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At Hudson’s Bay Company, IT gets a seat at the table

The retail leader

Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) can easily claim the distinction of North America’s oldest company.

Shoppers outside Hudson Bay store

Since its incorporation in 1670, the business has expanded to over 250 luxury and off-price fashion stores with 30,000 employees worldwide. HBC enjoys a global reputation for selling quality beauty, home and fashion goods and delivering unrivaled customer experiences.

The experts

Ope Bakare and Jennifer Clark

Ope Bakare, Vice President and Chief Enterprise Architect, HBC, sits down with Jennifer Clark, Product Marketing Manager, IBM Sterling Order Management, to talk about the pandemic, customer engagement and the changing role of IT.

The story

Jennifer Clark, IBM: What has this pandemic taught you?

Ope Bakare, HBC: The value of our colleagues. We have a lot of dedicated people in the stores who work day in and day out — with the right safety precautions in place — to serve our customers. We believe that we can deliver an unrivaled customer experience, and our colleagues are the key to that. Technology plays a part but, ultimately, our people and that personal touch are what matters.

Clark: How has HBC viewed the value of its omnichannel platforms during this time?

Bakare: We’ve seen huge shifts in customer behavior. Right now everyone is social distancing. But unfortunately, some people have issues that preclude them from going into a store. So part of our omnichannel strategy includes a refreshed, re-architected website. It plays a huge role in how we’re able to interact with customers during the pandemic. They can order online, ship home or ship to store, and we can adapt for peak and scale out when necessary.

Clark: Which technologies, adjacent to the store systems, have enhanced this new customer journey?

Bakare: We have some excellent logistic systems plus we use the IBM Sterling Order Management system, of course. When customer behavior changes, we need our technology platform to react to that. A flexible architecture enables us to pivot and know where we’re investing our time. This is the first time I have ever seen customers drive changes to our order management solution strategy at both gradual and holistic levels.

Cloud is also a way for us to deliver business solutions from the underlying technology. This is where you need engaged partners who can give you actionable intelligence, help you leverage the full roster of technology available, and experiment to rapidly figure out what drives positive engagement and what doesn’t.

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Clark: What is the future of technology in retail?

Bakare: I think we’re going to see more personalization. Big data and the related technologies are going to become more valuable because companies want to optimize their interactions with customers. We need to use the data that customers entrust us with to deliver value back to them.

I also think that the reliability of baseline technologies will become more important. There’s going to be less tolerance for systems going down. When you only have 15 minutes to engage with a customer, to complete a high value transaction, systems have to work. You can’t say, “Oops, this is not available.”

Clark: Which technology stands out for you?

Bakare: Cloud. Cloud enables two things. The first is cost transparency. Technologists need to understand the numbers and speak the language because it enables them to have valuable conversations. The second is that cloud lets you keep up with the rapid pace of technology evolution. It’s really exciting to see new technologies evolving and how they will help us deliver value to the business better, faster, cheaper and more reliably.

But these two things aren’t conflicting, they’re actually pushing us in the same direction. Why? Think about the cost conversation, cost transparency. In legacy organizations, technology was in the background — the finance department handed IT a bunch of money and told it to go build something. Those days are gone. Now IT has a seat at the table.

Clark: Can you talk more about IT having a "seat at the table?"

Bakare: Technology has a seat at the table for the first time. We’re not just implementers — we’re having productive conversations about how we can solve business problems together. But it’s even more than that. We’re talking about the impact of technology investments on P&L and cash flow, and which investments can build a foundation for something greater and larger downstream. It ties back to how tech is becoming more and more important as we go through this transformative era and into the future. It’s all very exciting.

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