Barneys New York Gets Personal

An interview with Josh Lieberman, Executive Vice President of Digital at Barneys New York

Author: Tricia Carr

March 29, 2017

Barneys New York’s next move in the realm of personalization is to target individual customers based on purchase and browsing behaviors, rather than communicating with shoppers by segments. Josh Lieberman, Barneys’ executive vice president of digital, spoke with eMarketer’s Tricia Carr about the first steps in achieving this and the challenges it has encountered along the way.

eMarketer: Why is personalization a top priority at Barneys this year?

Josh Lieberman: Digital continues to grow for our business, and we continue to invest more in our inventory position for digital. With that, we need to find ways to scalably grow our customer base and our marketing program.

Personalization and technology are two critical components of how we scale and grow and show the right things to our customers. We have very different customers. A millennial beauty shopper is much different than a made-to-measure suit shopper. It’s important to organize our products in a way that’s relevant to these different segments. Personalization technology allows us to do that in a relatively straightforward way.

“We’re using the behavioral data we have and allowing customers to opt in to receive targeted communications.”

eMarketer: What type of customer data is most important for personalization?

Lieberman: The most important thing to capture is our customers’ purchase behavior. Nothing tells us what they want more than what they’ve purchased in the past. We also use behavioral data from our digital channels to help inform intent. What are our customers shopping for? What are they browsing? What are they searching for? That, in addition to purchase behavior, helps us predict what they want.

eMarketer: What are the biggest personalization initiatives right now for Barneys?

Lieberman: We’re focused on personalized communication based on the products that someone has purchased and looked at. Our communications are targeted to segments, but the next step is targeting them based on individual behaviors.

eMarketer: What steps are you taking to achieve this?

Lieberman: We’re looking at how to use our inventory across the organization efficiently. For example, if you like a specific designer or a specific product, we can let you know when there are new arrivals for that designer, or products related to the one you came for.

We’re using the behavioral data we have and allowing customers to opt in to receive targeted communications. We’re also putting programs in place that allow us to communicate directly with customers based on explicit preferences they tell us.

“We’re focused on ... figuring out how to connect product data and customer data to create personalized experiences.”

eMarketer: What are the biggest challenges when employing your personalization strategy?

Lieberman: The challenges have to do with making the best use of our data. We have great customer data. We’re focused on enhancing our product data this year and figuring out how to connect product data and customer data to create personalized experiences.

It’s a challenge because it typically involves cross-functional teams and the use of technology and change management. For us, the way to overcome that is by focusing on a specific goal, talking about that goal within the organization, building capabilities to enable those personalized experiences and figuring out how to connect the dots with the data that we have.

eMarketer: From your perspective, what are the top trends in personalization right now across the retail industry?

Lieberman: The top two are dynamic product personalization and personalized search. Dynamic product personalization is based on purchase behavior and behavioral data. It’s trying to put the right product in front of the customer based on their purchase history and what they do on digital channels.

“Personalized search is a trend that’s emerging now. It’s related to both the search results you see as you start to type in a search box, as well as the results themselves.”

Personalized search is a trend that’s emerging now. It’s related to both the search results you see as you start to type in a search box, as well as the results themselves. For example, say you previously purchased a men’s white shirt. When you go to a site that serves both men and women and you start typing in white shirt, it should prioritize men’s shirts if it has inventory in both.

eMarketer: Are there other trends starting to emerge this year?

Lieberman: Personalized browsing experiences are another emerging trend. As companies increase the inventory they sell online, it becomes a bigger challenge to figure out how to show people something relevant—especially for new customers who don’t have a purchase history. Based on browsing information, can we figure out what you might be interested in?

In addition to personalized search results, this means personalizing what’s on your homepage and what’s in the global navigation based on your browsing history. We do this a bit on our homepage and on our category pages, but there’s an opportunity to do it at a much more granular level. 


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