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Up Close: In Conversation with Tecsys CMO Laurie McGrath

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, Laurie McGrath, chief marketing officer at supply chain management software firm Tecsys, explains why the details matter in retail and how apparel can exceed consumers’ expanding omnichannel expectations.

Laurie McGrath Tecsys
Laurie McGrath, chief marketing officer at Tecsys Courtesy

Name: Laurie McGrath

Title: Chief marketing officer

Company: Tecsys

Which other industry has the best handle on the supply chain?

Most industries have both strengths and weaknesses in their supply chains, so it’s tough to identify one that has it all figured out. Healthcare and pharmaceuticals are miles ahead in terms of data standardization and traceability, but many processes are still very manual. Meanwhile, the beauty industry has been setting the bar for deep consumer personalization. Few industries are managing inventory turns better than grocery, but waste is still astronomical with fresh produce. I think that different industries are tackling different challenges in the supply chain that speak to their respective consumers the most, be it timeliness, visibility, personalization, and the like.

What can apparel learn?

Apparel will need to develop a more customized and transparent relationship with the consumer. Unshackled from physical stores and geographical bounds, competing for the consumer’s share of wallet means orchestrating a kaleidoscope of brand, product, experience, culture and fulfillment. And the consumer is more demanding than ever, with little tolerance for an order error or a difficult returns process. The days of mass production for a quick go-to-market are waning, and they are being replaced by personalized experiences, whether in the form of the shopping experience, the product itself or the way in which it is delivered. It’s critical to think about every consumer touchpoint—from webrooming to showrooming to returns—and craft ways to make them delightful.

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How would you describe yourself as a consumer?

I am extremely loyal to what I know. I will drive out of my way or wait longer than I should for the item that I want. This loyalty is built on the relationships I have developed with a brand or store, and it often exists in the details. Does my in-store experience reflect the brand ethos? Is the product quality consistent? Are my transactions an extension of a white-glove customer experience?

As a consumer, what does it take to win your loyalty?

Fundamentally, consistency, quality and kindness will win my loyalty, but I think the holistic customer experience is what can make or break it. Here’s an example. I was buying flowers for a friend, but the florist I usually go to was closed so I went to another one nearby. The selection and quality were on par, and the service was just as pleasant as ever. But two things struck me as different: the lighting was dim, and I had to insert my card rather than use tap to pay. These seemingly trivial elements detracted from my overall shopping experience. When thinking about loyalty, details matter.

What’s your typical work (or weekend) uniform?

I love fashion; it’s a bit of a hobby. I’m not a “casual day” fan; I’m fairly traditional and tend to overdress for most every occasion. You may find me in sweats on the weekend, but there is no in between. Case in point: I don’t own jeans.

Which fashion era is your favorite?

I adore the 1950s. The femininity, the elegance, the thoughtful accessories—what a wonderfully subtle extravagance that evolved through the decade and gave rise to a new breed of designers.

Who’s your style icon?

Grace Kelly.

What’s the best decision your company has made in the past year?

As the pandemic forced us to work from home, we really focused on reaching out and staying in touch with our employees. Not only did we launch Zoom workout sessions and mental health workshops, we ramped up our efforts to connect over video and continue to team build. Tecsys is very much like a family in many ways, and the health and happiness of our employees is top priority. Preserving that familiarity remotely is an explicit effort that shines.

How would you describe your corporate culture?

Tecsys is built on integrity: the people, the business practices, the product. While many companies may stake a claim to integrity, it is truly in the DNA of this organization.

What can companies learn from Covid-19?

Disruptions have a way of exposing your weakest links pretty quickly. If your customer loyalty is strong, consumers will tolerate a few hiccups as you recalibrate. If your supply chain operation is strong, you can pivot to a different fulfillment strategy to accommodate closures and pickup preferences. But if this pandemic revealed limitations or shortcomings in your business, don’t turn the page. Fix it so it becomes a competitive advantage rather than a source of weakness.

What should be the apparel industry’s top priority now?

Get as close to the consumer as possible and anticipate their behaviors. Those that listen to their customers are far better equipped to meet and exceed expectations. There are myriad tools—both digital and analog—to help along that journey and capture the voice of your customer.

What keeps you up at night?

I imagine any organization that has customers would agree: happy customers are what help me sleep, and maintaining that happiness is what keeps me up.

What makes you most optimistic?

We work our noses to the grindstone to set our customers up for success, to give them the tools to orchestrate their supply chain operations behind the curtain so they can delight their customers in front of it. Whether it’s a national apparel company making the leap into international markets, or a multi-store retailer adding BOPIS or ship-from-store, what drives me is seeing the successes that our customers are achieving by leveraging their investment in our software.

Tell us about your company’s latest product introduction:

Over the past few years, the apparel industry has been blurring the lines between traditional channels. Brands are moving towards DTC, and retailers are building massively successful private labels. Tecsys’ Omni Retail software portfolio equips brands and retailers for unified commerce while managing the increasingly complex order management and supply chain execution ecosystem needed for fulfillment. This technology backbone lets companies orchestrate and consolidate orders, operate micro-fulfillment at the store level, and offer BOPIS and BOPAC, giving customers a shopping experience that caters to their preferences.