flight or a six-hour drive and I commuted weekly between these two cities. In these 15 years, San Francisco thought I was part of the entertainment industry. While the people in LA thought I was tech industry geek. And at first, I was frustrated trying to bridge my two loves – music and technology – and then I realized this was exactly the role I was meant to play. I was a bee buzzing between the flowers and pollinating a bit of understanding between these two distinct cultures. Today I feel a similar element in my current role, except the distance is greater – spanning LA to New York and all the way to China, and taking in all the cultures of our maisons here in Paris,” said Rogers, dressed in an inside-out Christian Dior silk jacket by Kim Jones.
“That’s also the mission of VivaTech: bridging the corporate cultures of the great brands whose names are on our stand with the startups inside who will define tomorrow. That is also the reason we are together here today, connecting LVMH with the startups that we hope will define the future of our industry,” he stressed.
Rogers then introduced the 30 candidates en masse and allowed five of them the chance to pitch the audience – in just 90 seconds. From Slyce, a visual search data company – which works with Tommy Hilfiger and 60 other brands; to Digital Genius, a customer service automation platform. Judging from the gobsmacked reaction of the winner, 3DLook, the award means a great deal in the world of startups.
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