The Iconic CEO Erica Berchtold wants to use the science of data to convert you to online shopping – The Australian Financial Review

I really do believe most of the journey that you have in a physical store can be done in a digital world, she says.

The Iconic leverages data to lure consumers, and keep them. Already, the site will suggest sizes based on other brands you wear, and offers virtual sneaker try-ons. It curates products based on your preferences, sending you a personalised edit of clothing, shoes and accessories you might like the way a sales assistant might. But Berchtold sees a future when the technology of the metaverse, for example, could be used as a virtual fitting room.

Although The Iconic employs just over 1000 people, half of these are stationed at its fulfillment centre in Yennora, in western Sydney. Of the rest, 120 are in technology roles. Berchtold is recruiting 70 more staff in the tech team, across data, engineering, product and information technology.

COVID hasnt helped, with the borders being shut, she says. There is also a lack of investment in technology education here in Australia. We havent been grooming our own workforce as much as we could have.

An unplanned meeting with federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese. Louie Douvis

Berchtold has spent her career in retail, and revels in the shop floor. The closest thing to that at The Iconic is the raft of customer emails that arrive each week; Berchtold reads them all.

When I was having a bad day at other jobs, Id go to the shop floor to remind myself of what were actually doing, she says. This is the same thing.

Some feedback will resonate with Berchtold so much she is compelled to send the writer a gift voucher. Like, we had one customer, says Berchtold. She wrote, I really love this brand. But I hate the models. Theyre just such skinny things. I was like, Oh, shes cool. I hear that. And so, were going to make sure that were a bit more diverse in the models selected for that particular brand. And I sent her a $50 voucher.

The company has grown significantly in 10 years. In 2011, The Iconic launched with 1000 products from 125 brands. Today, it boasts 165,000 products from 1500 brands, with 500 new arrivals to the site daily.

The Yennora site is Australias largest fashion fulfillment centre, with a capacity for 3.75 million units, and can fulfil orders in as little as eight minutes. At its Alexandria Hub, a purpose-built production studio in inner Sydney, more than 60 staff pump out curated editorial for the sites 19.5 million monthly users. Its app is Australias most downloaded fashion app, with 5 million downloads. In the 2020-21 financial year, it sent out 6.2 million parcels, a 1.2 million increase on fiscal 2019.

Numbers aside, Berchtold is most proud that the company has cemented itself as a permanent part of the retail landscape.

Expanding from clothing to categories such as childrens wear, homewares and beauty has been a significant shift for the business. And Im proud that we are playing a leadership role in things like sustainability, diversity and inclusion.

Last year, the company launched Giving Made Easy, enabling customers to donate pre-loved clothing by downloading a pre-paid postage label and dropping off their donation at any Australia Post location. The company says this has saved more than 25,000 kilograms of textiles from landfill.

It also enacted a Reconciliation Action Plan, endorsed by Reconciliation Australia, and is committed to body diversity, urging vendors to offer extended sizing. This year, it launched a modest dressing capsule.

Not, Berchtold says, that she has a lot of choice. The average team member is 27, she says. I do not have to push for this stuff. It is business as usual for young people. I dont need to explain why sustainability matters to anybody in our team.

As for the future of retail and technology Berchtold is bullish.

I look at COVID, and the way some retailers were saying, We got a chance to experience what its like to be pure-play online. Like, you think? Weve had a 10-year head start on that stuff. The data and technology that is baked into our DNA. I think some retailers would be astounded by it.

I dont love trying stuff on. So could we use virtual clothing on the site to show people what it looks like on an avatar of themselves? That would be enormously helpful.

The idea behind all The Iconics technology is to make every transaction more seamless.

The team is constantly testing and learning. Recently, it announced a partnership with AirRobe, an online resale platform. Customers can automatically add their just-bought clothing to AirRobe, so that if they want to sell it later, the information and imagery is ready for them to use.

Berchtold is waiting on early results of the AirRobe experiment, but is confident the re-economy is the future. Reuse, repair, recycle, she says. This is the way ahead. A repair program is in the works.

One of the big lessons of the past decade has been learning how to use data.

Youve got the data right there. But theres a real art to knowing what to do with it, the data to actually pay attention to, what you can just not ignore, Berchtold says. Thats actually a real skill, and it is very important and will only continue to grow in importance. And I dont think a lot of retailers would do that easily.

Its a muscle you have to work, over and over. And weve had 10 years of trial and error in that space. So, weve got a pretty strong muscle.

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The Iconic CEO Erica Berchtold wants to use the science of data to convert you to online shopping - The Australian Financial Review

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