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How the rise in omnichannel retailing has altered retailers’ talent strategies


The growth of the internet, social media and mobile technology has had a meteoric impact on almost every area of modern life. However, perhaps none have been as profound as the changes that have taken place in retail. As anyone working in the sector will be aware, the industry is now in the midst of an omnichannel frenzy. Indeed, retail expert and professor at Vlerick Business School, Gino Van Ossel recently stated that retailers who fail to adopt an omnichannel approach are “digging their own graves.” As a result, the talent strategies of these businesses have adapted and organisations in the sector are now looking for news skills. So what types of individuals must retailers now attract?

A new breed of retailer

Perhaps the biggest change brought about by the rise in omnichannel is that retailers now have to do more to entice and please consumers who have a huge range of communication options available to them. Customers want to be able to read product reviews on their phone or tablet, for example, while also shopping in person. And the most successful omnichannel retailers have even been able to secure sales through non-store platforms by simply tapping into the market and capturing sales from their less agile and more unresponsive competitors. This trend is only going to grow in the future and research by Accenture has suggested that 71% of consumers cite the ability to see information on in-store products on a mobile device as important or very important. This doesn’t just affect a company’s online sales either, a further 39% believe that they are unlikely or very unlikely to visit a retailer’s store if they don’t provide relevant online product information, further highlighting the importance of an effective omnichannel strategy.

As anyone in the industry will be aware, one of the major benefits of adopting an omnichannel approach is that it helps organisations to capture a truly enormous amount of data about their consumers. Having access to extensive customer information means organisations can begin to predict what shoppers will be looking for in the future. This obviously requires different skill sets to the ones previously working in the sector and retailers must now seek professionals who can understand and, crucially, communicate findings from massive data stacks. These are the individuals who will potentially shape the future direction of the organisation so it’s essential that retailers get these hiring decisions correct.

Sourcing new talent

Previously, organisations in the sector would have looked almost exclusively for professionals with at least some retail experience, but this is clearly no longer sufficient. Firms have realised that the only way to innovate and truly drive for growth in the modern day is to have a diversity of ideas and backgrounds on board. As a result, many organisations are looking for professionals from outside the sector who are specialists in their chosen field. Anyone who can show expertise in an area such as social media management or website design, for example, will now be in high demand. These professionals are also expected to be well-rounded or ‘pi-shaped,’ as commentators have labelled them. It’s also important that they have a wider commercial understanding and recognition of how their actions can potentially affect retail strategies.

As the growth of omnichannel shows no signs of slowing, retailers must adapt talent strategies to stay ahead of the competition. Many companies have already found it challenging to recruit and retain the right professionals over recent years and this is only going to become more problematic unless robust talent strategies are put in place. Businesses are looking for vastly different skills from their employees than they were a decade ago and must ensure their recruitment plans are aligned with these new goals, otherwise they risk exacerbating what is already a worrying skills shortage.

Published on Wednesday 16 July by Editorial Assistant

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