I recently had the chance to catch up with Jodi Watson, VP, Global eCommerce & Consumer Insights at Wolverine World Wide to understand what impact the transition to agile commerce is having on her role, her organization, and Wolverine World Wide’s business.

Since 1883, Wolverine World Wide has been a global manufacturer and retailer of footwear and apparel brands, operating in more than 190 countries around the world to bring to life brands such as: Bates, CAT Footwear, Chaco, Cushe, Harley-Davidson Footwear, Hush Puppies, Merrell, Sebago, Patagonia Footwear, and Wolverine. Jodi is an experienced direct-to-consumer leader with more than 15 years in eCommerce, catalog, and retail at a wide range of firms prior to Wolverine World Wide.

Forrester: Jodi, thanks for taking some time out to talk to us about agile commerce. We have been talking to clients about the evolution of their business from channels to touchpoints that span mobile devices, social networks, advertising, marketing, traditional channels, and various places online. How are you looking at this and what does it mean for your business?

Ms. Watson: Being a 100+ year old manufacturer, we are finding it’s more and more important to get closer to our end consumer, the person wearing our footwear and apparel. Knowing what they expect and how they want to buy makes us a better partner for our retailers as well as takes care of our consumers if they want to have a direct relationship with one of our brands. Consumers don’t have a relationship with a “channel,” they have a relationship with a brand. They shop brands, and this means that now, more than ever, we need to be where our consumer expects us to be. We have strong distribution partners reselling our brands, and we also have a robust direct-to-consumer business that sells online, via mobile, and catalog. Social media is an ever-increasing influencer of where consumers will shop, and we use it to take care of consumers who may have a question about one of our brands. We don’t sell, per se, on social media, but rather, we use it as another way to stay connected to the people who want to get to know us better, and in turn, we get to know them better, allowing us to serve them better in the future. We still work with traditional marketing channels, but these tactics are leveraged to be more targeted and relevant. The “device” becomes increasingly important instead of the “website.”

Forrester: As businesses evolve from a channel-centric focus to a customer-centric focus, how do you think your organization will need to change to respond to the changes in the ways you do business? Do you see a new organizational model having to take shape?

Ms. Watson: We are working to form more collaborative teams and centralize by area of expertise. For example, instead of organizing around tactics, we are organizing around segments of our consumers such as leaders being in charge of acquisition and retention. I also think that the shrinking world will mean an opportunity for global expansion of brands as well as ensuring businesses have the right talent to scale into new regions and territories outside of the United States. Talent acquisition will be critical to this new way of responding to change, as the demand for increasingly complex and analytical skill sets will be critical to understanding the role of all of these new touchpoints. 

Forrester: With the pace of change so high, what is the most exciting or interesting challenge that your firm is addressing right now?

Ms. Watson: I think there are a couple of things, and they aren’t really new. Innovation and growth are the focus for us. It’s maintaining a balance of being able to do the block and tackle work while continuing to test, learn, and push the team and the organization to think differently and uncover the next new thing. Finding the right people to create a dynamic workforce that is energized by change, instead of scared off by it, and then motivating and retaining key talent to ensure they continue to grow and be challenged by the work, even if we don’t know what that work is just yet. Building a solid road map for the future gives you a place to start when you have to blow it up and start all over again.

Forrester: Thanks so much, Jodi. We really appreciate your time and insights.

This is the first in a series of interviews with executives about the ways they are responding to agile commerce. I really appreciate Jodi’s participation and look forward to bringing more of these to you. If you are interested in participating in this series or have ideas for eBusiness & Channel Strategy leaders you would like to see us include, please email me at brianwalker@forrester.com.


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