Barneys New York

Improving customer service in luxury retail

PROBLEM

Some say retail is dead. But Barneys set out to prove them wrong as a standout retailer providing luxury, bespoke experiences to customers. To create those exceptional experiences, Barneys needed to streamline store operations, simplify back-office creative workflows and onboard and train new employees quickly. 

 

SOLUTION

Barneys' store managers use Box as an operations hub. New employees are onboarded quickly with content on Box. Current employees work intuitively on any device rather than having to VPN into the corporate network from their laptops. The creative studio uses Box for digital asset management and collaborates on large files across physical locations. 

 

OUTCOME

Barneys has boosted productivity and operational efficiency across the business. Customer service has improved because new hires are onboarded and trained more quickly. Creative campaigns get to market faster and personalized experiences get to customers sooner, all while Barneys cuts IT infrastructure costs. 

 

Luxury retail has always been about serving each individual customer who walks through the door with a high-touch, utterly personalized experience. Now, with the rise of online shopping and a new generation of shoppers reared on technology, the bar has been raised.

For Barneys New York, technology lends itself to achieving this objective in new, exciting ways. The rise of practical AI is powering customized online recommendations and helping predict the trending desires of customers in real time. Employees in stores can instantly surface information on tablets to answer customer questions. Instead of removing the personal touch from retail, technology today is making it more experiential and high-touch across channels so customers feel taken care of and employees are elevated as brand ambassadors.

As VP of Technology Operations for Barneys, Melvin Perez is on the front line of this retail innovation. Perez is responsible for providing the tools to enable such high-touch luxury experiences. "Barneys New York takes pride in our ability to stand out from competitors by being more than a luxury retailer,"  he says. "We see ourselves as a technology, entertainment and hospitality company." To this end, Perez's IT budget is focused not on fixing legacy solutions but turning to emerging technologies that will create a whole new experience for customers and employees alike.

 

"In the past, you didn't need technology to sell clothing. Now people walk into Barneys New York and expect an experience."

 Melvin Perez, Vice President, Technology Operations, Barneys New York

 

A content platform for the digital workforce

The new generation of employees comes to Barneys with very little experience working in a "desktop-centric" way. Like customers, they're used to being agile and mobile, being able to pull up information on any device so they can do their jobs in the moment. "Our IT department is always looking for solutions that are moving fast," says Perez, "with industry top-players or niche solutions where they can be successful." But for any company in a competitive market, protecting valuable intellectual property means having a handle on content governance.

Perez sought a unified content platform that would enable employees to be productive, allowing them to work in ways that feel most intuitive, but keep content absolutely protected as well. In the past, Barneys team members on the ground at Fashion Week in New York would have to bring their laptops and connect to a hub and VPN in to the network in order to review and approve documents. Having already adopted Office 365, they needed a content management solution that would help them quickly connect the dots in the flow of a fast-paced day, without having to worry about syncing files or botching version control.

Perez naturally looked at OneDrive, but as he says, "OneDrive is great, but we have too much data. It can't sustain us." Box became the natural option, providing the ability to scale up storage and make adoption intuitive. To use Box, users didn't have to change the way they worked, because with one content platform, they could work across different suites, including both Office 365 and G Suite. They could even work on files offline, when the Internet connection at certain locations was unpredictable.

Berneys

Box gave Barneys' new generation of employees much more agility and mobility. Now, with Box as a content layer, they can hop on an iPad and use Office 365 in concert with Box, even from the front lines of a fashion show. "The biggest takeaway from this product is our ability to collaborate and disconnect from the traditional workstation," says Perez. "Box helps us excel in this area of business. Other competitors lack the speed and stability in their platform or are just too big to care about specific industries."

Box has also become pivotal to Barneys' onboarding process — a critical workflow, since turnover is high in retail. "We're at the point now where we've done a lot with Box," Perez says, "including content management, sharing and workflows that rely on Box." Today, Barneys uses Box like a mobile intranet for employees, with 22TB of data stored on the platform and the last, lingering Google Drive users being ported over now. Every new employee who comes on board at Barneys gets a Box account right away. And Box has also worked well in terms of training and communication across stores country-wide. Now, store general managers can use Box as a hub of operations, with all training and policy materials easily accessible from any device.

 

"Box’s platform, features and continuous enhancements have enabled IT to deliver a product that has been deeply embedded in our employees' daily workflows."

 Melvin Perez, Vice President, Technology Operations, Barneys New York

Visually stunning images — and enormous image files

In luxury retail, rich, beautiful visuals are everything. From a detailed high-res large-format bus advertisement to the thousands of crisp product shots that populate the website, Barneys digital studio creates very large files, and lots of them. "They never look back, but just keep taking more and more pictures daily," Perez says. Barneys was at the point where there were so many images that they were beyond the capacity traditional shared drives could support. The archiving of images was similarly vexing. How to store them in a library that would allow them to be easily resurfaced later?

Barneys’ digital studio lives in a space in Queens that's far removed from the Manhattan headquarters and the New Jersey e-commerce hub. And everyday work requires sharing large image files with partners all over the country and world. "You can only imagine how long it took to get images published on the web," Perez says, "It was a logistical nightmare." Technology solutions to support image libraries like this require not just ample and scalable file storage, but also the ability to tag images with metadata and create sophisticated workflows.

Bringing in Box brought a combination of flexibility and stability in a centralized, cloud-based content repository that enables the digital studio to keep producing its best work in service of stronger customer-facing assets. The ability to work nimbly with enormous image files has removed the constraints from creative; now, they can truly focus on building the magic into Barneys digital campaigns. And moving content onto Box has allowed Barneys to save on infrastructure costs, too.

 

"We continue to archive our digital products on Box, enjoying the stability and flexibility offered by this platform."

 Melvin Perez, Vice President, Technology Operations, Barneys New York

Barneys

The innovative journey to the future of luxury retail

Building a best-of-breed stack means treating technology vendors as partners — and finding vendors who have the same value system. Perez looks for technology vendors interested in innovating together on a journey to create the future of work in luxury retail. "A big win for us is that Box makes Barneys feel like Box is only working for Barneys," Perez explains. During the course of the relationship with Box, Barneys has felt empowered to bring up challenges, and Box has been responsive on a granular level.

Content management is just the start. The future of retail is closely connected to the ability to use technology to better personalize the customer experience, and this will come down to better and better use of data and AI. Barneys is already invested in several use cases for AI, helping predict the next important trend for each individual customer and using data from web browsing, purchasing, in-store behavior and foot traffic. Turning to Box has given Barneys a technology partner willing to innovate together to better enable employees and create optimal products.

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