Up Close is Sourcing Journal’s regular check-in with industry executives to get their take on topics ranging from personal style to their company’s latest moves. In this Q&A, Doug Kofoid, CEO of retail intelligence firm Edited, discusses customer-centric retail experiences and the power of data.
Name: Doug Kofoid
Which other industry has the best handle on the supply chain? What can apparel learn?
Healthcare has applied some effective measures to mitigate supply chain risk. Many of the healthcare players moved to a multi-supplier model for critical product components, regionalized their supplier model and increased inventory of those critical components.
On the other hand, industries that operated with just-in-time inventory have been hit much harder over the past couple of years. These same supply chain strategies can benefit apparel, including carrying extra inventory of the top-selling products.
How would you describe yourself as a consumer?
I’m particular about the product I’m buying and demanding in my user experience expectations. I want the brand to deliver on their promise to me by meeting or exceeding my expectations, and I want it at a good value—one of my favorite metrics is cost per wear. And I want a seamless, easy buying process.
What’s your typical work (or weekend) uniform?
For work, I wear jeans and a sports coat just about every day. Come the weekend, I simply take off the coat. However, when I was living in Paris, I loved the French style. I wore European sport coats—and scarves for that matter—with my American jeans every day, seven days a week. I felt great.
Which fashion era is your favorite?
The hippie era of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. The jeans and T-shirt lifestyle, which is probably driven by my love of the comfort of denim and the music of that time. Luckily, our market data shows that this style keeps coming back in fashion!
Who’s your style icon?
Steve Jobs. What did you expect from a tech executive? But I get the fashion of it, it was a look for him and became iconic. All black, simple and classic, and it’s easy to get dressed in the morning.
What’s the best decision your company has made in the last year?
Clearly, it has been a challenging and unexpected few years, and two key decisions come to mind. First, to help during the Covid lockdowns and the disruptions to supply chain that followed, we built a “Covid dashboard” on our site that pulled a subset of real-time global data from our Market Intelligence across product categories. This way retailers, whether customers or not, could have access to some critical global data points while they were managing in crisis mode.
The second decision was to pull in enterprise-level data via the acquisition of DynamicAction. This addition to our platform not just doubled our data scientists at Edited but allowed us to offer AI-driven insights now combining marketplace and internal data points to uncover insights otherwise impossible to glean, such as price competitiveness and range competitiveness. We don’t just show what happened, but can help with why it happened. Major brands can use this “decision intelligence” to make smarter decisions faster.
How would you describe your corporate culture?
Our core values emphasize being bold and brave, while caring about the people and world around you. I think our culture personifies that.
What can companies learn from Covid-19?
That we need to be nimble, as sometimes there is no established playbook. We’ve seen our customers achieve their margin goals facing very unpredictable challenges by supporting their teams with being open to transition their existing processes. And this needs better information on the key metrics: customers, pricing, inventories.
For example, we saw some global brands make the prudent decision to scale back their SKU range, some by as high as 70 percent, to invest more in “evergreen” never out-of-stock best sellers. Other brands launched new products based on better understanding of what their customers wanted or changed their promotion cadence.
What should be the apparel industry’s top priority now?
Customer-centricity. We now have the data and technology to drive amazing one-to-one experiences for customers. The consumer now expects this level of engagement, and will engage with those brands who get to know them as an individual.
What keeps you up at night?
The impact on retail if we have a recession. While I certainly think about how it may impact Edited, my thoughts first go to our customers. They’ve had to navigate the worst economic environment retail ever experienced during Covid-19, then high growth and improved margins during a recovery year with the rapid expansion of e-commerce and reducing promotions—only to face disruptive supply chain challenges and higher freight costs. Now, as we appear to be forging our way through, our industry is getting hit with yet another challenge with the recession. My hopes, however, are that we now have the data and insights to help retail better navigate economic downturns and changes in consumer behavior, so retail is better positioned to weather the storm.
What makes you most optimistic?
I’ve seen firsthand how AI and data science can transform an industry. And I see the possibilities within retail fashion and consumer goods. To use a very current analogy, I feel that the application of AI and enterprise data is like having the Webb Telescope for apparel. The insights that our data science is uncovering will change the way we view the consumer and retail, in general.
Tell us about your company’s latest product introduction:
Right now, two products are really driving results. First, our API for Marketing Intelligence ensures our customers can directly feed our marketplace data from over 67 countries across over 140 million SKUs directly into their systems and customize the insights for their teams and initiatives. Historical data is included, and requests can be done for any timeframe.
Second, we recently launched Basket Analysis, which allows you to identify opportunities to better understand your customers, increase order size and improve product merchandising, marketing and promotion strategies. This shows product combinations based on a wide range of variables including region, promotions, product types and more. Overall, we are hearing that global retailers have “a lot” of data but they really want effective, fast ways to get the right data and the ability to get to the insights, automation and actions faster.