Over the past 18 months, Shop.org has thought a lot about organizational structure – particularly, the “digital effect” on retailers and how they are evolving to build a less silo-ed team around a multichannel retail model. Achieving this transformation touches several operational aspects. But the most fundamental element to organizational change is, of course, the people.
In its “Open Letter to Retail CEOs,” the Shop.org Think Tank stresses that ever-rising customer expectations require retailers to become as much technology experts as they are merchandising and marketing experts. This puts the onus on retail teams as a whole to become more “digitally fluent” in order to understand and meet customer’s expectations who are already digitally-savvy.
The greatest hurdle? There simply aren’t enough individuals with a deep digital understanding to go around. To overcome this, the Think Tank suggests that we’re going to need to better leverage experts in the industry today and invest in bringing in new talent who don’t already have a retail background.
Better leverage your in-house digital talent. Most retailers have developed talent from within to grow the e-commerce side of their business. Now we’re starting to see some companies think about how that in-house expertise can benefit the organization more broadly. For example, companies such as Sephora and Walgreens have promoted their respective heads of e-commerce to take on the CMO role. Recently, Neiman Marcus started the process of integrating its traditional and online merchandising teams.
The next step for retailers is to spread those who have digital experience out to other departments – to store operations, IT, HR, finance, supply chain and more. This unification of digital and functional experts will enable other parts of the organization to become more digitally fluent, while also teaching these digital evangelists more about core areas of the business.
Bring in digital talent from outside the retail industry. Retailers would be remiss not tapping in to the talent pool in the tech sector, many of whom specialize in areas that retail needs more expertise, such as cloud computing and analytics. The retail industry is indisputably in the midst of significant evolution – a definite plus in catching the eye of digital veterans. But convincing these individuals to start a career in retail will take a sustained commitment CEOs and the senior leadership team. They must convey that digital opportunities aren’t limited to Silicon Valley, and the retail work environment is dynamic, flexible and rewarding. To be successful, retailers must be able to deliver on the promise of an exciting career that gives digital veterans a chance to make a big impact and drive significant change both in the company and industry as a whole.
Getting everyone “digitally fluent” in the organization will be time-consuming, even distinctly uncomfortable at times. However, if senior leadership teams at retailers don’t take this challenge head on, they will be simply become increasingly less relevant to their customers, risking the company’s future overall.
For the full Think Tank analysis, please see “Open Letter to Retail CEOs: Is your talent mix right? The future of your business depends on it” on the Shop.org site.