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We are working with Ippolita in their search for a Vice President, Digital Marketing and Ecommerce (New York, NY)

Ippolita is a luxury designer jewelry brand founded to fill a void in the market for feminine, fashion-forward designer jewelry, and currently produces product in three major categories: gold, sterling silver and rosé. Ippolita jewelry is carried by leading department stores such as Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman, as well as by independent boutiques. The company is investing heavily in direct-to-consumer channels including stores and online, but both remain small and under-developed.

HARRY’S COMMENTS: In 2011, I did a handful of searches for Castanea Partners in Boston. Castanea is a private equity firm that brings operational excellence to the companies in which it invests, primarily multichannel retailers and small, branded manufacturers. Brilliant people. Very nice, too.

In 2007, Castanea bought a controlling interest in Ippolita (“ip-POLL-it-uh”), a luxury jewelry designer founded in 1999 by the Italian artist Ippolita Rostagno, who goes by her first name. According to Women’s Wear Daily, “Ippolita studied sculpture as a teenager in Italy and later moved to California to study dance and further her craft-making ability. After that, she moved to New York to pursue jewelry design and sculpture. Now she splits her time among Brooklyn, East Hampton, N.Y., and a 12th-century farmhouse and vineyard in Tuscany. Today, the brand is known for a feminine-meets-earthy look. Ippolita takes pride that all of the brand’s pieces are hand-hammered, while the stones are exclusive cuts and even the metals she uses are a formula of her own alloy, to get just the right patina.”

You can get an idea of Ippolita’s creative process here:

Popular with Celebrities

With fans like Halle Berry, Jessica Alba, Minnie Driver and Kate Hudson, Ippolita’s target customer is a 40-55 year old female who is both affluent and well-educated. There’s no way to typecast her: She could be single, or she could be married with a job. Or, she could be a stay at home mom. Regardless, she’s meticulous about the way she looks and how she presents herself to the world. She cares about fashion in a way that highlights her self-confidence.

Ippolita produces its line in 3 major categories: gold, sterling silver, and rose – a combination of rose gold and silver that acts as a bridge line between its silver and gold collections. Rose comes in at a slightly higher price point than sterling, but it also incorporates gold. Essentially, the recipe offered Ippolita a price point opportunity.

Ippolita jewelry is carried by leading department stores such as Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Bergdorf Goodman’s as well as by independent boutiques. The company is investing heavily in its direct to consumer channels, including retail stores and online.

I’m happy to share Ippolita’s sales and ecommerce numbers with qualified candidates, but it is safe to say that today’s revenues are 5 times what they were 5 years ago. In fact, the economic downturn of 2008 was great for the brand, allowing it to take share from competitors who lack less expensive silver lines. Ippolita’s introduction of silver jewelry also allowed to improve its “sweet spot” on gold jewelry from $2000-$3000 to $5000-$10,000. Moreover, there is an increasing opportunity for Ippolita to capture true luxury customers prepared to pay as much as $20,000 for an 18 karat gold and gemstone necklace.

The company anticipates very robust growth even though by all accounts, Ippolita the company is characterized as the second most popular fine jewelry brand in the United States (behind David Yurman, with whom Ippolita’s customers only slightly overlap).

According to Joe Cavalcante, Ippolita’s CEO, the firm’s primary strengths reside in design in the development of its products. Additionally, the company has the operational capability and the marketing DNA to get the brand to the next level. In 2013, Ippolita expects to broaden its line both in stores and online, in addition to greatly improving its distribution in ways that accentuate its improved coordination between marketing and merchandising.

The online channel represents a greenfield opportunity where the brand is underpenetrated and the opportunities for growth substantiate major investments in ecommerce marketing, technology, and headcount.

One area of improvement is CRM.

Given the nature of the luxury consumer, it behooves Ippolita to understand exactly who is buying the product and communicate with her in terms of the buying occasion and the types of jewelry she likes: Some women like silver. Some like gold. Some wear individual pieces, while others like to wear a stack of multiple bracelets or necklaces at the same time. Moreover, there are certain collections that different customers gravitate towards. If a woman likes a particular collection, she will probably buy multiple pieces from it. Basic segmentation around customer buying behavior is a tremendous opportunity for Ippolita.

Ippolita runs Magento, with all development being handled by an agency in New York. The new VP should be familiar with how ecommerce platforms/technologies work even though they don’t need to have spent a lot of time directly working on Magento.

Naturally, there’s much more I can share about this role with qualified candidates. Indeed, much of the back story on this search in addition to Ippolita’s ecommerce initiatives has been left out of this post.

However, it’s important for candidates to understand that they’ll need to maintain a strong cross-functional working relationship with Ippolita’s marketing, creative, merchandising, and logistics teams. Ippolita’s work environment is very fluid and entrepreneurial. It’s a luxury business run like a family, and everyone on the senior management team has deeply ingrained opinions about what’s best for the brand.

Your primary objective is to establish a day-to-day cadence of running the business in a way that’s “right brained.”

Initially, the new VP of Ecommerce must identify and layout a 12-to-18 month project and investment plan which supports hitting the ecommerce numbers. Such a plan will require consensus and buy-in from all executives, and there will be organizational, technological, and process-oriented issues to tease out.

This is a general management role, and all candidates must be fairly broad in how they think about the business, while remaining narrow in terms of their functional areas of excellence. In addition to CRM and ecommerce platforms, we would expect Ippolita’s new VP of Ecommerce to demonstrate deep expertise in online merchandising, SEO, SEM, analytics, and web design / development.


The Vice President, Digital Marketing and Ecommerce will provide strategic leadership and oversee day-to-day execution of the company’s interactive marketing activities, including digital advertising, e-commerce, email/CRM and social media. S/He will collaborate with colleagues in Marketing, Merchandising, Operations, etc. to help achieve the Company’s financial and brand-building objectives. This person will build a new digital marketing/e-commerce team and be accountable for the e-commerce P&L. S/He must be a hands-on, pragmatic leader capable of delivering results in a fast-paced, entrepreneurial environment.


  • Develop and execute strategy to drive rapid, above-market, profitable growth in the e-commerce channel, while achieving sales and margin objectives.
  • Drive continuous improvement in the user experience, building a strategic roadmap for evolving the brand’s online shopping experience and overall presence in web, mobile and social channels.
  • Profitably acquire new customers through digital advertising and PR, social media, search engine marketing, display advertising, and other online marketing programs.
  • Increase customer retention and lifetime value through effective use of database marketing/CRM techniques and targeted email marketing.
  • Collaborate with the Merchandising team to develop online assortments that satisfy consumer expectations and achieve financial objectives.
  • Manage the deployment of brand content, new product launches and other online merchandising activities to improve site conversion, average order size and repeat traffic.
  • Ensure superior customer service and fulfillment performance, collaborating with colleagues in Finance, IT and Operations to drive necessary improvements.
  • Support wholesale channels through digital marketing initiatives and the development of consumer insights.
  • Build and lead a high-performing digital marketing/ecommerce team that forges strong cross-functional relationships.
  • Identify, select and manage external web development and marketing agencies; ensure they meet performance and cost objectives.
  • Prepare annual budgets, provide ongoing results analysis and forecasting, and drive prioritization of investments through quantitative business justification.


  • 10+ years experience in ecommerce, digital marketing, direct marketing and/or related disciplines.
  • Proven track record in building a successful, fast-growing ecommerce business, preferably in a lifestyle brand environment; luxury goods experience a big plus.
  • Demonstrated track record of embracing new digital marketing technologies and techniques to drive growth and brand differentiation.
  • Strong proficiency in online merchandising, user experience design and usability best practices.
  • Track record of innovative strategic thinking combined with pragmatic, roll-up-the-sleeves execution and results delivery; able to manage multiple projects/initiatives simultaneously while meeting deadlines and business objectives.
  • Analytically driven approach to management and decision-making, with strong proficiency in web analytics, performance marketing analytics, customer segmentation and testing/optimization techniques.
  • Demonstrated success in managing technical implementation projects, defining business requirements and priorities, and working with IT vendors/partners to execute on a technology roadmap.
  • Ability to work across functions and within an executive team to catalyze change in a positive, collaborative and transparent way.
  • Demonstrated leadership capability in recruiting, retaining and managing a high-performing team.
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills, with the ability to communicate complex concepts and analyses up and down the organization to influence others.
  • B.A. degree required.


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