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3 mins read


Andy McDonald

As retail – and the role of tech within it – fast evolves, skill sets, training needs and career paths need to adapt at the same pace. In what skills must we invest to grow the retailers of tomorrow and make retail a career that attracts the very best?

In the new hybrid high street, although new Industry 4.0 technologies such as big data, AI, next generation in-store digital displays, blockchain, logistics and visual merchandising are transforming the retail customer experience, individuals with the skills needed for the tech are actually quite rare.

At the industry level, these skills demand a three-tier approach: developing existing employees; employing individuals with transferable skills from other sectors; and working with higher education bodies to create courses that train candidates for the future of retail. Here we’re focusing on four of the most valuable, but currently rare, skill sets:

  1. In-store digital experience managers. As retailers reduce their store footprint to increase their e-commerce capabilities, the high street will become more experiential, showcasing the visual, sensual and pragmatic dimensions of products and services through new immersive technologies. To achieve this, retail brands will require store staff skilled in demonstrating these technologies – for example, in operating beacons and sensors, using augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) systems and interacting with AI-based ‘digital human’ colleagues.
  2. Data scientists. In the hybrid high street, the ability to mine data at customer, store and channel usage level will need to move beyond historic CRM levels, where understanding of current and potential value were the key outputs. The next generation will instead need to take vast data sets and incorporate product purchases, returns, channel usage patterns, searches and more to drive everything from tailored prompts for store staff to customer recognition, on and offline. Then staff will need to be able to interpret data at a macro level to inform customer visit times and volumes for each channel, as well as feed into new product opportunities and business risk.
  3. Customer service champions. As retailers increase their multi-channel customer management capabilities, and with the rise of assistive technologies such as chatbots, only the most complex customer queries will be escalated to a contact centre. The next generation of customer service agents will, therefore, need to be confident in accessing and interpreting a 360-degree view of individuals’ multi-channel experiences to date, before resolving the problem or issue with initiative, authority and empathy.
  4. Customer tech trainers. The increasing complexity of products, combined with new levels of interconnectivity driven by the Internet of Things, requires individuals who possess new levels of skills and knowledge. The first group of these acting as pre-purchase facilitators and advisers in-store, the second as Zoom-enabled after-sales customer trainers in contact centres, who can walk customers through everything from installation to advice on connectivity as new services and offerings come onstream.

While tech is pushing forward changes in the skills needed for those working in our stores, online and in our contact centres, the need for the human, non-AI leaders and entrepreneurs that drive our industry remains unabated. It’s they who need to put in place the investment to recruit the next generation of retailers.

See how we’re transforming the future of retail

Written by

Andy McDonald

Andy McDonald

Andy McDonald is a Retail & Logistics industry-focused leader with an international perspective helping companies deliver on their strategic goals. With over 25 years of experience, Andy is regarded as a specialist in Digital Customer Engagement, Contact Centre Strategy and Customer Experience Analytics. Having an engineering background, Andy prides himself on remaining customer-focused while balancing technology and service-based investments on behalf of this clients.

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