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Wharton Ideathon

Ideathon 2020: The Innovation of Timeless Style


February 5, 2020

Ideas, inspiration and innovation. This was what students delivered at the inaugural Ideathon, a marathon innovation event hosted at the Wharton School of Business and proudly sponsored by LiveArea and Ralph Lauren.

Similar to a hackathon, participants had 24 hours to respond to industry challenges presented by Ralph Lauren. The students, a mix of undergraduate and graduate, were guided by industry experts across retail, finance and hospitality. Star-power was on hand, too, with Daymond John of Shark Tank and FUBU joining as a VIP guest.

The teams of four-to-six students attacked one of three real-world problems, bringing a fresh perspective to the challenge brought forward by Ralph Lauren. The challenges were:

  • Identify personal and behavioral data – both inferred and explicitly requested – to customize brand interactions and thereby increase conversion rates and average order value while preserving customer privacy.
  • Propose one or more ideas on how Ralph Lauren can leverage technology to optimize the in-store experience. Articulate the value proposition of each of these experiences.
  • Identify what value proposition would provide enough justification for a consumer to download a Ralph Lauren full catalog mobile app? Do (or should) your app-based experiences meaningfully differentiate from the mobile web experiences?

Each team was required to provide an original solution to their challenge along with return-on-investment assumptions. A dossier of sample Ralph Lauren data, ranging across physical and online stores, was provided. Ralph Lauren and LiveArea teams were available into the night and again in the morning to consult with students.

In between crafting of responses, teams had access to “extracurricular” activities – from mindfulness sessions to the construction of an art display. These moments offered a brief respite from the stress of the challenges.

Wharton Ideathon

Unlimited curiosity and stamina

Although the students didn’t have operational knowledge of the retail industry or Ralph Lauren’s business or technology ecosystem, they were undaunted – their curiosity and stamina were impressive.

The event started with a two-hour data lab where students came with clarifying questions about the data provided, the challenge, or Ralph Lauren’s business. With the help of a dedicated mentor, this led to several hours of framing and brainstorming sessions among teams. They continued to challenge one another, ask “why not?” and build out their ideas into the morning.

Being unconstrained by knowing all the things they “can’t do,” the students brought a fresh eye to their work. That freedom ultimately sparked the ideas that would be presented. The next day 16 teams formalized their ideas and presented them to a panel of Ralph Lauren executives and Wharton faculty.

From a personal perspective, it was amazing to see how quickly the students came up with interesting ideas. The questions they asked were thoughtful and the adaptation of approaches on the fly was impressive.  We won’t disclose their solutions, but we will say several business leaders from Ralph Lauren left with new ideas of their own.

An iconic brand

The Ralph Lauren brand is perhaps the most iconic one in American – it has staying power for sure. The brand’s purpose is “to inspire the dream of a better life through authenticity and timeless style.” Ralph Lauren does this very well, but timelessness doesn’t mean you never change. It means you’re constantly relevant to the ever-changing world around you. Ralph Lauren is committed to that pursuit  and over the past three years LiveArea has built a strong partnership with Ralph Lauren in service of goal. Together we’re committed to innovation and to building on the strong foundations Mr. Lauren has established over the past 50 years.

You will see Ralph Lauren continue to evolve, but for the students who participated in this event, they’ll recognize the changes in a more personal way.


Zach Hanlon

I’m a big picture guy at heart with an engineer’s eye toward practicality. I began my career in consulting then moved into application sales before transitioning to marketing and go-to-market strategy. Over the years I’ve focused on digital transformation, eCommerce, and customer experience within fashion, apparel, retail, and a touch of B2B. I love solving problems and I think helping people is more important than helping yourself.

Alexandra Wood

Alex has worked in eCommerce for over nine years supporting large multi-$100M B2C and B2B companies and those just starting out. Today, she leads the Solutions team at LiveArea that can help you architect your solution for now and in the future. When not working you can find her cheering on her sports teams and enjoying good weather with friends on a patio in Dallas.




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