Pawan Verma Leads Customer Experience As CIO And CTO Of Foot Locker

May 21, 2018
BY Peter High Founder and President of Metis Strategy
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By Peter High, published on Forbes

Of all the CIO-plus roles that exist, that of chief information officer and chief technology officer may seem to be the one that is least expansive. Each are technology roles after all, right? Pawan Verma’s purview offers an interesting counter-point. In his case, his responsibilities include traditional information technology, but it also includes data and digital marketing, supply chain, and customer experience, among other areas. As such, he has remarkable influence over Foot Locker’s customer journey’s no matter the channel they choose to engage with the company.

In this interview, he offers thoughts on his breadth of responsibilities, innovations he is driving, his thoughts on the customer experience of the future, and much more.

Peter High: You are the Global Chief Information Officer and Technology Officer at Foot Locker. Could you give an overview of Foot Locker’s business?

Pawan Verma: We are a global brand. We do business in North America as well as in Europe, parts of Australia, and New Zealand. All in, we have approximately 3000+ physical stores and sizable engagement from our consumers. We are primarily focused on the athletic footwear and apparel business. However, I would say that we are in the engagement and experiences business.

The youth that we connect with and are engaging with either digitally or physically are interested to know about the new sneakers that are coming. The sneakers are not only for them to wear, but they are a status symbol or currency. The products that we sell are not only used on the basketball court, but there are a lot of products that we sell that are used as a lifestyle products.

We have a diverse portfolio of products and have about $7.8 billion in revenue. Consumers engage with us in different ways. We do not focus on what channel the customer is using. Instead, we believe in listening to them more than selling to them. We are here to create that emotional engagement experience in what I call a “phygital” world. By that I mean we want to be part of the customer’s journey whether it is in the store, on their mobile device, on the web, or anywhere else. We want to add value to that customer journey in whichever way we can to help them in that consumer journey.

The kids that we are servicing happen to have high mobile penetration. Somewhere between 85 percent to 90 percent connect with us on mobile. They connect with us for our launch experiences, and it is a high energy culture around social, digital, and physical. That is why I use the term “phygital,” which commands all those experiences. It is at the center of that engagement, and it caters to that energy that they are creating.

High: You have a diverse role yourself. Your title is Executive Vice President and Global Chief Information and Technology Officer. As we peel back the onion, I was amazed by the number of responsibilities you have. Can you give a brief overview of all that your role encompasses?

Verma: There are four primary functions, but they are all intertwined. The first big function for my team is the global technology piece. They are focused on the core, the POS systems, the dotcom systems, the infrastructure, and the mobile piece. This is the typical CTO responsibilities.

The second big part of my function is creating the customer experience across all the different touch points in the form of data and digital marketing. All the digital marketing functions include performance marketing, mobile marketing, how we activate, how we create demand, SEO, and so on. The reason that mining the marketing data is one of my functions is because I believe that we need to create this platform wherein our consumer can engage with us, and that engagement can only be encouraged if you are activating a given marketing method based on what the customer is looking for. To do that, you must listen to those signals and connect them back.

To read the full interview, please visit Forbes

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