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Our Interview with TUMI Chief Digital Officer Charlie Cole on the M1 Podcast

Our Interview with TUMI Chief Digital Officer Charlie Cole on the M1 Podcast

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Mobile First Podcast Episode 55

What not to do… Most people define usability based on last-touch click data. Take a step back and get out of your own way.

Charlie Cole, Chief Digital Officer – TUMI

Charlie Cole joined TUMI in 2015 as the Company’s Chief Digital Officer. In this role, Mr. Cole is responsible for overseeing and developing the brands’ national and international e-commerce and digital platforms.  Since Samsonite’s acquisition of Tumi in 2016, Charlie has also taken the role of Global Chief eCommerce Officer for Samsonite Corporation – which includes oversight of global strategy for brands such as Samsonite, American Tourister, Hartmann, Gregory, High Sierra and others.

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Key Insights from our Conversation

  • The thing that gets Charlie excited is when you enable people who think very differently to align in solving a problem. Your teams are only as good as how you can get people to think creatively, technically and analytically. The best teams have a way in getting the best out of each other while still encouraging those divergent ideas. Being the person in the center of this dynamics is what gets him excited in a day to day basis.
  • Charlie has always been good with numbers and had a type A personality, a combination which he considered dangerous. He can look back on instances wherein he was the problem which caused the dynamics not to develop. He learned that overpowering people with just one area of expertise (in his case, analytics), will not arrive with the best answer. His arrogance drove him, broke him but ultimately, humbled him.
  • TUMI makes the best products in the world. It is their job to help people perfect their journey whether it is across the world or from your house to subway to office. They make products across this ecosystem. They are known for their luggage but they also make amazing backpacks and electronics. They are the leader in premium travel equipment.
  • As Chief Digital Officer in TUMI, his team is assigned in online merchandising technology, operations, marketing and wholesale. If you are touching TUMI, the brand, in a digital sphere, then they are probably in the nexus of that.
  • Two years ago, TUMI’s margins were really low so they took a look at the data which they had a ton of (30 – 40 years’ worth); they went back to the roots on why their customers fell in love with them in the first place, what drove their product value, and what caused that momentum which drove them to where they were before they took the downward turn so that they could incorporate some of these thinking and ideology into the digital shift that they were gearing into.
  • The bigger formula which led to a lot of TUMI’s success included understanding the device, the marketing medium and the visit. From here, they segmented and personalized to get into deeper ways to connect with their users. Charlie also talked about their three core buckets: messaging, attribution and performance which are derived from understanding the bigger customer journey.
  • Charlie shares that what sets TUMI apart is their ability to be generative creative through the brilliant minds that they have. This does not exist in computers yet and technology is not yet close to replacing yet. Iteration is the easy part because technology has given us unimaginable ways of reiterating and optimizing.

Rapid Fire Questions

  • What is your definition of innovation?

Innovation is scaring the hell out of yourself and the rest of the company but doing something that is still relevant to your brand.

  • Would you put more emphasis on the idea or the execution? How would you weigh each of them and why?

The idea is 85% because of everything that we have talked about and the ability of technology to rapidly iterate and improve within the digital ecosystem. People overthink execution – you have to be accurate but, for the love of God, don’t try to be perfect.

  • What is your biggest learning lesson on your journey so far?

The Lucky Brand Jeans screw up wherein he alienated a lot of people and the perspective that he gained about responsibility when his mom passed away. When you are forced into a desperate situation, you won’t know what you will be capable of.

  • What is your favorite business book?

Freakonomics

99% Invisible

Radiolab

Our Fake History

  • What is your favorite digital resource?

TechCrunch

Search Engine Land

  • What is your favorite app?

The Podcast App

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