It’s no secret that the rise of the Internet and mobile technology has completely reshaped the modern retail landscape. Entire sectors of business have been created or faded away, and traditional roles are morphing to fit new needs. With that in mind, what are the challenges that retail businesses face today, and what can they expect to face in the future as technology continues to expand? A recent report by ReThink Retail has addressed this hot topic.
A far cry from the basic utilitarian websites of only ten years prior, the report observes that retailers today are focused on communicating a company narrative which engages their customers. To that end, branding and storytelling have become a major component of most modern web presences, aimed at keeping customers on a company’s website to develop a rapport and create an emotional connection. In addition, companies are providing websites specifically tailored to their customer demographics—regionalised sites, for example—which adapt content to suit their audiences. This process is creating new opportunities and crossover between the retailing sector and the publishing industries as companies seek talented writers to help describe their brand.
Rather than calculating returns based on past experiences, modern companies are utilising up-to-the-minute big data to analyse trends and provide for their customers, which consequently means that customers and markets are driving business trends. This big data trend was analysed in detail in Big Data, Better Learning?: How Big Data is Affecting Organizational Learning, a report recently published by ASTD Research. That report, focused on learning organisations, highlighted the influence and growth potential of data in the information age.
ReThink Retail’s report notes that some retailers have taken this a step further and begun to implement predictive technologies which analyse past purchases to anticipate orders and thereby optimise product movement. They predict that this technology will continue to grow and spread throughout the retail industry.
Of course, the growth of these technologies means that organisations also need to develop or acquire professionals to manage them. Both reports acknowledged that the traditional skillsets for the retail and learning industries, while still having a place in legacy departments, were ill-equipped to handle new emphasis on data analysis. They predict that companies will need to hire skilled analysts with a comprehensive understanding of the business, and a talent for communication which can translate raw data into suggested action.
More and more often, customers are turning to social media rather than company help lines to contact customer service teams and review products. Modern companies therefore strive to maintain an active presence on as many media outlets as possible—Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.—to field incoming customer service queries as well as to monitor what information customers are sharing about their products. The ReThink Retail report suggests that this is why customer service teams have grown in prominence and size over the past decade, and the trend shows no signs of slowing.
What does this mean for modern recruitment? Companies are now looking for individuals with a more rounded skill set to flush out these new business aspects. For example, in order to leverage big data towards business strategy, organisations need analysts with a commercial understanding of their entire business and solid communication skills to turn information into action. It is critical that organisations assess candidates on a multitude of skills, competencies and behaviours to ensure that they recruit the best talent to adapt, build and grow their business now and for the future.
In many cases, background specific to the organisation is less important to recruiters than talent and fresh perspective, as is the case with publishing professionals who move into the retail sector to write compelling company narratives and customer-engaging content.
Customer service continues to be a major facet of retailer success, although customers now expect the same service experience from the virtual world of social media as has historically been the domain of retail assistants in brick-and-mortar stores. Situational Judgement Assessments are a great way of assessing a candidate’s customer services, sales interaction, attitude, motivation and more. Assessments have come a long way and can now be very visual, interactive, branded to the organisation and the job environment to create a positive, realistic candidate experience and also provides essential information for the hiring manager.
And of course, as technology continues to develop, businesses will continue to compete for individuals with a broad understanding of technology and the ability to keep up with new advancements.
What do you think of the results of these new reports? Has your organisation changed its recruitment practices to adapt to changing needs? Do you now assess more, to gain a more informed view of candidates? Feel free to leave your responses in the comments