Execs reveal their 2019 digital plans

and other news for digital executives, by journalist Mitch Betts ▸ More ex-CIOs get board seats ▸ VR in 100 Macy's stores = ROI ▸ Merger news ▸ CxO jobs, career moves ▸

Newsletter by Mitch Betts © Ampersand Reports 2019, all rights reserved.


Exclusive: 2019 digital plans. In the past few weeks, many CEOs and CFOs have been on earnings calls where they’ve summarized their accomplishments in 2018 and started to disclose plans for 2019. Here are some highlights from those calls, focusing solely on digital plans for the year ahead.

TJX Companies Inc. will be launching an e-commerce site for the Marshalls store brand later this year. Unlike the strategy at other retailers, a large percentage the merchandise sold online at Marshalls.com will be different from what’s at the brick-and-mortar stores, to avoid cannibalization and lost store visits. (The same differentiation strategy has been successful at TJMaxx.com.)

Shake Shack Inc. is in the midst of “Project Concrete,” a multi-million-dollar overhaul of its enterprise systems, including financial, HR, procurement, and inventory. ▸ Related: New CIO Dave Harris.

L Brands Inc. is currently testing a new online platform for Victoria’s Secret and plans to re-launch the e-commerce website in April.

Vitamin Shoppe Inc. — hoping to make vitamin shopping less daunting — plans to offer a digital product in 2019 that asks customers a series of questions and then makes personalized recommendations about products that would meet their needs. In addition, the company:
▸ hired Stacey Renfro as Chief Customer & Digital Experience Officer to refocus & reposition the VitaminShoppe.com website
▸ signed a deal with Dunnhumby Ltd., a customer data science firm, “to ensure our products are priced competitively and that we are getting the most from our promotional spend[ing].”

Retailer Nordstrom Inc. will be using data analytics to fine-tune merchandise inventory & allocation planning (especially to improve sales of women’s apparel).

XPO Logistics Inc. will spend about $550 million on technology this year, up from about $500 million last year.

Retailer J.C. Penney Co. plans to hire an e-commerce executive to speed up the company’s omni-channel improvements. The company also plans to:
▸ make greater use of pricing analytics
▸ apply technology & staffing to deal with an above-average problem with retail “shrinkage.”

Lowe’s Companies Inc.still not happy with its website and omni-channel performance — hired Mike Amend as president of its online business. He’s expected to work with new CIO Seemantini Godbole to “lead an aggressive transformation of Lowes.com in 2019.” Lowe’s also plans to roll out a new labor scheduling system to optimize staff allocation based on predictions of customer demand (by time of day, day of week, and department).
Related: Analytics-driven schedules are making workers miserable

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers Inc. plans to:
▸ launch a more-intuitive online ordering program
▸ roll out handheld ordering devices in key markets
improve back-office systems reliability to reduce downtime and lower system maintenance costs
move its loyalty program (with over 8.6 million members) to a new digital platform, making it possible to precisely target offers based on recent purchase behavior.

Macy’s Inc. plans to enhance its mobile app in 2019 “with new features to improve payment, shopping, and style advice.” (The retailer’s mobile app produced more than $1 billion in sales in 2018.)

Home Depot Inc. plans to enhance & grow its new “Pro” B2B website for construction professionals, from the current 100,000 customers to over one million Pros in 2019.


Real digital activity in corporate America

VR-room. Macy’s Inc. has deployed virtual reality (VR) furniture galleriesvirtual showcases of furniture layouts — at 100 stores. “For the customers who use VR, we’ve seen return rates that are 25% lower, and basket sizes 44% greater, than customers who don't use VR,” said CEO Jeff Gennette at a Feb. 26 earnings call.

Online sales numbers revealed. Retailer Nordstrom Inc. says digital sales made up 30% of its business in 2018. Doing the math: That’s 30% of total sales of $15.48 billion = $4.64 billion.

Chatty helpers. Cox Automotive Inc. is offering its dealers live chat messaging (on desktop or mobile) so that human agents can guide customers through the sometimes-confusing online car-buying process (and thus convert more sales opportunities).

Bad news. Security/privacy incidents reported:Dow Jones watchlist of high-risk individualsFlorida Keys Community College email accountsRutland Regional Medical Center in Vermont


Selected news about Amazon.com Inc.’s digital business

▸ Jeff Bezos says competitors shouldn’t be so afraid of Amazon — they can still thrive. (CNBC, sidebar) ▸ E-commerce newcomer Costco Wholesale Corp. has overtaken Amazon at the top of the customer satisfaction chart for online retail. (American Customer Satisfaction Index) ▸ Amazon patented an anti-theft, audio/video system that monitors the drop-off zone for a package delivery, and sends an alert if the package is removed. (U.S. Patent No. 10,210,727) ▸ Project Zero: Amazon is providing a self-service removal tool so brands can delete counterfeit product listings from the site. ▸ Amazon tapped an insider to head up its online pharmacy push, leveraging its $800 million acquisition of PillPack. (CNBC) ▸ “Amazon Day” is a new delivery option allowing Prime shoppers to choose a day of the week for consolidated deliveries, which reduces packaging. ▸ Those press-to-order Dash buttons for replenishing supplies? Discontinued, although existing devices will continue to function. (CNET)


Talent, jobs, appointments, careers, transitions

CVS Health Corp. has tapped Roshan Navagamuwa as EVP & CIO, tasked with integrating IT with Aetna Inc., which CVS acquired last year in a $70 billion deal. He had served as interim CIO since Stephen Gold left CVS in December 2017. Navagamuwa will collaborate with Meg McCarthy, Aetna’s EVP of Operations & Technology, during the transition period. — Angus Loten, WSJ: CIO Journal

Chicago-based BrightStar Group Holdings Inc. appointed Pam Parisian as a member of the company’s board of directors. She is retiring from AT&T as President of Technology Development. She was previously a CIO at AT&T, instrumental in the first iPhone launch in 2007, and led technology integration for mergers with DirecTV, AT&T Wireless, and Cingular Wireless. Parisian, winner of several awards, was inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame in 2015. (BrightStar Group is the parent company of BrightStar Care, BrightStar Technology Group, and BrightStar Senior Living.)

Huntsman Corp., based in Texas, named Vice Adm. Jan E. Tighe, USN retired, to its board of directors. Before her retirement, she held positions such as the U.S. Navy’s CIO, and Director of Cybersecurity.

Chemical Financial Corp. and TCF Financial Corp. — working on a $3.6 billion mergerannounced that Tom Butterfield (currently TCF’s CIO) will become CIO of the combined company, when the merger closes later this year (with a new company name). Butterfield will report to the new bank’s President & COO.

Deere & Co., based in Moline, Ill., named John May, 49, as President & COO, effective April 1. May has rotated through many executive positions at Deere, starting as CIO in 2012, and leading various agricultural business units. In addition, Deere said current CFO & CIO Rajesh Kalathur, 50, will become President of John Deere Financial and CIO, effective April 1.

Southern National Bancorp of Virginia Inc. (Sonabank) said that CIO George Cody Sheflett Jr., will expand his role to become SVP & COO.

Edison International & Southern California Edison elected Jeanne Beliveau-Dunn to the board of directors, expecting to tap her expertise in digital transformation. Beliveau-Dunn is head of Claridad LLC, a digital and Internet of Things consulting company. Previously, she had a long career as an executive at Cisco Systems Inc.

Tupperware Brands Corp., based in Orlando, Fla., appointed Cassandra “Sandra” Harris as EVP & CFO, effective April 1. She previously held positions as Global CIO and as a divisional CFO at VF Corp.

WW International Inc. (formerly Weight Watchers) appointed Julie Bornstein to its board of directors. She previously was COO of Stitch Fix Inc. and Chief Digital Officer of Sephora.

Qualis Health and HealthInsight (two companies currently working on a merger) said that Jason Owens has joined as CIO.


Kaiser Permanente is seeking an SVP & Chief Digital Officer, reporting to the CIO. The CDO position “defines how software is built … bringing a product mindset to the organization … serves as an evangelist for digital solutions ... is responsible for future-oriented technology evaluation.” Scope includes digital transformation, Agile software development, enterprise architecture, and cloud strategy. Manages 500+ employees, 15+ executives, and a budget of about $500 million.

Corbus Pharmaceuticals Holdings Inc., in Norwood, Mass., is seeking a CIO — with a heavy emphasis on supporting pharma R&D, e.g., an “in-depth understanding of clinical trial data and workflows.”