There can be few retailers who have failed to grasp that the future of their business sector lies in the hands of rapidly advancing technology.

Big Data, the Internet of things and Cloud systems are transforming all business fields, none more so than both online and offline retail.

Interactive devices and immersive technology are beginning to shape the customer journey in physical stores, while data analytics provide all retail executives with exciting new powers to shape business strategy and growth.

The question is not if, but when, technology will start to enable your organisation to use terms such as lean, agile, digital workplace, personalised and interactive customer journeys.

However, beyond that, there are alarm bells ringing. Are technology skills in retail executives still in short supply?

All retail executives need to take note

One of the watchwords of technological transformation is integration.

To harness the potential of connectivity – especially to create better financial control – means joining different departments and functions into one continuous information flow. From buying and inventory control, through to marketing, then onwards to accounting.

Technology is now a long way from being simply the responsibility of your IT team. It is something all Retail Executives need to understand and engage with.

Ways to keep pace

One of the ways organisations can ensure they are not investing in tech, but addressing a widening skills gap, is to conduct regular audits.

Also, training sessions – for new systems or existing technology – can’t be a “one size fits all” arrangement. Training that is responsive and constantly available enables all executives and other staff to learn at their own pace, with no unrealistic deadlines or stress. As issues occur, a versatile training model means swift action.

Older staff tend to be more resistant to change, and don’t always learn as quickly as Millennials who grew up with constant updates and upgrades. Those more senior staff are also possibly your executives, decision makers and policy creators.

This means making sure that pressure-free training and support enables them to fully engage with any new systems.

Recruitment policies for retail executives may need to be overhauled. Job specs in all departments could have a pressing need to move aspects of technological understanding and experience from the “desired” to the “mandatory” checklist.

Retailers can’t just look down either. They need to work more closely with education and the public sector in general. The Fashion Retail Academy have said: “We cannot singlehandedly haul the fashion retail industry into the digital age. That’s why we founded an industry working group to drive this work with fashion retail experts, OC&C, the government, our professional networks and prospects.”

Clearly, if you don’t want to be left behind in the race to use technology to build profitable growth, you need retail executives with the right know-how. But for some organisations, the biggest challenge is knowing where to look.

AlphaLab Fall 2017 by alphalab licensed under Creative commons 4