What can an Amazon Fashion executive do for Beautycounter?

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A decade since its founding, Beautycounter is looking for an Amazon veteran to help lead its next phase of growth.

Chief Commercial Officer Kara Trousdale joined the beauty company in March after nearly eight years at Amazon, most recently as chief commercial officer of its Amazon fashion division. Under her role are several key responsibilities, including scaling Beautycounter’s retail, e-commerce and partnership channels, as well as leading the overall brand strategy.

A headshot of Kara Trousdale, Chief Commercial Officer of Beautycounter.

Kara Trousdale spent nearly eight years at Amazon before joining Beautycounter.

Permission granted by Beautycounter

Beautycounter is a much smaller business than the behemoth that is Amazon, but Trousdale is bringing the lessons she’s learned from the retail giant to her new role at the startup, starting with Amazon’s familiar dictation of “customer obsession”. At Amazon, executives “always work backwards from the customer,” Trousdale told Retail Dive in an interview. She aims to do the same at Beautycounter, paying close attention to what Beautycounter customers want and where they are shopping to determine the company’s path forward.

“How do we grow our DTC channel and how are we thinking about continuing to meet customers where they are?” are two questions that Trousdale prioritizes.

The physical experience is sure to play a role in this, especially now that shoppers aren’t as homebound as they once were. “Things are opening up again after being on strict lockdown,” Trousdale said. “So how do we evolve it? How do we think about having a really strong virtual presence but also an interesting physical presence, whether that’s in our retail stores or if you’re doing other retail partnerships? Those are things I’m appreciating now.”

Beautycounter own-brand stores there are already some in key cities including Los Angeles and Denver – will play a role, but how much the company will drive is unclear. Trousdale said simply that Beautycounter was “evaluating” what a final store footprint might look like. Trousdale is also exploring wholesale partnerships, similar to what Beautycounter has achieved in the past with Target and Sephora.

“I think wholesale is very important to the beauty category, mainly because we want to be where our consumers are,” Trousdale said.

Along with thinking about its physical footprint and partnerships, Trousdale is investing in Beautycounter’s current channels and applying another lesson from Amazon: operational excellence. Operations is often a sore spot for startups, with many popular DTC brands struggling to achieve profitability AND execute operations efficiently once they grow beyond their roots.

Trousdale knows a thing or two about growing businesses effectively.

“Learning how to scale businesses really quickly on Amazon is definitely something I can apply to Beautycounter,” Trousdale said. “I was really interested in coming to Beautycounter because it wasn’t a startup, it had had a lot of great success and it was really poised for that next phase of growth. So, thinking about: How do I introduce operational best practices?

Trousdale is one of a number of chief commercial officers that DTC brands have called on recently in pursuit of scale. The position has increased in importance over the years, and is becoming more popular with retailers seeking transformation, according to Catherine Lepard, a partner in Heidrick & Struggles’ Chicago office and managing partner of the global retail practice.

“In these positions, the skill set is not cookie-cutter, rather it spans a variety of backgrounds, such as management consulting and strategy, and we’ve seen huge upswings in talent that have emerged through digital platforms and are smarter in terms of digital.” Lepard said via email. “Companies are looking for Chief Commercial Officers who are growth-focused, strategic thinkers and bring a forward-thinking approach to navigating diverse business models.”

Indeed, several chief commercial officers in the retail space have been tapped to lead DTC’s flagship brands. When Casper founder Philip Krim resigned in November last yearChief Commercial Officer Emilie Arel took over the role and has since took a firm stance on profitability, pledging to cut what Casper sells and focus on its core products. Similarly, beauty favorite Glossier replaced founder Emily Weiss in May with then Chief Commercial Officer Kyle Leahy. Layoffs and hers first wholesale partnership followed as Leahy developed a new strategy for the brand.

The chief commercial position may be well-positioned for CEO succession, as it tends to require strategic and visionary skills, Lepard said, but the role has yet to be widely adopted in retail. Lepard pointed to the roles of chief operating officer and chief store officer as a conclusion, as those positions have been similarly tapped to take the top spot.

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