Few executives have witnessed the evolution of customer preferences as closely as LVMH chief digital officer Ian Rogers. A veteran of the music industry — first as a roadie for the Beastie Boys, followed by two decades leading operations at Apple, Beats Music, Topspin Media, and Yahoo — Rogers guided customers during the transition from CDs to MP3s and, now, streaming music services. And woven throughout his diverse career history has been a deep focus on the customer experience, no matter the touchpoint.

That laser focus on the customer experience is paying off for LVMH. In 2017, Rogers’ second year on the job as chief digital officer, the global luxury leader boasted $3.2 billion in online transactions — a 30% increase over 2016.

While Rogers has already made an indelible imprint on the way his organization operates and innovates, he is more than a little uncomfortable with his current title of CDO.

“I think that ‘digital’ is a bit of a nonsense word,” he recently told Wired.

“I haven’t met anybody who can explain to me, really, what it means…What you’re doing is, you’re using this somewhat technical term to mask the fact that your customer’s behaviours have changed. You need to elevate technology inside of your organization.”

Rogers presents in front of the 2018 LVMH La Maison Des Startups.

To learn more about how Rogers crafts engaging customer experiences for LVMH, SimpliField cofounder Jonathan Attal spoke with the digital luminary on the role of innovation in retail today, how it relates to the customer experience, and what he’s learned leading transformation at some of the biggest brands in the world.

Q: LVMH invests heavily in innovation, including Viva Technology and the La Maison Des Startups (which SimpliField is a part of). How important is it to regularly innovate in today’s retail economy?

“Innovation is a constant obsession at LVMH, because innovation is absolutely critical to sustaining our leadership over the long term,” said Rogers.

“I don’t think brands need to be early adopters, but they shouldn’t be laggards, either. We should pay attention to any trends that delight our customers, and think about how they might apply to the spirit of our brands and experiences,” said Rogers.

Q: How would you describe LVMH’s role in helping retail startups innovate and succeed?

“We want to support the startup ecosystem and accelerate the integration of technologies to the benefit of customers and businesses, but when it comes down to it, the startups have to succeed on their own,” Rogers said. “What we do is open the door, make introductions, and let the magic happen.”

“It’s up to to the startups themselves to win the relationships,” he added.

Q: Amid a period of massive industry disruption, LVMH is thriving. For example, Sephora recently opened up 200 new stores. How much of your success is tied to how you approach the customer experience?

“The success of LVMH is due to the creativity of its designers and the quality of its products. In an era where consumers have unlimited choice, it’s impossible to get people to purchase something they don’t desire,” Rogers noted.

“But customers build relationships with brands, and those relationships require excellent and surprisingly delightful interactions and experiences. So the two go hand in hand.”

Q: Is there anything you learned about customer experience from Apple and Beats that you apply to LVMH?

“From Apple, most of all I learned that customer trust can be more valuable than customer data,” he said.

“From Beats,  and from the music industry in general, I learned that brands need to sell the intangibility of culture and a sense of belonging — which are prerequisites to selling a product.”

Q: What does the ideal customer experience look like in 2020?
“I think customers will interact with brands the same way they interact with friends and family: We see each other in person whenever possible, and in between, we communicate with our phones,” Rogers said.

“The ideal customer experience should make our interactions with brands as seamless as they are with friends and family.”

If LVMH’s performance over the last year is indication, Rogers is on the right track. The company recently reported their 2019 revenue up over 15%, with no signs of slowing.