Sarah Rasmusen on Protecting Lands’ End’s Most Precious Asset
As senior VP of e-commerce and chief customer officer for Lands’ End, Sarah Rasmusen is pleased with the results her company has achieved — as well she should be. With more than two decades of digital strategy experience, Rasmusen leads Lands’ End’s e-commerce business for U.S. direct, international and Lands’ End Business Outfitters.
In her current role, she is responsible for driving all aspects of the retailer’s e-commerce business, including refining multi-channel strategy, accelerating growth strategies and ensuring a first-class digital experience for customer satisfaction. She also leads the data analytics team to leverage and integrate data-driven customer insights, emerging trends, and an expanded on-line product assortment to better serve the customer across all touchpoints, and leads customer care operations.
Prior to joining Lands’ End, Rasmusen served as VP of digital merchandising, optimization and analytics for Kohl’s Department Stores for six years, was with CUNA Mutual Group as their senior manager of consumer web strategy, and held progressive leadership roles in digital merchandising and consumer web strategy.
RIS recently had the pleasure of recognizing Rasmusen’s contribution to retail by naming her to the “Top Women in Retail Tech 2020” list. The following is an exclusive Q&A with the innovative retail exec.
Q&A: SARAH RASMUSEN, SVP, E-COMMERCE AND CHIEF CUSTOMER OFFICER, LANDS’ END
RIS: What new and emerging technology have you and your team recently deployed that helps set your organization apart?
Sarah Rasmusen: Our Data Science team is doing some terrific work on AI-based algorithms to balance our promotional strategy. As their algorithms continue to win, and the organization gains trust in that, the data science team is also beginning to be engaged in our demand forecasting with our inventory teams.
RIS: What were the strategic objectives of this technology?
Rasmusen: I don’t think there’s a retailer our there that doesn’t strive to land the exactly perfect pricing and promo strategy. We are very pleased with our results to-date, and I’m proud that we have a solid perspective on levers to pull if our strategy is to move units/hold units – down to the SKU level.
RIS: What project have you led that you are most proud of?
Rasmusen: Across the brands I’ve worked for over the years, there have been lots of awesome CAGR’s, amazing product launches that drive wild conversion rate improvements, teams in disrepair with terrific engagement score improvements, etc…etc.. I could go on, but my proudest project is one that will constantly a work in progress. I was extremely fortunate to be promoted to chief customer office for Lands’ End last June. Lands’ End has provided legendary amazing customer service for the last 50 years. As most of our customer touchpoints are now digital, and our customer constantly evolves, it is not lost on me that no matter what cool tech development comes along, I must not lose sight that I’m now in charge of protecting Lands’ End’s most precious asset — its customer.
RIS: Can you discuss any new technology that you currently developing?
Sarah Rasmusen: As mentioned above, at Lands’ End, it’s all about the customer. Our core customer is not a trendsetter, not even a “fast follower” — but when she’s ready to adopt something new, she’s all in. Prime example is mobile adoption. When I got to LE 3 years ago, mobile penetration was very low to the retail industry. Our mobile experience at the time was basically a catalog stuffed in to a desktop website stuffed down to a phone. Not ideal for anyone — especially not our core customer. The last several years have meant a large investment in our mobile experience — being extremely mindful of the CX for our core customer. Continuing to refine and improve the mobile experience will continue to be a beacon for our Product Management, CX and IT teams.
RIS: How has women’s role in the industry evolved over your career?
Sarah Rasmusen: Retail e-commerce and my career evolved in an almost parallel path. Women have played leadership roles in retail for a long time, so female leaders are rarely “new news” in our industry. Breaking through on the tech side has been a little more challenging. There have been many many times (and still happens) where I have to stare down a tech partner and insist “yes, you’re talking to the right person and no, I’m not going to ask our CIO to join this conversation for you make your point.”
RIS: What are your long-term goals for your career?
Sarah Rasmusen: That’s a big question – especially as ~90% of the roles I’ve held didn’t exist when I graduated from college 25 yeas ago. Presuming I have about 20 years of work left — I do not know if “the job at the end” exists now, either. I do know that at some point, I’d like to teach. Digital Analytics/Data Science — and the practical application thereof — is gaining an increasing presence at the university level, and I believe I have something unique to offer.
RIS: With the retail industry in a state of uncertainty thanks to COVID 19 what technology is having the greatest impact now as retailers adjust to the new normal?
Sarah Rasmusen: Managing through Covid is not unlike how we manage our business during holiday peak. There is a core group of people — jacks/janes of all trades — keeping Lands’ End humming 24/7, even during the toughest of days. We are fortunate to have a very steady local platform (knock wood!), with a variety of dynamic tools sitting on it that allow us to flex and adapt very easily. Once normalcy returns, it’s all about pushing into holiday peak. Being able to run in sustained “lean time” mode for as long as we have gives me great confidence that we can continue to give our customers the great experience she expects from Lands’ End.