How to bring a digital team with different perspectives together – an interview with Christine Goode from Eastpak

Interview with Christine Goode, Merchandising Trade Manager at Eastak

Remember the days when E-Commerce and Online Marketing used to be mutually exclusive? Nowadays, both departments are often completely entwined in a full-force digital team. Over the last two years, Eastpak, part of VF Corporation, is one of those brands setting their strategy to focus on digital-first. Their employees in Online Marketing and E-Commerce have since been working together closely in a powerful collaboration to realize the common goal of optimizing the Eastpak online shop while also meeting their individual goals. To name just a few, their teams aim for creating a great user experience (UX Designer), representing the brand and telling its story (Content Manager), positioning and selling products (Merchandising). That’s a lot of to dos that need to be balanced. And with the different targets in mind, seem to be an invitation for conflict. Because even though both E-Commerce and Online Marketing aim to sell more products, the way how to do it might differ and even be at odds with each other.  So how does this work out for Eastpak? 

Christine Goode, E-Commerce Trading Manager, is one of the people juggling the various goals in Eastpak’s digital team. She is responsible for the long term strategy of merchandising on the website and thus, developing the medium by making sure that all products are presented on the website the right way. She plays a key role in connecting the product, market, content and CX in the shop. Making her one of the best people to ask about how to bring a team together, enable good communication, solve conflicts and realizing common and individual goals in a digital team. In this interview, Christine shines some light on how to maintain a good spirit across teams and how to enable each other to produce better work. 

Sportyjob: Lets start by taking a look at the realization of Eastpaks Online Shop. How do the various roles in your digital team come together when launching new products on the website?

Christine: I’ll explain it with the launch of a special collaboration with a designer. Because for important collab-launches and peak commercial moments, we really come together with all colleagues from cross-departments, like the digital content team and the customer experience team. It’s like a task force approach. 

The aim is to make sure we got the right product at the right time in the right place on the website. And it needs to look great, it needs to be appealing for the user. So, we all play a role in realizing that. It will all begin with a combination of product performance knowledge, being up-to-date with market trends and trying to be in line with the marketing strategy. We will brainstorm where everyone can bring in their ideas. Once we are all aligned, we will proceed in covering all points: What are the key points of that product or collaboration? What sort of content are we going to have? What experience do we want the consumer to have? How do we wanna make it fun? How do we wanna make it look amazing? And you know, all of these things. Once we have our plan of what we want to do, the work begins.

Sportyjob: Working so closely together, where does one role start and the other end? For example, where does Merchandising end and the Content Marketing and Storytelling begin? What would you say?

Christine: Ultimately, they all go hand in hand, right? Because we need to. We never just work on our individual part. The common approach is: „How are WE going to do this?”. We play on our individual strengths on what we know from the data, from our insights, skills and experiences. It’s always good to get an external perspective if it’s not your direct area. You know, I contribute my direct insights, for example which country loves which products or colors. And then we build on it the content and the user experience, you know. That’s ultimately our goal. 

And we always have fun in the process, that’s the other thing. It’s an enjoyable process. It's not a drag. It's together. So, in the end it’s something that we all feel proud of and no one is saying like - and I have experienced it a lot in the past in other jobs - “Oh but why did they do it like that? Maybe it would have been better if they had done it like this.” We don't have that in the digital team because we work together.

Instead of finger pointing or blaming the other person, it’s important to be united. And if we all just support each other a little bit more, there're fewer conflicts and a better work atmosphere for the whole team.

Christine Goode, Eastpak

Sportyjob: So basically, the part about there being a conflict between Online Marketing and Merchandising is something you dont experience at all. From what Ive gathered, youre actually getting along great. Why do you believe that is?

Christine: Of course, Marketing will have their goals and objectives. And so does Merchandising. I’m trying to drive performance, I have financial targets, so I need to hit that sitting on my shoulders. But I can't do it without the support of the Content Marketing. That would be really hard. I can plan all the actions and promotions in one, but if we don't have the communication and the content, it's pointless.

I think it comes down to empathy. It comes down to having a conversation about your to-dos, workload, targets. What you’re under pressure with. And my lovely colleague Bryony, the Digital Content Manager here at Eastpak, fortunately is someone who shares the passion for working collaboratively. So, we both discuss our individual to dos and pressures. But instead of taking it all on individually, we are supporting each other. The conflicts get kind of removed, because we’re both very open and honest with each other. We have lots of conversations, we have lots of meetings, we plan together, so we can see immediately what might be a problem because of whatever reason. So we work around it and come up with a solution.

Instead of finger pointing or blaming the other person, it’s important to be united. And if we all just support each other a little bit more, there're fewer conflicts and a better work atmosphere for the whole team.

Sportyjob: So you are definitely working around this. But more in general, would you say the conflict is an outdated prejudice?

Christine: It definitely still exists. I have experienced it in previous workplaces. It's a very different pressure. It’s having different goals, different targets. For my part of the business, it’s always financially driven and VF is financially driven, aimed at driving profitable growth. I have to push, push, and push. Although marketing don’t have financial targets, digital marketing are always supporting in helping to achieve our targets.

Sportyjob: So you really have a good fusion of the different departments. Apart from Content Marketing, you also work closely with the CX team. How do you encourage a better connection with the other teams?

Christine: So, my professional contact points are the CX manager and the UX analyst as much as Digital Content Manager. Depending on what the initiative is, one of them will set up the task force. A small group of people with relevant knowledge and experience to work on things, for example a product page redesign or a new homepage feature. The UX analyst, she is amazing, she’ll come up with great ideas. We have regular follow-ups. Depending on what the initiative is, for example, one department will lead the project. It can be led either by the digital content manager or the UX specialist, or sometimes myself. 

Sportyjob: Looking at the recent work conditions due to Covid-19: How have you managed to stay connected on a professional and personal level during the last year, especially with remote work going on?

Christine: Well, of course with the zoom calls like everyone else. We have also organized a lot of fun team moments, like quizzes, for example. So especially in the beginning, we would have a Zoom call with the whole team on Friday afternoons. It’s not work talk. Let’s just hang out for a bit on Zoom and chat. 

When we come together for let’s say a Monday afternoon meeting. We call it the “didgeridoo”. I can’t remember where it came from but anyways, that’s the title of our meeting. So it hasn’t got a very corporate name in our agendas. We do cover our points of business like: What do we have coming up? Does everyone have what they need? Are we all OK? Does anyone need support on a project? We get that out of the way and we’ll just hang out a little bit and talk about the weekend or share some funny stories. 

And these moments are everything. 

When you’re having a really busy, focused day, then it’s really nice to take that moment out and just talk about some silly stuff. And we all have a laugh. You know, my last intern, she started during COVID. So she was in the office like once or twice and we were never really together physically but she was very much part of the team anyways. So it didn't feel like strange or weird. She was totally in.

Sportyjob: That sounds like fun! And apart from the more personal meetings, is there any advice you have to maintain or gain a good team spirit?

Christine: I mean empathy. Again. It's a bit repetitive but EMPATHY. You have to be understanding to each other. Someone might be having a really bad day, but maybe there is a really good reason for why they’re having such a bad day. So again, rather than being like: what’s wrong with her? What’s her problem? It’s more like: Hey guys, I think she’s having a bit of a bad day. Let’s do something fun or nice. We always try to support and uplift each other, not back people down. 

Honesty. You can always be honest without being mean. 

And positivity. Like I’m a very positive person and so is Bryony, the Digital Content Manager. We’re very positive people and love to give the team members credit. Push them to share, so that they get good visibility with management. We share the glory, we don't take it for ourselves. Because it's so easy and we've all seen it a hundred million times: Something goes well and you will always have someone leading take the glory. We don’t do that. 

We share the glory, we don't take it for ourselves. Because it's so easy and we've all seen it a hundred million times: Something goes well and you will always have someone leading take the glory. We don’t do that. 

Christine Goode - Eastpak

And it works the other way round. If something goes wrong, we don't just let one person take the hit. We all did it. To keep it moving. If someone is down, we're gonna pick him up. 

Playing on the strengths of the team, of course, and letting everyone have a moment to shine.


The interview caught your interest? 

Read on with Part 1: Digital Transformation at Eastpak: “No small steps, but a big, bold transformation” – Chris Delahunty on the Digital Transformation at Eastpak”

Part 2: The Importance of Purpose-Led Storytelling – An interview with Bryony Collingwood, Digital Content Manager at Eastpak


The Potential of Collaborative Effort in Sustainability – in conversation with Julian Lings, Senior Manager, Brand Sustainability at VF Corporation

Wouldn’t it be nice if outdoor brands shared concrete strategies on doing good for the environment? Sharing insights into new technologies of producing materials more eco-friendly? Together, ensuring that carbon emissions decrease a lot faster, and product development becomes more and more sustainable to combat climate change.

It’s a mission already realized across nations, with The Paris Agreement bringing them together for a common cause. So why not integrate shared goals into businesses as well?

Of course, the logical (or economical) answer seems to be that companies won’t share their business advantages. In 2021, it’s more important than ever for brands to behave environmentally-friendly to strengthen their customer relationships, with consumers favoring products which meet their own requirements of sustainability. A shared-value approach that is uniting businesses with sustainable and community-building progress.
Having a thorough sustainability strategy set up is creating a competitive advantage - giving that away doesn’t appear to be in line with capitalism. Nevertheless, it might be a great chance to achieve a bigger impact in bettering the world. But is it merely a fantasy?

Who better to ask than the outdoor industry itself - or at least, key players in roles having the power to make change happen. One of these people is Julian Lings, Senior Manager, Brand Sustainability at VF Corporation. He makes it clear that the necessity of partnerships has long since reached the outdoor industry. Be it under one roof at enterprises who are uniting brands for common sustainability goals, or industry wide, with brands coming together for the good cause of bettering the world in the European Outdoor Group. So, what is happening in the world of the outdoor industry? Giving us an insight into the walls of his own work, we asked Julian to shed some light on the change happening in the industry.

Building sustainable businesses across brands in an enterprise

In the last years, we’ve seen companies putting sustainability on the top of their agendas, publishing ambitious goals in reducing their carbon footprints, choosing responsible manufacturers, focusing on recycled and reusable materials, and designing with circularity principles in mind. Of course, so does VF Corporation.

VF is one of the largest apparel retailers in the world, leading the way in cross-brand sustainability strategy in the outdoor industry. In total, they unite 13 brands under one roof, outdoor being one of their main sections with brands like The North Face, Icebreaker, Smartwool and Timberland. Under the motto “We are made for change”, VF is looking for a way to improve people’s lives and make the world better, with the necessary power and influence only a company of this size and (wo)manpower can have. Uniting brands and respectively their consumers for the same goals, creating shared values. Their shared sustainable practice makes it possible that those brands enable each other while staying true to their own identity, reach bigger successes in acting sustainable - or with purpose - together instead of alone - and at the same time, generate a better revenue.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/KgsunZKvLqc

In 2017, they decided to transform from linear to circular production. Realizing this for 13 brands simultaneously, that's a change happening on a grand scale.

To ensure that their goals are met according to their plan, VF is acting on two levels: Brand and Global. Each respective brand sustainability teams take care of improving the environmental impact for its brand, focusing directly on the aspects that concern each specific brand. The global sustainability team supports each brand team and keeps track of the overall process across all brands and corporate-wide. A must if change is supposed to happen: “The goal of shaping a sustainable future for people and the planet is going to require radical changes, from government policy, private and public finance, to the way that we do business every day. For business, those changes won’t happen by individual functions acting in isolation. The systemic changes that are needed will require a business wide response that brings together the skills and expertise of all functions to shape the sustainable future that we must strive to create.” (Julian Lings)

When actual change happens: Reducing the carbon footprint

A concrete example of what they have achieved in the last years is their collaborative effort of reducing the carbon footprint. According to Julian, “60-80% of our carbon emissions are produced in material processing and product manufacturing. How material is made into products. Consequently, one of our main goals is shifting to materials with a low carbon impact. For The North Face, it is polyester and nylon, where we prioritize recycled materials. For Smartwool, it is about transitioning to recycled or regenerative wool. Each brand has its unique targets.“ 

One of the most important materials to focus on for most brands is cotton. Around 50% of all textiles world-wide are made from its fiber. Unfortunately, conventional cotton farming processes are a significant contributor to biodiversity loss, soil erosion, and carbon emissions. With 1.5 million units of apparel and footwear produced by VF’s brands, this is one of the biggest chances to deliver results by collaborating to meet their targets until 2030. That's why they are changing their course from conventional farm methods to innovative ones.

Soil acts as a vital carbon sink by sequestering carbon into the ground. Normally, conventional farming and agriculture is responsible for a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions. However, regenerative farming solutions allow us to turn it around by enhancing soil carbon sequestration, for example, by no-till farming technique, or enriching the soil with compost.“, says Julian.

A development of new cultivation, especially with exchanging synthetic fertilizers with organic compost, results not only in better soil health and biodiversity, but also offers the tantalizing prospect of having a net carbon positive impact. Obviously, this isn’t done by VF alone, but in cooperation with responsible manufacturers and companies that focus on developing innovative ways to act more sustainably.

When companies come together, change happens

Or how the popular saying goes: "Alone we are a drop, together we are an ocean".

What we can learn from the example above is that the moment that brands are focusing on partnerships outside of their own walls is where the collaborative effect is becoming clearer.

Using our scale for good is intrinsically linked to a recognition that despite our size, only by working in partnership with others can we truly leverage our scale to address the biggest challenges the world faces. Breaking new ground on sustainable innovations such as regenerative agriculture can only be done by cultivating partnerships with NGOs, companies, and external experts.“ (Julian Lings)

A great example would be the development of The North Face Cali Wool Beanie project. This project was the brand’s first foray into regenerative agriculture and was only made possible through their partnership with Fibershed – a non-profit that develops regional and regenerative fiber systems on behalf of independent working producers. The growing and sewing took place regionally in California, bringing it back to their North American home. As a so-called “bioregional garment Project", regional fibers are integrated into the existing global textile supply chains, which are normally dominated by foreign manufacturers.

The partnerships from brands with NGOs allow for embodying an all-encompassing approach of environmental values and social responsibility. Adding an important step to the ladder of product design & manufacturing, which starts way before recycling and reducing, or creating awareness for environmental products. It’s a necessity to truly turn the outdoor industry around, not only on the outside, but inside its core.

From competition to collaboration - for a sustainable future across brands in the outdoor industry

Now that we have seen what is possible for one company and its partners alone, the question is: Will there ever come a day where competitive outdoor brands act together to make a change? A question that we want to direct to Julian: "Definitely. Collaboration between brands has been well-established in the outdoor sector for many years. We’ve been collaborating on a range of subjects, and the output of that work has been very important on specific topics. For example, the outdoor brands in Europe came together on the issue of microfibres, and helped to establish The Microfibre Consortium which has since become one of the leading organizations on textile microfibres. Similarly, these same brands have come together more recently to establish the Single Use Plastics Project to accelerate the work being done to address this critically important challenge."

The collaborative approach cross-industry and on a global level of The Microfibre Consortium and Single Use Plastics Project accelerated the progress of research and development, which couldn’t be done on this scale as stand-alone companies. A positive outlook for a near future where sustainability becomes at least as important as creating revenue. It’s a way of changing the industry as a whole, with VF being a strong pioneer pointing in the right direction.


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