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Office Depot eCommerce Focuses on OmniChannel Integration

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L – R: Kevin Moffitt, Office Depot eCommerce Strategist; Cheri Siedle, Senior Director, eCommerce Product Management; and Claire Marrero, ITWomen President, at ITWomen’s Professional Development event March 14, 2016 held at Office Depot world headquarters in Boca Raton.

OmniChannel marketing is the driving passion for Office Depot’s eCommerce Strategist Kevin Moffitt. Kevin focused on the Agile model in his keynote speech on Digital Insights at ITWomen’s Professional Development event at the company’s world headquarters in Boca Raton March 14. Cheri Siedle, Office Depot’s Senior Director of eCommerce Product Management, provided a roadmap for finding opportunities in Digital Careers.

“ITWomen is a great resource to have here in South Florida,” Moffitt told the attendees of diverse professionals, from project managers, software developers, IT media, recruiters and more.

ITWomen President Claire Marrero spoke of the great need to increase the numbers of women in technology professions, listing ITWomen’s community programs for scholarships, virtual mentoring, Role Model Speakers and internship network.

The 30-YEAR EVOLUTION OF eCOMMERCE 

Office Depot opened its first physical location in 1986 and its first website in 1998.

Phase One of the 30-year evolution of eCommerce was focused on the logistics of how to sell online. “We had to figure out everything – from how to handle  distribution to how to handle transactions,” said Moffitt.

Phase Two over the next decade was about playing up the differences between shopping on the web and shopping at your local store. eCommerce focused on how to take advantage of the benefits only digital platforms could provide, like Search, and instantly available Consumer Reviews.

In 2016, Phase Three focuses on bridging the gap between physical and digital. “Now it’s all about getting the best out of both channels to support each other, not creating the same thing in both,” he said.

“For example, when you log into Office Depot you land on your local store. We have information right there on your favorite stuff – especially important in this industry where we buy many of the same products over and over.”

“Last year we really personalized the experience, trying  to make sure the customer is in the loop with what is happening with our products, such as recalls. The eCommerce team also rolled out its IOS app.

AGILE WORKS  
“We are much more precise in our personalization,” said Moffitt, adding that such precision comes out of obsessive research into what makes Office Depot customers happy – or not.

“What we do is every 2 weeks bring research into almost every process, making tweaks. I start almost every day reading customer notes. Customers do weird stuff that doesn’t fall into our test scripts. If one customer is experiencing something, 100 or 1000s of others are experiencing it too. It may be outside the norm but we still have to account for it.”

Kevin also attributes better customer experience to the internal use of Agile and Scrum in 2 or 4 week sprints in keeping Office Depot’s 41 websites customer-centric and competitive.

“When I started, I tore down the walls. Our teams are co-located.”

Usability, project management, business analysts, developers  sit together all day. There’s no  “us” or “them” division, no ‘Business guys never know  what they want’ or  ‘IT guys always take too long,’ because they can communicate in real time as questions arise, he said. For this reason, he strongly encourages a face-to-face work environment. Video conferencing and physically separate offices for team members, including computer programmers, is discouraged.

Team building is an important part of the mix, he added, showing slides of a team retreat in Hawaii.  “You have to attend to the ‘real human side of work’ for results. “You can hit a milestone once, but to do it consistently you have to have a team with trust.”

It’s this Agile, co-located team model that Kevin and Cheri say enabled Office Depot to merge the Office Max online shopping site into Office Depot’s within only a year after the Office Max acquisition.

BEST CAREER CHANGERS – STAY FLEXIBLE AND OPEN
Cheri started at Office Depot over 21 years ago and climbed the corporate ladder by taking on ever greater challenges that intrigued her intellectual curiosity.

Both Kevin and Cheri emphasized how much opportunity there is when you are open and flexible in defining your path.

Cheri  told members, “Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something.” Equally important, she added, was to never pass up an opportunity to ask for what you want.

Cheri  took up computer programming early on to better understand her team’s experiences. While she didn’t continue in programming, the earlier studies have been invaluable in her subsequent roles in management. In her current role, Cheri develops and executes on a multi-year strategic roadmap, setting the customer experience vision and strategy for her teams. She is focused on both the online and the omni-channel customer shopping experience. Her responsibilities span all of the Office Depot website platforms including direct, contract and mobile.

DIVERSE BACKGROUNDS ENRICH IT CAREER PATHS
Kevin was one of the first generation of children to grow up with computers because of his father’s business selling computers, in particular the Commodore VIC 20. The model was the first computer in history to reach 1 million unit sales. Then came the communication platform to connect those 1 million users, which enabled Kevin to use the precursor to the company that eventually became AOL.

Degrees in Documentary Film Making aren’t what you expect in the background of an MBA with 18 years experience in the dog-eat-dog world of eCommerce. However Kevin says his liberal arts background, which includes a degree in History, comes into play every day.

“Marketing is storytelling and our users are human. The only thing we have to reach them online is the screen in front of them.”

OPTIMISM FOR THE NEXT GENERATION
Meanwhile the generation of children growing up now are already native to merged physical models and digital environments. A father of four young children, Kevin contrasted his childhood passion for building Lego castles with his daughter’s delight in building and playing in digital castles in Minecraft, alone or in collaboration remotely with her friends from across the street or across the state.

In talking about advancing more women in technology and the world opening to children, especially daughters today, he thinks of Disney’s original EPCOT world of imagination that was all about science and technology and a belief in infinite progress.

“Our children are coming home from school learning more than their parents about sustainable design and engineering, and maintaining the environment . . . it’s an exciting time.”