Urban Outfitters, Tilly’s and Follett Create Chief Digital Officer Positions

Overhauls at the C-level are becoming common occurrences within retail, with CEOs alone turning over at a 60% higher pace than last year. It’s another indication that many of the old tricks to running a brand simply don’t hold up the way they used to. Brands now have to create newer digital-driven positions at the C-Level based on optimizing today’s customer experiences.

Three retailers — Urban Outfitters, Tilly’s and Follett — have recently taken that step by creating the new position of Chief Digital Officer (CDO). To fill the new roles:

  • Urban Outfitters has promoted David Hayne, former Chief Operating Officer at Free People;


  • Tilly’s has appointed Jon Kubo, who previously held CDO positions at Boot Barn and The Wet Seal; and

  • Follett has promoted Roe McFarlane, its former VP of Omnichannel Marketing, E-Commerce and Digital Product Management.

With an ever-increasing focus on e-Commerce and mobile as part of the customer experience, one can expect that more retailers will follow the lead of these three brands, either by promoting an internal executive or hiring an outsider.

The creation of a digital-centric C-level position carries plenty of weight in retail in 2016. As retailers continue to play catch-up with shoppers’ desires, they can’t afford to have different departments operating on individual digital initiatives without a specific leader to report to. For example, having marketing, sales and customer service teams work on their own opens up a vast risk of miscommunication across various touch points, which can lead to a botched campaign that confuses or even turns off the consumer.

By empowering a dedicated CDO, or even a Chief Customer Officer or Chief Experience Officer with a background in digital relationships, retail organizations can funnel all their strategies into one pipeline and enable a singular vision for executing strategies going forward.

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