Audrey Gauthier, VP of Marketing and E-Commerce at Little Burgundy, highlights the changing priorities of the Canadian customer and how brands are adapting to deliver.

Avenue Code: Tell us about your career path. How did you get to where you are today, and what drew you to Genesco?

Audrey Gauthier: After completing my Master’s in Business Administration at Sherbrooke University, I started my career at La Vie en Rose, and I feel in love with the creativity and endless possibilities of e-commerce. I then transitioned to ALDO, where I rapidly assumed new omnichannel management responsibilities for in-store marketing in addition to managing digital optimization for e-commerce. From there, I became VP of Marketing and E-Commerce at Little Burgundy and stayed with the company when it was acquired by Genesco.  

AC: What was the impact of COVID-19 on Little Burgundy? How did your brick and mortar strategy change? How did your digital strategy adapt?

AG: Business-wise, it’s been very challenging. We’re selling non-essential products and goods, so even though our e-commerce is running effectively, the closure of our stores had a big impact on the overall business. That said, Little Burgundy and Genesco as a whole have been able to navigate this challenge well and use it to fast forward our omnichannel strategy. 

For example, we’re currently transitioning to a new CRM platform, and our IT team is working to enable curbside pickup. It’s been a tremendous year for e-commerce transformation, as we’re investing in new tech that will benefit our long-term growth. 

AC: What have you learned about the Canadian consumer and how their preferences and needs have changed during COVID-19?

AG: We’ve done a lot of research on the Canadian consumer, and we found that the pandemic significantly impacted everyone’s state of mind. We’ve all been exposed to an increase in anxiety on multiple levels, not only due to social isolation, but also due to job loss and monetary stresses. This resulted in several factors for businesses:

The consumer is more concerned with sustainable and recyclable materials as part of an evolving social consciousness. Buying priorities are also determined by a desire to support local brands, as well as the practical need for high product availability. Consumers also want to support businesses that show value transparency and an embrace of diversity. And it goes without saying that the consumer is moving more toward digital-first than ever before.

AC: What are the keys to creating a successful e-commerce strategy and omnichannel experience? 

AG: It’s essential to be very consumer-centric and improve our omnichannel experience. Of course we need to attract customers to our e-commerce platforms, but we also need to give a lot of thought to the after-purchase process to ensure speed and accuracy in everything from shipping to returns and reimbursements.

AC: What are your current and upcoming innovation projects?

AG: We’re utilizing new technology to gain a single view of the customer by integrating our systems for various online and in-person touchpoints. System integration is key to improving the omnichannel customer experience.

AC: What trends are you seeing in e-commerce as a whole right now?

AG: Curbside pickup is a big one. Many stores, ours included, had a process in place for ordering items from sister stores for pick up, but now there’s a need to ensure inventory is available at any given location almost immediately. Related to this, same-day delivery is becoming the norm, which is forcing e-commerce companies to evolve logistically. 

Finally, investing in the after-purchase experience is huge: because online purchases are the norm now, potential buyers want to read customer reviews to feel confident in their purchases, which means companies need to exert effort in delivering a positive experience.

AC: What is the key to successful strategic partnerships?

AG: Clear communication, setting solid KPIs, and trust. We saw all of these magnified during this past year, as there was greater flexibility for payment timelines and much more sharing of resources and ideas. I personally believe that trust has to be built over time.  

AC: How would you like to see Little Burgundy’s marketing and e-commerce division develop this year?

AG: I see a lot of opportunities for us to increase our market share, improve our omnichannel approach, and attend to our customer journey to differentiate ourselves from other players. We also have room to grow our brand awareness throughout Canada. Finally, I see Little Burgundy becoming a more predominant e-commerce player in Canada for multibrand footwear, bags and accessories.

AC: On a personal note, how have your own work-life balance and management style adapted since COVID-19? What new challenges and opportunities have opened for you during the pandemic?

AG: It’s been a really good year for me personally, even with all of the challenges. Gaining back commute and travel time has allowed me to adapt my personal routine, focus on running goals, and improve my management style. Now, I’m able to get more visibility on everything my team is doing. Instead of looking only at results, I have more time to be able to support better my team in their processes and strengthen their methodologies. 

One woman on my team actually commented that our regular Zoom meetings have “humanized” her colleagues because she has the chance to see them in their personal environments. 

AC: Thanks for your time today, Audrey! It’s been great to get your perspective on how COVID-19 has changed the priorities of customers and what that means for e-commerce businesses.


Alfredo Moro

Alfredo Moro is a Customer Success Manager at Avenue Code who is passionate about sales and loves to connect with clients all over the world! In his spare time, he enjoys watching the soccer games of his favorite team and cooking Brazilian BBQ in his backyard.

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