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Q&A: Luxottica Retail APAC CIO, Stephen McKinnon

McKinnon talks about social media, online retailing and why the cloud is important for data analysis

Luxottica Retail Asia Pacific CIO Stephen McKinnon.

Luxottica Retail Asia Pacific CIO Stephen McKinnon.

Making sense of social media analytics while juggling IT priorities across Asia Pacific for eyewear distributor Luxottica Retail is a role that CIO, Stephen McKinnon, relishes.

After working at SAP for 19 years in custom development, he joined the company three and a half years ago in the CIO role and says that he loves the fast paced nature of the retail industry.

Luxottica Retail distributes a number of eyewear and sunglasses brands such as Ray-Ban through its OPSM and Sunglass Hut chain stores.

What does your role at Luxottica Retail Asia Pacific involve?

I’m part of the executive team working in Sydney and my key facet is the strategic direction for IT.

We’re online and have a customer relationship management [CRM] hub so it’s about what is next. For instance, we are looking to organise more events such as the Sunglass Hut floating popup store in Sydney's Darling Harbour.

Luxottica is a globally dispersed company with retailers and wholesalers all over the world. The company is growing in China so I spend a lot of time there helping enable the business meet our strategic growth plans in the Asian market.

What IT projects have you been working on?

We wanted to promote our [Sunglass Hut] in-store events and use social media as an enabler. There was a need to identify where our customers were talking about our products online and what they were saying about the sunglasses.

The challenge from an IT perspective was that in-store promotions were successful but we didn’t have any way to analyse the social media reactions to those events. That is where SAP came in with NetBase social media analytics in August 2012. The solution allows us to view a summary of opinions and customer feedback expressed on Facebook and Twitter for selected topics and brands.

NetBase was also selected because it is a cheap cloud-based solution and we haven’t had to invest millions of dollars of hardware into our Australian data centre.

From a cloud computing perspective, we are moving more into a cloud based environment particularly in the data analytics space. That’s because we’re a retailer and we have millions of components of customer data to analyse.

In terms of our OPSM stores, eye health education is a big thing on social media. For example, on Twitter and Facebook we’re advising people that they should have their eyes tested every two years.

From a Sunglass Hut perspective, we use social media to promote events or competitions involving Ray Ban and Oakley sunglasses.

What are some of the challenges you face in the role of CIO?

The biggest challenge for me is that we have huge growth across Asia Pacific and with that comes complexity. In December, we opened new stores in Singapore and we have growth plans across all of Asia. This is not as simple as deploying point of sale systems and opening a store because we need to meet statutory and legal requirements in each country.

My other challenge is that we’ve been in the online space for many years so what can we do to improve that [online] shopping experience? An example of this improvement is the Oakley Australia website has a function where shoppers can customise their own pair of sunglasses with their preferred lenses or frames.

What is your favourite gadget?

I’m in love with my Sonos home entertainment system. It streams music wirelessly around my house. I can have my kids in their playroom listening to the Wiggles while I can listen to something else.

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