Interviews, insight & analysis on Ecommerce

What are the essential digital skills for retail leaders in 2023 

By Sarah Gilchriest, President of Circus Street

Businesses face a tough year ahead, with pressures on budgets and consumers with less money in their pockets, so retail businesses are needing to look at cost-effective ways to stay ahead of the competition. A key part of this is keeping up to speed with the rapidly evolving commercial landscape, as the digital bar continues to rise. Consumers and customers have higher than ever expectations of the digital capabilities of the businesses they use, and now expect a more personalised and instant service than ever. The sheer speed, scope and impact of this technological change are challenging businesses in fundamental ways, but those that choose to see it as an opportunity for growth will benefit. 

Businesses, therefore, need to look at how they can ensure they are positioned to benefit from the technology available to them in order to best support their customers in 2023. Many retail businesses typically lay the foundations of digital capabilities in technologies and third-party partners, but to truly scale this needs to be driven by leadership. These employees need to be given the opportunity to gain the knowledge and tools to use advanced and ever-changing technologies to support them in the workplace. Customers will reap the benefits of this approach, and it will ensure your retail business is future-ready. So, what are the critical digital skills ecommerce leaders should focus on in order to drive transformation, deliver success at scale in the business, and prepare for next-gen customer engagement?  

Getting to grips with data 

Data is vital for successful growth, and businesses desperately need the analytical skills required to effectively turn the information available to them into profit. At the root of this is the critical and rigorous evaluation of data. Success lies in considering the tasks that you want to perform, the data that you will need, how you will safeguard information, and how you will leverage it to build business cases and inform decisions. The more data expertise you can require the more future proof and attractive your skill set becomes. At the very least, the leadership team need to have a basic understanding of statistics to apply data insights to their daily work thoughtfully.  

AI ready 

This year, we are going to see the use of AI and automation become increasingly common and ever more sophisticated, starting to really transform the way we do business. Businesses are increasingly adopting these technologies to aid and scale deep thinking and analysis. With this comes a requirement for businesses that want to be at the forefront of innovation to furnish their leadership team with a proper understanding of AI and new techniques such as machine learning, and the way it can support and empower a modern team. Colleagues need to be made aware of the possibilities that AI offers and its evolving changes, in order to understand potential AI applications in retail. 

Understanding social channels 

More and more users are becoming aware of products, making purchasing decisions, and consuming brand media via social media. At the same time the space is constantly evolving in terms of the relative popularity of platforms and how they are being used. These channels can not be fully understood simply by reading research or blogs – they need to be experienced. This means becoming an active user. Younger marketers who use high growth sites like TikTok, Reddit and Instagram have a clear advantage over their older colleagues who may have restricted their online presence to the likes of Twitter or Facebook. Being a well rounded digital expert means understanding every available social channel – even if you are not the target demographic.  

Technology for leaders 

Team leaders need to be able to adjust to the new digital environment that we work in, and the changing expectations of employees. Remote and flexible working is here to stay and has brought about fundamental changes to the management experience. Understanding how to best use technology to manage tasks, monitor productivity and engage team members is critical. As is determining the best way to structure workflows, assess results and enable the equal development of remote and in office workers. In short, to be a modern manager you need to be able to lead both in the office and digitally.  

An environmental advocate 

With the sheer volume of monumental news over the past few years, it can be easy to forget that we’re also in a major climate emergency. Environmental concerns are not going to go away and will continue to rise up the corporate agenda. In all likelihood, a combination of social and legislative pressure will eventually compel all businesses to act more sustainably. As a result, understanding factors such as sustainable sourcing, ethical supply chains, and carbon neutrality will be important for every marketer if they want to effectively protect their brand’s reputation. The more knowledge and practical experience you have in running green-focused marketing campaigns the better.  


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