(US & Canada) VIDEO | The CDO Role Varies with Companies — Genesco VP and CDO

Deval Motka, VP and CDO at Genesco, speaks with Nazar Labunets, Product Marketing Manager at , in a video interview, about the company, the CDO role and confusion around it, the big shift in retail, and how data drives success.

Motka describes Genesco as a mid-sized shoe retail company based out of Nashville, operating through various brands such as Journeys and Johnston & Murphy.

Adding on, Motka shares that her role involves bringing in all aspects of data, helping monetize the data, and sharing best practices through execution across brands. She is focused on footwear strategy and bringing customers together with data.

Being a data nerd, Motka likes to measure herself through her everyday tasks such as running. Prior to becoming a CDO, she worked as a consultant in Germany for six years and then moved to the U.S.

When asked about the concept of servant leadership, Motka explains it as an inwardly focused and thought-provoking ideology of what kind of leader one is. She notes that one has to build a certain mindset for this, and uses a workout analogy of HIIT to elaborate it.

One aspect of being a servant leader involves having thousands of thoughts but choosing to respond meticulously, says Motka. The other part is being available for the team as a servant and as a leader.

Motka continues that while there are many kinds of leaders, who lead products, people, or architecture, a servant is available for people when there is a need. Consequently, servant leadership is a low-ego and trustworthy leadership that one can exhibit for the people.

Diving into the role of a CDO and the confusion around it, Motka opines that the role has taken various shapes and additional titles are coming up with AI and GenAI. She stresses that the confusion is good as it drives clarity.

Delving further, Motka states that the CDO role varies with companies. She adds that there could be CDOs that are very data and technically-focused and build regulatory mechanisms around data, such as in the finance or healthcare sector.

Then, there are CDOs playing offensive around sales and customers, wherein they work cross-functionally, says Motka. Retail, for her, is one such sector where the CDO role is offensive and involved in the decision-making and monetization of the data to improve sales.

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(US & Canada) VIDEO | The CDO Role Varies with Companies — Genesco VP and CDO

The role is misunderstood because people walk in with preconceived notions and it is critical to operate with a low ego and understand the company strategy. A CDO must build relationships in the company in the first 90 days and see how the role fits and extends.

Moving forward, Motka states that retail is going through a big shift because of the pandemic. Apart from the AI hype, COVID has shifted the consumer’s expectations and how they are buying.

Post-COVID, the expectations are shifting again due to shipping delays and the lessening interest in visiting a store, as it does not have what they need or does not have the right size. Motka emphasizes that multiple such reasons drive the digitization in retail.

In addition, she focuses on using data to be customer-centric, because the customer is the king who has a multitude of choices, digitally. Therefore, the retail companies that operated with products in mind are now transitioning to deliver with customers in mind.

Furthermore, Motka believes that meeting the customers where they are in terms of needs, with assorted products is critical. Understanding the customer, she adds, is a challenge that can be addressed with AI and data-driven decision-making.

Organizations must start thinking about data through the product lens, to make it available at the right time for customers, says Motka. She stresses product assortment, demand planning, and forecasting depending on the sellable products.

Taking the instance of the shoe market, Motka says that the design-to-manufacturing cycle is 6-9 months long. Thus, it is crucial to understand the fashion cycle and plan the product accordingly, and knowing the customer is a huge differentiator.

In conclusion, Motka says that several use cases from the world of data can be applied either in a siloed manner, or combined through optimization strategies, both around the customer product and organizational inventory.

CDO Magazine appreciates Deval Motka for sharing her industry insights with our global community.

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