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Retail industry survival: Why digital transformation is essential

SOURCE: MARIO TAMA / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP
By leveraging on digital transformation, brick-and-mortar retailers can stay ahead of the curve.


By U2B Staff 

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Numerous industries have been affected by digital transformation, none more than the retail sector. 

In a Twitter poll by Aptos aimed at British, French and Italian retailers, Aptos found that upskilling store associates was the primary in-store investment priority for the next three years across all three countries, reported Retail Week.

This suggests retailers acknowledge that stores need staff that are capable of more than making transactions or assisting on the shop floor.

Changes are already happening on the ground, and more in the offing.

Personal care and beauty store Sephora, for instance, has interactive mirrors that allow customers to try products “virtually” via iPads, serving as a fun and engaging way to improve customer’s satisfaction.

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Lush Cosmetics replaced its regular till system with Android-powered tablets, enabling customers to checkout and pay anywhere in the store, said Econsultancy. Reports suggest that revenue rose by 20% since the introduction of the new system as staff can process more transactions at a faster rate. 

This echoes what a 2017 report by Deloitte and the Indian Chamber of Commerce says about digital transformation: 

“Digital provides opportunities for retailers to acquire new customers, engage better with existing customers, reduce the cost of operations, and improve employee motivation along with various other benefits that have a positive influence from a revenue and margin perspective.”

Clearly, there’s a lot to be gained from embracing digital transformation, but to reap the benefits, employees must be equipped with the right skills to make this transformation a reality.

So, on a granular level, what are some of the key skills for staff to drive digital transformation?

Soft skills

Soft skills such as creativity will be paramount as the retail sector evolves. In-store customers want experiences that trumps online shopping, warranting staff to think out of the box to make the experience unique and memorable for customers. 

Lush Cosmetics, for example, ensures their staff are knowledgeable about their products and can clearly explain what the ingredients are and what they can do for customers, said Insider Trends. This helps customers feel like they are buying into the company’s expertise, as well as quality and healthy produce.

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“The company empowers them to spend time with customers, to ask questions and build relationships, which pay off in the long-run,” said the report, adding that staff also also allowed to give away products in “random acts of kindness” without checking with a superior, which can help make customers feel more valued and keep them coming back.

The ability to do this, soft skills such as creativity, persuasion and emotional intelligence are needed. It’s unsurprising why LinkedIn names these as among the prized soft skills for companies this year.

Online learning platforms such as edX, Udemy and Coursera all offer courses related to building creativity and persuasion skills.

Technologically-savvy skills

Better Retailing reported that over two-thirds (69%) of respondents aged 24-35 claimed they would be more likely to shop with a retailer that was enhancing the shopping experience with innovative technology. 

Depending on your role, the extent of how technologically savvy you need to be will indubitably vary, but as transactions go online, IoT playing a role in taking inventory as well as retail layout, and social media becoming a primary form of advertising, there’s no doubt that a basic understanding of technology is necessary for retailers on the floor. 

A deeper understanding, however, will be necessary for those involved in more specialised roles. 

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For instance, marketing teams will need upskilling in digital marketing, develop and understanding of SEO practices and as well as cybersecurity practices, all of which are becoming increasingly critical in the retail sector to ensure businesses continue to thrive and stand out from the competition.

Upskilling retail staff can take on a myriad of ways, while the type of training received can be tailored accordingly to roles.

Without a doubt, digital transformation will change the way retailers conduct business, and those who fail to adapt risk falling behind.