Carhartt’s digital transformation puts the customer first

Workwear retailer Carhartt launched its digital transformation by making its ecommerce platform more accessible, reliable, and customer-centric.

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Like most legacy retailers, workwear brand Carhartt found itself in need of a digital overhaul, thanks to a market disrupted by large ecommerce competitors with advantages in size, speed and scale.

Carhartt came to this crossroads with its own advantages. As a known, trusted brand with a solid niche market, quality products and an emphasis on customer care, Carhartt was well positioned to make the shift to the customer-centric model fueling today’s digital transformations, emphasizing user experience and long-term customer value, but the company lacked some of the major technological underpinnings necessary, including access to real-time data, supply chain management, and monitoring. Without those components, Carhartt had no insight into the health of the business — or its customers’ ecommerce experience.

Leveraging technology to understand customer needs, enhance customer service and increase loyalty is an essential facet of digital transformations in the retail industry, according to a November 2017 Deloitte report. But technology isn't a panacea, says Brendan Witcher, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research. There's also a need to make a cultural shift toward using data to better understand customer needs and expectations, he says.

"You need technology that allows you to become data-led as an organization, so you can stay ahead of changing customer needs and behavior, and that data-led approach creates operational efficiencies so that you can create that great customer experience," he says.  

That was the issue facing Carhartt CIO John Hill, whose mandate upon joining the 129-year-old workwear retailer in January 2016 was to shepherd the company through its digital transformation. That was a major undertaking, so Hill and his team broke the larger transformation into smaller projects to tackle individually. Soon Hill came up against a central challenge: updating the company’s technical and ecommerce platforms in time for the two biggest sales days of the year: Black Friday and Cyber Monday, 2016.

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