Behind every brand delivering simpler experiences for customers is a leader who recognizes the inherent value in keeping things simple. In Simplifiers, Margaret Molloy interviews business leaders who put simplicity to work. Here, Margaret speaks with Amanda Hill, Chief Marketing & Customer Officer, Harrods.
Margaret Molloy: What is Harrods?
Amanda Hill: Everyone knows Harrods, but not many people know that Harrods began as a wholesale grocer and tea merchant in east London, in 1834. Since then, it has grown to become the world’s most famous department store, known for its unrivaled range of luxury merchandise, myriad departments and unparalleled service proposition.
I joined the business in April 2018, as the store’s first Chief Marketing & Customer Officer.
MM: And what does Harrods stand for?
AH: At Harrods, we ask everyone to believe in The Art of the Possible,to challenge the conventional view of what is possible and turn this delivery into an art form. We believe nothing is impossible.
Everything we do, whether that’s reimagining the brick-and-mortar store by investing over £200 million in a retail environment the likes of which has never been seen before; developing a global e-commerce platform in partnership with the world leaders in digital retail; or delivering magical experiences via one to one bespoke events, we are united behind this principle.
MM: How do you deliver on that promise every day?
AH: We drive ourselves and inspire others to always push for more. This passion for exceeding is what sets us apart. We believe in doing things properly, with great care and attention to the finest detail.
MM: What role does simplicity play on that promise?
AH: When I first joined the business, my first task was to gain an understanding of the magical quality that defines the Harrods experience. I spent time with teams from across the business; talking, sharing, drawing, writing—all to be able to articulate the Harrods story.
Bringing all that is special about Harrods—our myriad departments of the world’s finest products; our expertise in the exceptional; the masters of luxury that we house in the store in one simple phrase has been a game-changer.
Now we have this flame, this common understanding of what we want to achieve, and how we will achieve it.
MM: What benefits has Harrods experienced from simplifying?
AH: Harrods is a business which has always sought to create something unique for its customers, and we have never forgotten that. Our mission remains unchanged: to service the needs and aspirations of our customers and help create new stories, to take pleasure in making marked moments of delight.
Our new Beauty Hall which launched in early June 2019 is the perfect example of a retail space which has been built around this proposition. Customers have the opportunity for personalised consultations with Harrods’ make-up artists who can guide novices and experts alike through the breadth of product. There even are Magic Mirrors which allow customers to ‘apply’ products and the chance to try different looks without needing to physically test them.
Our new Interiors space, set to launch in late summer 2019, will be designed around customer living habits (eat, sleep, bathe and live), with inspiration at the forefront. The floor will be designed to inspire every aspect of our customer’s lifestyles, with service at the centre. Customers come to the store to create a lifestyle, and the services we are putting in place will provide this full-360 proposition.
Whoever our customers are, and wherever they come from, their every need can be catered to, their lives simplified and made easier. It is this that keeps customers coming back to the store again and again. Some of our top customers visit over 50 times a year.
MM: As a marketing leader, how do you keep things “simple” for your team?
AH: I think it’s incredibly important that we have brought all the functions in the business which impact the customer’s experience together.
Our brand has several touchpoints across the business, from the look and feel of the store to digital platforms to our campaigns to our brand partners. Whether you’re engaging with the brand via the Harrods magazine, on social media, via a brand partnership, our digital screens in-store, or attending an event, our voice should be the same.
We must tell a consistent story across all the customers engage with us on, and I hope that is what I have brought to Harrods.
MM: What are some of the biggest mistakes that brands make with regards to simplifying?
AH: Simplifying doesn’t necessarily mean cutting back or cutting down on the products and services you offer your customers. It might mean expanding or diversifying, investing in innovation. What brands need to simplify is their vision and their purpose.
MM: What does “simplicity” mean to you?
AH: Simplicity is about uniting behind something and understanding your purpose. Once you have that, everything falls into place.
MM: What advice would you give other brands trying to simplify?
AH: Understand your story, your USP and your customer. If you had to explain your brand purpose in one sentence, what would it be? Do your customers, your employees, your competitors, agree? Start from where you want to go.
MM: Thank you, Amanda.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.