We were honored to catch up with Amanda Willinger, Vice President, PR, Digital & E-Commerce at LAGOS. Amanda has an inspiring career path, beginning with her origins in the art world and rising through the ranks to become VP, Digital & E-Commerce for LAGOS, a designer fine jewelry brand.
AC: Amanda, you have an impressive career path spanning multiple verticals within the retail industry. Can you tell us a little bit about how you got where you are today?
AW: In my experience, it’s important to follow your passion and work hard to achieve success. Of course, good timing and good luck don’t hurt either! I started my career in the art world because it was a real passion of mine. Initially, I had planned to go to law school, but eventually decided to continue to pursue my lasting interest in art and jewelry, and was fortunate enough to gain experience while at Christie’s and Sotheby’s in subject matters as diverse as impressionist art, modern art, jewelry, and memorabilia. From there it was a natural transition to jewelry - I’ve always been fascinated by the craft and creativity that go into it, as well as the meaning it tends to carry. Ask a woman about her jewelry, and there’s a moment or story there.
AC: During the course of your career, you’ve moved through several roles, from production, marketing, creative services, and now leading the digital and e-commerce efforts for LAGOS. What have you noticed about how shopper behavior is changing?
AW: We are living in a unique time with a radically shifting retail landscape. At the same time that physical stores are closing and challenged to evolve their business models, Amazon is capturing 25% of all US retail sales and more than half of all online sales. With rapid delivery available even for luxury items, how can traditional luxury retailers compete?
Frankly, I love being part of the retail landscape at such an interesting and dynamic time. In general, luxury is not ahead of the curve when it comes to innovation in the digital realm. The opportunities are there - we can be even more innovative with our brand, gain even more market share. And the timing is right for our consumer - women have learned that jewelry is not something you have to wait for a man to buy for you. Women buy jewelry for themselves like they would handbags or shoes.
A few pieces from LAGOS. Image via LAGOS.
AC: LAGOS’ founder, Steven Lagos, has been quoted in Forbes as saying that strength and integrity are the values that make the LAGOS brand so successful. How do you see those values informing the way the company operates?
AW: LAGOS has been in business for 40 years, and we have people who have been here since the beginning. I’ve never worked with a company that has, across the board, such high morale and dedication. Integrity impacts everything that we do, starting from the senior level all the way down. From Steven, our founder, to Chris Cullen, our President and CEO, there is a ripple effect to every person in the company. Steve famously challenges anybody to call up our customer service and talk to anyone - you will never walk away disappointed. Things go wrong, of course! That’s part of running a business. But if you can turn it around in a way that creates an elegant solution for your customers, this fosters loyalty. Our goal is always to keep our customer at the center of everything we do.
AC: What are your personal values? What is the most important ingredient for success in today’s retail environment?
AW: I have a quote on my wall from Winston Churchill: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity, and an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” That quote pretty much sums up what I think is important. For me, it’s about embracing the basics and keeping your eye on the ball. It’s important to have a plan and assemble a team with the right mix of diligence, integrity, and high-level execution. What I really love about this company is that we’re small enough to make good ideas happen, no matter where the idea comes from as long as it’s supported by a solid plan.
For instance, we were able to completely rebuild and replatform the website, which was not an easy prospect. It was a huge endeavor that affected the entire company - and I had complete support to do so, from operations to marketing to customer service. It’s a complex task, and I don’t take anything for granted - any sale or customer. Creating and developing the digital business has been a great joy for me. Since we redesigned the site, we’ve seen seven times our previous sales volume.
AC: In your role as VP of Digital & Ecommerce at LAGOS, what is the most important thing you hope to bring to the company?
AW: Gestalt theory states that when there is a unified whole comprised of many parts, the sum of the parts becomes much better as a whole. This applies to what I do, because it’s not just digital - it’s also product design, marketing, customer service, etc. It’s our overall value proposition - and our commitment to deliver an exceptional product experience to our customers. It’s never done! That’s what I love about LAGOS. We have a huge opportunity for growth, and right now our biggest opportunity is brand awareness.
AC: Amanda, it was a pleasure hearing from you regarding LAGOS’ efforts on staying ahead of the luxury retail curve. It sounds like you guys are primarily focused on becoming even more innovative with the brand and gaining more market share. The focus on fostering customer loyalty and maintaining the integrity of all aspects of the brand is inspiring. We look forward to watching LAGOS grow exponentially!