“Retailers need to touch and feel digital,” says enterprise Free:Formers

With e-commerce sales set to grow and digital skills becoming more valuable for businesses, strong cases are being made for ways online shopping and the high-street can become more integrated and as a result more user friendly.

Gi Fernando, co-founder of tech start-up turned social enterprise Free:Formers, is aiming to attract retail leaders to the digital skills course and says they can learn from their potential consumers – young trainers who are immersed in technology.

“The days of the tech team working on web projects in the background are long gone. We want everyone in a business to sound smart in conversation about digital. If you can‘t it is difficult to remain agile and keep up with changing consumer habits,” he says.

The company currently employ 10 full-time young trainers with a range of retail backgrounds who may be training a retail CEO one day and an unemployed person from the Princes Trust the next. FF trainers have taught 1,200 young people over the last 12 months.

The Somerset House based firm is headed up by Fernando –who helped launch Facebook‘s automation ad platform and Emma Cerrone who has held various positions at Sainsbury‘s head office in the comms department. Together they seem to have found a gap in the market.

The initiative wants to do away with ‘chalk and talk‘ and is aiming to ensure that a wider range of people know how to use the internet for business. They say consumers want sales assistants to be digital educated to cope with their new in-store needs.

Tesco chief Philip Clarke said this week that people with industry leading digital skills need to be at the heart of the business, not sat in the corner marked ‘online‘.

Gi Fernando - co-founder of Free:Formers

Gi Fernando – co-founder of Free:Formers

“If you‘ve got a brand which isn‘t the cheapest operationally – like Amazon is – you need to ensure your customer experience is the best,” Fernando says. “We can teach people the digital skills they need within a day with our four one day workshops.”

He adds: “Retail is consumer led by nature and retailers need to touch and feel digital – they normally do everything through an agency so are far removed from the process. Because they don‘t know, they don‘t know what is possible to have to rely on the expertise within the agency.”


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