Welcome to RETHINK Luxury, a new four-part, forward-looking series on the luxury industry at-large.

On today’s episode, we envision a better world forward as we dive into ethical and sustainable sourcing in luxury, the challenges of implementing sustainable business practices within the luxury industry, and the opportunities for luxury in the circular economy.

This episode features interviews with Tim Benniks, Director of Web Development at Valtech; Sandrine Crener, Program Director at Harvard Business School; and Liz Alessi, VP of Sourcing at Tapestry.

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Hosted by Julia Raymond
Written and produced by Gabriella Bock
Edited by Trenton Waller
Marketing and social media by Natalie Arana

 

TRANSCRIPTION

Julia Raymond Hare:

Hello, and welcome to RETHINK Luxury. I’m your host Julia Raymond Hare and you’re listening to the 2nd episode of our special luxury series. Each episode dives into a different topic within luxury retail, and today you’ll be hearing about sustainability as a way forward for the luxury industry. 

 

Julia Raymond Hare:

I’d love to know what you think of the show, and I always enjoy hearing from our listeners, so please don’t hesitate to connect with me on Twitter @ juliarhare or on LinkedIn. If you’re interested in media or sponsorship opportunities, you can reach our team by emailing media @ rethink dot industries. 

 

Julia Raymond Hare:

This series is made possible by our incredible sponsor Valtech. Valtech is a global agency serving the world’s leading luxury brands in digital and retail, including perhaps the most prestigious, Louis Vuitton. 

 

Julia Raymond Hare:

As a precursor to this series, Valtech published its paper called: “Luxury Meets the Modern Era: Insights for 2021 and Beyond.” This paper was written by four experts who work with Valtech’s globally renowned luxury clients. We’ve linked to the paper from our site, rethink dot industries – or if it’s easier for you to remember, rethink retail dot org. You’ll see a banner on the homepage linking to the paper. You can also find it listed in our resources section.

 

Let’s begin —   

 

Julia Raymond Hare:

As we all know, luxury has, for a long time, been ruled by scarcity—precious gems from faraway places and handcrafted materials for the select few. But as we uncovered during our last episode,  the luxury industry is changing at a rapid pace. And what drives desire is no longer determined solely by what is exclusive, but rather what makes consumers feel good. Fine fabrics, top-tier craftsmanship, and quality customer service are, and always will be, key elements of garnering a positive reaction from shoppers. But as consumers become more aware and engaged with the world around them, they’ve also increasingly been shown to feel good when they do good. 

 

Julia Raymond Hare:

And with brands facing more public scrutiny for their environmental and social impacts, the luxury industry has found itself between a rock and a hard place. 

 

Julia Raymond Hare:

On the one hand, consumer surveys would indicate that diamonds are a girls’ best friend when they’ve been sourced responsibly. On the other hand, Hermes’ diamond-encrusted Birkin bags and Gucci’s Haute Joaillerie collection remain the pinnacle of lust-worthy appeal on social media.

 

Julia Raymond Hare:

Here to speak on this topic more is today’s first guest, Sandrine Crener. 

 

Sandrine Crener:

My name is Sandrine Crener and I work at HBS. I’m a Program Director for executive education at the business school and I also teach a class on luxury marketing at Harvard Extension School.

 

Julia Raymond Hare:

Thank you for joining us today, Sandrine. I want to kick off this conversation by asking you about sustainability and consumer behavior. We used to hear that consumers want more sustainable options, but they’re not willing to pay more for it. Is that changing?

 

Sandrine Crener:

Yes. So I think it’s really hard to ignore that sustainability has become central stage for consumers and also for brands. I think it’s a bit different for luxury brands because they are under scrutiny probably. But yeah, I think once again consumers are looking for a more meaningful consumption and also a more conscious consumption and once again, although luxury and sustainability may seem at odds now, because on one side, you have luxury. It’s all about hedonism, emotion, excess, confusion, indulgence, superficiality, all those elements that seem a little bit frivolous. On the other side, you have sustainability that is something that is much more rational, it’s about moderation, it’s about frugality.

 

Sandrine Crener:

So they seem opposed but at the same time, there are a lot of similarities between both because I think luxury consumption is the opposite of the hallway consumption. You don’t just get rid of those products. We send them, either you keep them forever and they become vintage and some of them even watch example is in… It’s clear they evaluate over time. They also you have all these cuffmanship embedded in those product, the quality, the durability as I mentioned, the exchange value like you can resell them or you can keep them, you can auction them. The timelessness elements of luxury goods, make them kind of sustainable purchase or at least a more sustainable purchase than some fast fashion that is not meant to last.

 

Sandrine Crener:

So yeah, in a way luxury consumption I think can be and actually is perceived as more sustainable. This is what we call the fallacy of greener luxury. People, consumers have kind of perception that because it’s luxury, because it’s scarce, because it’s high quality it’s necessarily green or at least maybe greener than other products.

 

Julia Raymond Hare:

Mm-hmm, and I love the dichotomy that you mentioned between how it seems opposite because of how luxury can be attached to things that are more frivolous, but really they are aligned with sustainable things. Do you think because you are an expert in luxury marketing is the messaging changing? Should luxury retailers be messaging around what they’re doing or should it be going on behind the scenes?

 

Sandrine Crener:

Well, this is a great question and a difficult question because actually, we don’t have enough research to say that. So there have been some research that shows that… and once again, I think we need to know more, but it seems like people engage in luxury consumption because they are… for many different reason, but still it’s like associating to this kind of dream and now you want to escape maybe your reality. You want to connect to a better version of yourself, you want to fit in with certain groups or… So luxury consumption is associated with very positive emotion, positive feelings and so when you… if you think about sustainability, then that could takes you towards those emotion that, “Oh, we waste too much. Oh, the world is very polluted or we have all those problems with global warming, with waste with…” 

 

Sandrine Crener:

So these are not super positive emotions. So crafting a message around this, around sustainability can actually backfire and kind of contradict this idea of luxury is there to make you feel good, basically.

 

Julia Raymond Hare:

Yeah, interesting.

 

Sandrine Crener:

So some research shows that maybe it’s better to whisper, about sustainability instead of just shouting about it. What I believe for sure, is that sustainability is going to be a must. It’s no longer something that is cool to have. It will need to be part of the brand’s essence and DNA and it will be kind of prerequisite but not necessarily something that will give you at least in the short term huge competitive advantage or just make you sell your products.

 

Sandrine Crener:

So I’m very optimistic about the luxury industry for the reason that I mentioned earlier. Because once again, people become more sophisticated, more educated and they want to engage in this more meaningful consumption. So for those product categories that matter to you, I think people will buy luxury version and actually there is now a luxury version of almost everything. So I think this is a long-lasting trend

 

Julia Raymond Hare: 

You just heard from Sandrine Crener, program director of Harvard Business School. Sandrine brought up a good point about the longevity of luxury goods, as well as the feel-good emotions that are attached to luxury shopping. What’s more, Sandine recommended that luxury brands whisper about their sustainable initiatives rather than allowing them to lead marketing efforts. And a great way to do that is by making products from more sustainable materials. 

 

Julia Raymond Hare:

From fabrics made from orange fibers to vegan leathers pressed from mushroom roots, we are seeing scores of sustainable new fabrics rolling out from major brands and fashion houses.  

 

Julia Raymond Hare:

Up next, we’ll learn about the strides Tapestry is making to provide its customers with more sustainable and ethically-sourced handbags, shoes, and accessories.

 

Liz Alessi:

My name is Liz Alessi, I am the vice-president of the material development team for the Tapestry Group, which is Coach, Kate Spade and Stuart Weitzman, if you don’t know. I also manage the repairs department for Coach, which is new to me but very interesting. 

 

Julia Raymond Hare:

I’m so happy to have you here, Liz. Especially since we are diving into sustainability. Historically, luxury brands have received a bad rap for how, and from where they sourced materials, would you say that’s changing? 

 

Liz Alessi:

I think it’s definitely changing. I think it has been for a while. And unfortunately, I think the way our industry is set up, we’ve been chasing the lowest cost for a long time, without as much visibility as we may wish to have had about where everything is coming from and what it’s made out of. But that’s absolutely changing. There’s more visibility to the sourcing strategies. And there’s a lot of help from outside sources. Like the LWG Group who’s helping us with leather or SAC was helping us with hardware and fabric sourcing. Once you shine the light on where you’re getting things and what they’re made out of, you can start to benchmark against good, better, best from other brands or from some of these companies that are helping us to understand how we can do things better. So it’s absolutely changing and it will continue to change as we become more educated ourselves.

 

Julia Raymond Hare:

The groups you mentioned LWG and SAC, what exactly do they… What is their role?

 

 

Liz Alessi:

One of the materials that we feel most strongly about at Coach as America’s house of leather is leather obviously. And there are a lot of different ways to make leather. There are a lot of different countries you can make leather in, different raw materials you can use. And there are a lot of different machineries, chemicals and all of these are choices that the tanners and the brands have to make in order to ensure that the environment is being protected during this process. So we think of leather as a byproduct of the meat industry, because really the cattle raising and slaughter is driven by the meat industry. Then the tanners are really taking that leather and using it to create. Sorry, they’re taking the hide and they’re using that to create leather.

 

Liz Alessi:

Now, the Leather Working Group is an organization who helps to actually physically audit the tanneries with very strict global benchmarks, whether it be for waste management, or water usage, or energy usage. And we are using them and they have a rating system, which is gold, silver, and bronze. And then we’ve also announced a goal that we want to be golden, silver rated, with the majority of our tanneries by 2025. And we’re in very good shape to achieve that. But it’s a great organization to help us globally, to have [inaudible 00:04:40] on the ground and continuously audit these tanneries raising the bar every time they’re audited.

 

Julia Raymond Hare:

That’s awesome, Liz, really cool stuff you guys are doing. And is this something that is pretty internal? Do you think your customer knows about this, or is it not talked about as much?

 

Liz Alessi:

That’s a great question. It’s something that we’ve been talking a lot about actually. And I would say that just last week when Stewart Vapors did our Coach presentation for spring, as part of New York Fashion Week, we started to talk about our goals in a much more tangible way to the customer.

 

Liz Alessi:

The presentation was really around responsibility. We don’t like to use the word sustainability so much, because we know that we’re not yet sustainable, but we’re trying to be more responsible in every way that we can. So for example, there was a leather on the presentation, which was made entirely of bio materials, so the hide was veg tanned, and they used only organic dyes and no finishing on top of the leather. It’s a very unique quality that we had actually never seen before, but we challenged the tannery to give us the most responsible version of leather making that you can possibly show us and then we’re going to showcase it to the customer. So to answer your question, we’re really just getting started and working with the marketing team and PR teams on how we can start talking about the things that we are doing, and then the things that we would still like to do, understanding that it’s a process and we’re learning as we go. We’re certainly not perfect, but we’re eager to get better and better.

 

Julia Raymond Hare:

That’s incredible. Made of all bio materials from start to finish product. Does it look different? Does it look the same?

 

Liz Alessi:

It looks much more natural. That’s a good question. Because a lot of the leather that we see in the marketplace, and even leather that we use, is covered with, in lack of a better word let’s say makeup, to make sure that if there are any imperfections on the skin they’re hidden by this PU finishing or something else on top of it. And this leather has nothing, so if the cow had a tick bite, you’re going to see the tick bite. Or if there are stretch marks on the certain area of the hide, you’re going to see the stretch marks. It also will change over time, like a natural [inaudible 00:07:23] it’ll change color over time. And these are all things that we are working to educate our consumer on, so that they understand that this is a renewable product and this is how you have to care for it and this is what it’s going to look like. And it’s different from where we’ve been in the past, but we’re excited to just give it a shot.

 

Julia Raymond Hare:

That’s so cool to hear that you guys tasked your tanner partners with create something made completely out of bio materials. That’s a really interesting story and I am excited to see if you guys come out with the full... Are you coming out with a full product line? Can you talk to any of that?

 

Liz Alessi:

It’ll be in some select stores in spring. So the presentation just happened and if you go to Coach Instagram you can see some of that, but it’ll be a kind of a smaller capsule collection for our spring in store.

 

Julia Raymond Hare:

Very cool. While on the topic, I wanted to ask you. For today’s luxury shopper, you said you’re in the process of educating your consumers on the new leather that you’re using made of bio materials, and how you care for that, and what to expect. How important do you think ethical and sustainable sourcing is to today’s luxury shopper?

 

Liz Alessi:

I think that’s an incredible question and I’m not really sure I have a great answer to it. I’ll be really honest with you, because I think what we are seeing is people understand much more about sustainable and responsible sourcing and production, but what we’re not seeing all the time is people really putting their money where their mouth is. We’re not quite there yet in terms of what the consumer is saying and what the consumer is doing. But I think that is different at different price points in our industry, probably at the highest end I’ve seen the most kind of action in terms of the brands making very tangible goals around sustainability and the customer responding to that very positively.

 

Liz Alessi:

And then also some very small, more local brands are also making a real strong stand for what they believe in. And customers are obviously responding to that too. I think it gets a little messy in the middle, but I think only time will tell. But I do believe that unless we make a dramatic change in our industry, our planet is going to be in bad shape. Fashion has to stand up and take responsibility for what’s been going on. It’s not the customer’s responsibility to be checking us. We need to actually own that.

 

Julia Raymond Hare:

And it sounds like you are at a tapestry. What about business practices? Are there ways to make those more sustainable?

 

Liz Alessi:

Really waste is my favorite topic of the moment. And we’re thinking about it in two ways. One is what do we do with the waste that is created by our process? Whether that be sampling, waste, production waste, cutting waste question. And then part two is what can we do internally to stop producing the waste? To be more accurate about understanding what we need to support the development of the product? And then what we need to support the sales of the product on the other end?

 

Liz Alessi:

And it’s very complicated considering our calendar is so long. Usually accessories take almost a year from when the ideas first happen, to when it goes into the store. So it’s hard to predict what the customer will want by the end of the 11 months or so, but we need to start thinking out of the box in terms of getting closer to that moment, or just getting closer to the customer and what they really want. Whether it be more kind of test and learn, or whether it’s literally taking a prototype and sticking it on your website and saying: “Who would like to pre-order this? Because we’ll have it ready in two months” and get one-to-one feedback about the product that we’re doing so that we stop talking to ourselves, which happens, I think quite a bit in larger companies.

 

Julia Raymond Hare:

Absolutely, that makes a lot of sense. I wanted to note, because I noticed that last year in 2019, tapestry and 150 others signed Kering’s Fashion Pact. That was an initiative, I guess, to carbon emissions. What is your thought with so many industry led initiatives at play, what are the key factors that brands should be considering for their sustainability plan? because I’m sure it’s kind of like one-year plan, the five-year plan.

 

Liz Alessi:

I think that’s a really good question. We were happy to join in the effort that Kering presented. However, I think that each brand really needs to personalize their efforts around their impact. So if your company’s most dramatic impact to the environment is the air conditioning in your stores, I’m just going to make that up, then that’s where you need to be focusing your energy. Or if you are air shipping, your finished product or your raw materials, then you need to target CO2, as being like something you need to fix. You have to use the vessel, and what does that look like in terms of positioning in your calendar?

 

Liz Alessi:

So I think for us, to be very honest, we haven’t figured it out a hundred percent in the level of specificity that I think we need to, but we’re getting there. The big hitters obviously are making sure that we have a responsible sourcing strategy for our materials. Making sure that we are using manufacturers that are treating their employees fairly. A lot of these things we’ve already done, but there’s so much more work that we can do, to ensure that every aspect of what we’re doing is conscious.

 

 

Julia Raymond Hare:

That’s a good point. What are some of the easier materials to source sustainably, versus some of the more challenging ones?

 

Liz Alessi:

That’s another great question. And this is something that’s changing by the month. So most recently recycled polyester has become extremely popular. And recycled polyester is popular, because you can use plastic bottles to create the recycled polyester. And we know that we have a plastic problem on our planet. But it’s gotten so popular that some things and some bad things have come out of this. The good thing would be that we’re using the plastic bottle to create another product, which is great and we’re not buying as much virgin polyester. And maybe the negative aspect of that is that it’s becoming so popular, that there are companies that are manufacturing plastic bottles just to make recycled polyester.

 

Liz Alessi:

There’s always a little bit of a give it and take, with these decisions that are made. And as more and more people start joining the bandwagon to source more responsible materials, we have to understand that sometimes when we think we’re doing something good, there’s going to be a sidecar of something that has a negative impact that we need to be aware of, or something he didn’t foresee, and then try to react quickly to ensure that we’re not creating more damage than we’re doing good. 

 

Julia Raymond Hare:

So you said that recycled polyester is one of the most popular right now, and it’s easier to sustainably source because of what you mentioned. Are there ones that are just challenging by nature?

 

Liz Alessi:

Absolutely, I think in our world hardware is, is one of the more challenging materials. We’ve made a lot of progress in terms of making the process cleaner, in terms of making sure that water is very clean as it’s exiting our manufacturing facilities. But this is where technology and costs come into play really across the board where electroplating is the way that we know how to play, allowing materials to create hardware for our handbags. And it’s not, let’s say the most responsible way of plating a piece of hardware. But that’s how all of our machines are set up throughout the industry it’s not just fashion. It’s silverware and a lot of things that are made of metal are electroplated. That’s one of the most difficult ones we have in our roster right now. We’re focusing on water and energy use to start, but down the road some dramatic innovation is going to have to happen in terms of manufacturing there to really help us out.

 

Julia Raymond Hare:

I also wanted to ask Liz, what are your thoughts about the circular economy? Because the RealReal and Rebag and reselling is flown up in recent years and I think it’s only going to increase in my opinion. But what are your thoughts?

 

Liz Alessi:

I think it’s fantastic. I think most recently I was seeing something that Levi’s do, they are… If one of our core values at Coach is that our bags are made to last, then we should have a take back program. We love our vintage bags. For a number of years now we’ve actually re-sold some of our vintage size in store. But I think we’re definitely discussing broadening that. And so I think that it’s going to grow.

 

Liz Alessi:

But the other aspect that we’ve been focusing on is repairing the bag. So I mentioned at the beginning that one of my responsibilities is the Repair Department and they love to repair bags. I’m telling you, the passion for the Coach product is incredible with these craftsmen that are working for Coach. We feel very strongly that when you wear a bag and becomes a part of you wear it a lot, and then something breaks on it, or it needs a repair, it needs a new piece of hardware. We want to be there to keep that bag in your hands as long as possible. Then when you get to a point where you no longer want the bag, I think then it’s our responsibility to take it back certainly, so it doesn’t end up in a landfill. But I think really what we want is for our bads to be worn for as long as possible.

 

Julia Raymond Hare:

And I have seen some videos of repairs being done to designer bags and designer’s shoes and it is amazing, the craftsmanship that goes into repair. It’s crazy.

 

Liz Alessi:

It’s been exciting just from an educational standpoint, but I also feel very strongly that end of life of products is a big conversation. And Coach should be very, very proud of the level of skill and the care that the craftsmen give to the repairs, so that we are really standing behind the quality of our products, and showing that we care about our bags as much as you do.

 

Julia Raymond Hare:

You just heard from Liz Alessi, vice president of sourcing at Tapestry. 

As we continue the conversation on sustainable luxury, we’re going to shift now to pollution. By now, we all know that the fashion industry is notorious for its waste. In April of 2020, researchers with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found the fashion industry produces 10% of global carbon dioxide emissions every year, while it is estimated to use around 1.5 trillion litres of water annually. 

 

Julia Raymond Hare:

The report also stresses the importance of producing better quality, long-lived items, while innovations like clothes rental and new approaches to resale should be scaled up. 

 

Julia Raymond Hare:

At the same time, the luxury industry has been adopting e-commerce at an accelerated rate. This has, in turn, created more pollution, not just with packaging and shipping, but with the websites themselves. 

 

Julia Raymond Hare:

Here to chat with us more on why luxury brands should green up their webpages is Tim Benniks, director of web development at Valtech. He’s based in Paris. 

 

Julia Raymond Hare:

Hi Tim, thank you for coming on the show.  It’s great to chat with you today.

 

Tim Benniks:

Thank you. I’m really happy to be here and talk some luxury.

 

Julia Raymond Hare:

Great, and I know the topic of sustainability is near and dear to your heart. You wrote an article recently that outlined how some luxury commerce sites are less green than others. Can you explain to our listeners what that means and what we’re going to see going forward?

 

Tim Benniks:

The interesting part, and also the paradox of luxury, is when you look at what a green website is, there’s a couple of things that you need to do to make your website as green as possible. So before we say what those are for the listeners, the internet is pretty big, right? It’s like number six in how many carbon emissions there are per year. That’s pretty big, like it’s bigger than the UK, for example, almost double the size. So there’s a whole lot of models that record kind of what is a carbon emission when you load a webpage. So when there’s a lot of heavy assets on a website, you have to download them. That means that your antenna on your phone is working overtime, plus your screen is on for longer. So there’s all these things. So the longer you are on a website, or the more clicks you have to do and load new assets all the time, or if a website is very slow, all of that causes the output of carbon emissions.

Tim Benniks:

But average, one webpage is  like two grams of CO2 output per page. That’s the average website. But then when you look at luxury, all luxury websites are built to tell you a big, amazing story about a brand, right? You want to linger on those pages, you want to experience. Like we’ve seen people that look at Rolex watch pages for hours, right? It’s amazing because they have this whole story of craftsmanship and all of that. The problem is, if you have someone on your website for very long, that’s not so good for the environment, right? And if you have a very rich page with a lot of imagery, a lot of film, all these animations, that’s also not so great because there’s way too many assets on that page to download for your phone, for example. So, there’s the paradox.

 

Julia Raymond:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). It just compounds over time.

 

Tim Benniks:

Exactly. And the paradox is, you want a website where somebody Googles it, finds it immediately, go to a product page, pay for it, go away again. And so you minimize how much your website is seen because the user needs an action and runs with it. So the only thing you can kind of… Like we’re not going to change luxury, right? We’re not going to tell them, don’t have those rich pages, because they will. That’s the storytelling part of it. So what I feel like where we can win here, is if you look at the assets that are loaded, why don’t you just optimize the hell out of the assets that you show, but still show quality assets, right?

 

Tim Benniks:

So, in technology you have images and the way you can create an image, it’s very complicated. There’s a lot of ways to create something in Photoshop, for example, but then there’s also many, many ways to save that file. And there’s also many ways to show the file on the web. It’s very complex. But this is one of the biggest margins of winnings for the weight of a page is to actually deal with assets. Some brands started to build their own tools. Like if I upload the picture from the photographer directly, what can I do with code to actually make sure that it’s the right resolution for the user’s device? Like you don’t want to show a huge image that you can put on a big wallpaper, on a phone, right? It should be a smaller resolution, so the file size is also smaller.

 

Tim Benniks:

So you have all these tools that people started to create to actually make sure that there’s just the least amount of impact to the user by not loading stuff that’s too big or unnecessary.

 

Tim Benniks

And this is a really good start to at least become a bit more green. And then there’s one other bit that a lot of people tend to forget because it’s not such an easy thing to work with, which is something we call lazy loading. It’s a fancy developers term for saying, if you don’t need something, don’t load it. If the user doesn’t have need for it or doesn’t see it, why load it. Like you see quite often in big projects, let’s say L’Oreal Paris website, when you open the big mega menu on the top of the page, it’s full of images and it’s looking great, but people don’t always open that menu. So why would you load those images when you load the page? It only makes it heavier. It only makes a user stay on there longer, and so have higher carbon emissions.

 

Tim Benniks:

So, this is kind of the trick that front end developers can use to just, if you scroll down, only then we load the images that are below the fold, as we say. Or we can do the same with a YouTube video player. Like you don’t need all the assets of the video if you’re not going to click play. So just don’t load them until you click play. And so, there are some of those kind of in-between the lines kind of tools that you can use, like this, that can drastically optimize the way your website loads and how fast it is, without saying, okay we’re not going to do rich experiences anymore. Or we want to keep the user on the page to linger and enjoy the content. That is still possible. So we’ve kind of had to hack the idea of how can we solve this for luxury brands and this is kind of the way to go.

 

Julia Raymond Hare:

Fascinating. It sounds like because luxury brands are so heavily invested in the storytelling aspect that that’s where lazy loading makes most sense. But would you say the majority of luxury brands today are using lazy loading? Or is it something that not many are?

 

Tim Benniks:

Any website that comes out now should have it, not all have it, but it’s starting to become more commonplace. And now browser vendors have actually implemented native lazy loading, which means the browser supports it. Because before this was not a concept browsers understood. So this is the thing you should realize about the web development industry is, developers find best practices that they think are good. If they push them hard enough, browser vendors will look at that and create a specification for it. So all browser vendors will implement the same thing. So we don’t have to hack it anymore, or don’t have to build our own tools. So over time it will only get better. However, the other part, where you have a third party, best of breeds solution to optimize your images, that’s one we don’t see as often.

 

Tim Benniks:

But lately more and more, like we already implemented one of those for Chanel a couple of years ago. And it was great for them because, the funny thing is it’s not always just performance on the web page that’s hard. It’s actually, how do I manage, crop and upload those images for viewing and does my art director like what I did? That’s actually a harder bit, that internal process. Because we’ve had this so often where we would release a website and all the images that were uploaded were too big or not cropped right, skewed, weird. And so as it turns out, I think maybe on average, if you do a new website in the luxury sphere, I would say 40% of the effort is actually managing the images in the CMS.

 

Julia Raymond:

Ah, interesting.

 

Tim Benniks:

Getting them from the photographer, getting your art director to approve the crop that you did in Photoshop, and then making five versions of that image so it fits on all the devices. Then, optimize it with some sort of algorithm tool to optimize the image without quality loss, and then upload them, and then apply them to components. You can actually reduce all those steps by just using one of those tools, right? Because you can upload the picture directly from the photographer and then that system will say, how do you want to crop it? Just click here, done.

 

Julia Raymond:

Ah, so much better.

 

Tim Benniks:

Exactly. And so we went from 40% effort to like 5% effort. You wouldn’t want to believe how much money that saves because-

 

Julia Raymond:

Yeah [crosstalk 00:29:42] cost.

 

Tim Benniks:

Yeah. Like L’Oreal Paris has 60 markets. They all have different agencies to do images. Imagine how much money that is. They all need Photoshop licenses. There’s no longer a need for that. So it’s winning on all sides. There need to be more implementations for this. And we recently actually worked on a big global program for L’Oreal where we basically rebuilt a whole bunch of their brand websites, but we used the same technology for all of them just because they needed to align their environments a little bit. The story about that is a whole lot of podcasts. But what we noticed is that we had all those issues with those images. So we were looking around for a third party startup that would actually deal with images for us. 

 

 

Tim Benniks:

So, overnight when we flipped the switch and turned the system on, I think we drastically reduced the file size of pages, the performance, but also hosting costs. Everything went down by a lot. And for the users who are operating the CMS, it also went well. And the cool thing about that is that we used a startup based in Paris and it felt to me, it feels like we thousand folded their business, because suddenly L’Oreal global uses your tool.

 

Tim Benniks:

But that was cool stuff to see how those kinds of technical nerdy things that we talk about now can have such an impact on the environment, but also on the end user. Because imagine if your page loads in, let’s say one second or in four seconds, you mention you can click buy in one second, rather than in four, that’s a pretty big change. So those kinds of fixes have such impact. And that’s also innovation.

 

Julia Raymond Hare:

On today’s episode, we spoke with Harvard Business School’s Sandrine Crener, Tapestry’s Liz Alessi, and Valtech’s Tim Benniks, about the role sustainability plays in today’s modern luxury industry. Tune in next time as we do a deep dive into the APAC region and its influence on global luxury trends.  

 

RETHINK Retail Luxury was brought to you by RETHINK Retail in collaboration with Valtech. Hosted by Julia Raymond Hare, Written and Produced by Gabriella Bock, Edited by Trenton Waller, Social Media and Marketing by Natalie Arana.