Sep. 5, 2023 | Podcast

Episode 25: The Chief Digital Officer's Role in Disruption and Culture

Ekta Chopra, Chief Digital Officer at e.l.f. Beauty

About the episode

Ekta Chopra, e.l.f. Beauty's Chief Digital Officer, joins the podcast to discuss the ever-evolving customer journey and the balance between customer needs and technology advancement, fostering innovation, and maintaining a seamless physical-digital connection.


Ekta Chopra

Ekta Chopra is the Chief Digital Officer at e.l.f. Beauty, where she leverages cutting-edge technology to help the company maximize growth. Prior to e.l.f., Chopra was the director of technology at The James Irvine Foundation and led technology in companies in multiple different sectors such as retail and aerospace.


I would love to hear more about your role as the Chief Digital Officer at e.l.f. Beauty. What do you do and what have you set out to do in this role? 

As the Chief Digital Officer, I put myself in the customers’ shoes, making sure I understand the customer’s journey, understand the pain points and broken touch points. The customer journey entails everything, from the time they see e.l.f. Beauty in an ad to walking into a store or clicking through our website online and it’s essential that we’re aware of how our customers engage with such touch points. Another aspect of my role is overlooking what I call “the plumbing.” I think of plumbing as infrastructure, security, data privacy and other aspects of technology management. Overall, it’s about keeping an eye on the customers’ needs while also ensuring that we have the right tool set, platform, and security so customers feel good about trusting us with their data. Keeping an eye on both these aspects allows us to create something that is exceptional for the customer while also being scalable.  I think the best part of this job is that I get to think of both – experiences and plumbing. We have big ideas, but we also have a fiduciary responsibility toward our investors and customers so it’s about meeting in the middle.

West Monroe recently published a report that looks at the top tech trends in 2023, and there's this idea in the report of separating fad from the fundamentals. In your world, there are a lot of new things coming up, but how do you determine what's hyped up and what's real? 

I break it down and think of it this way:  

  • 60% is the stuff you do in your portfolio, be it digital or technical, essentially your bread and butter. You must do these essential things to make sure you’re running at the fastest speeds, monitoring, and building things like your website that is constantly evolving.  
  • 20% of work in your portfolio is actually focused on making your bread and butter and keeping up with the times.
  • 20% is your innovation portfolio. 

I take a pragmatic approach and think of the basic ABC’s – things that have to be done versus things that will evolve over time because of changing technology.

How do you differentiate between technology and digital?

There’s a blurry line between the two. I think traditional CIOs are so well-suited to be a CDO, but where they might get stuck is the plumbing because they don’t tread both. The distinction to me is simple: Thinking of aspects like governance, performance, and capability to move fast. What are you going to build in your infrastructure that allows you to move fast?  

e.l.f. Beauty is a digitally native brand. I’d love for you to share your origin story and how you managed to keep the same sensibility over all these years. 

We think of ourselves as the OG digital disruptor because we started premium cosmetics for $1 back in 2004, when e-commerce wasn’t nearly as popular as it is today. It took some real visionaries to be able to make this happen 19 years ago, and that OG startup mentality is what guides us today. Today, we're a big company with a $7 billion market valuation, but we’re small in the sense we only have about 350 employees, which is mind blowing.  

As far as keeping our sensibility the same over all these years, every time we derail or do something new, we reflect on who we are and what’s in our DNA. We think of ourselves as one team and one dream, and believe in being agile, pivoting with the times, and moving at elf speed.

Makeup is such a thing that no one thought would be digital because of the experiential aspect of walking into a store and trying products. How do you bring the digital and the physical worlds together?  

The in-person experience can never truly be replicated so you have to be able to augment that with the capabilities on your site, mobile, and app. For instance, virtual try on is a good example of how we bridge the gap. Our virtual try-on feature which allows people to try on lipsticks or even a full face of makeup virtually was very popular during COVID when everyone was home, but still continues to be popular today. 

The second component is education. For instance, you’re in a store looking at a product, but want to find more information on it, you’re looking for the ingredients. So, it’s about how you make it seamless so that customers can easily look things up online while holding a product. That stands true even if a customer has purchased a product and they still want to look into information from a digital experience.  

Another thing we focus on is offering good loyalty programs. Consumers can buy things anywhere, be it on Amazon or Walmart, but as long as they scan their receipts and become members, we now have insight into customers who are not directly engaging with us online. It’s about building services that allow you to build the gap between physical and digital experiences. 

How do culture and purpose show up in your day-to-day at e.l.f Beauty? 

Our vision is to create a different kind of beauty company by building brands that disrupt norms, shape culture, and connect communities through positivity, inclusivity and accessibility, and I see that again and again. A big part of our DNA is purpose, so when we stand for something, we don’t stand for it because it’s trendy or cool. We stand for it because it’s in DNA. We think about everything we do – content, messaging, creativity, the causes we support, and even the AI and overall technology we use and ensuring that the bias doesn’t exist. We listen to the community, and our community is bold, so if we do something wrong, they let us know. Our CMO reads every social media message and ensures we’re not saying or doing things that don’t line up with our purpose. 

This is Digital

West Monroe's team of experts and guests pull back the curtain on how to build digital throughout an organization. Through real-world examples, you will learn how to spot digital transformation in real life, and how to make small decisions every day that make a big impact on growth.

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