Avon may not be a big name in the tech community, but the entrepreneur-friendly beauty company has been pushing the B2C envelope for years. Group VP and CIO Sue Liddie breaks down how tech is enabling Avon’s pink sales force.
What is your main goal as CIO?
Putting the right technology in place to enable our stakeholders: Our Representatives, our consumers and our associates. We have 6 million Representatives, and they are the heart and soul of Avon. We want to continue to lead for the next 130 years and beyond.
Avon is a classic brand. At what point did your company truly begin embracing technology?
I’ve been here five years, but technology has been a part of Avon’s footprint over the last few decades. Now it is a critical component of our future. Technology plays a large part in our mission, from enabling more order options to optimizing the supply chain. There is little about the Avon organization that isn’t touched by technology in some form. I’m excited about how important technology is becoming now. It will have an even bigger impact on the next generation of beauty sellers and seekers.
As IT becomes more inclusive, how are non-tech leaders coming into the CIO discussion?
I’m encountering fewer non-tech aware leaders. Most, if not all of our executive committee is tech savvy, as well as their teams: It is less about how we bring them along and more about aligning priorities as well as creating a global strategy.
We focus on collaboration. For instance, the lead for a marketing piece will partner with the lead in my area to give an aligned answer on the intended journey and how tech would enable it. The trick is to engage from the start, determine the business problem or opportunity, and collectively get to the technology necessary to make it happen.
How much has consumer tech awareness influenced your leadership at CIO?
The consumers’ and Representatives’ use of mobile and social has had a significant impact on us, particularly over the last two years. With consumers, it is beyond tech awareness and more tech expectations. The stakes are higher for the Representatives, who now need multiple pay options, more delivery choices, better order timing and more product information all on their mobile devices.
I can tell you, the next generation of associates, consumers and Representatives are expecting more, especially now that we live in an Amazon/Uber/Google world. We have to operate our business on that level, both in America and abroad, and take in how people are experiencing Avon in the global community.
What is the one major IT goal you think will be conquered in five years?
It will be increased or improved Representative enablement, from offering her more options to reach consumers more efficiently, through and including tools to manage her business. We have a lot of capability now, and we have great opportunities to do even more. It’s all about modernizing our commerce capabilities and using technology to create a holistic approach to sales.