Can better tech talent help retailers beat digital disruption? Source: Shutterstock

Can better tech talent help retailers beat digital disruption? Source: Shutterstock

Do retailers need to look for more technology professionals?

RETAILERS don’t seem to be doing too well in the digital world, as competition with e-commerce players is forcing them to adopt technology irrespective of whether or not they’re ready.

Some retailers, especially those with deep pockets, seem to be making the transition to digital quite well — growing their technology teams, investing in new technology solutions, and forging new partnerships and collaborations with digital native businesses that can support growth targets.

Retail giants such as IKEA and Macy’s, for example, are making significant investments in their digital transformation programs and delighting customers with new-age apps, virtual and augmented reality solutions, and artificial intelligence (AI) driven personalizations.

For the smaller retailers, however, the road ahead looks a little more challenging. To succeed, they need to hire the right technology talent. Here are three kinds of technology professionals who can provide a fighting chance:

# 1 | Digital marketing specialist

The first thing a new-age retail business needs is a digital marketing specialist — and a neat budget to help them do the job.

Since customers are primarily on smartphones surfing digital platforms such as Facebook and YouTube, having a digital marketer to help get some attention from prospective customers is a good idea.

To be honest, many of the smaller retailers have a misconception that they need to get a website first before they get a digital marketing specialist.

The truth is, digital marketers can create campaigns to attract customers to social media accounts, completely eliminating the need for a website.

Further, a good digital marketing specialist can help the retailer sell coupons, create campaigns with geo-fencing, and build some smart advertising capabilities that hit customers’ screens at the right time and in the right place.

Since talent in the world of technology is in short supply, the cost of hiring such a professional and providing them with the necessary budget might be a bit of a challenge at first glance. However, the returns, most retailers will find, make it worthwhile.

# 2 | Data and business intelligence consultant

For years, retailers have collected a lot of data about their business and their customers.

They know what kinds of products are in demand during which months (seasons) and understand which locations tend to attract customers at what time of day, for what kinds of products, and at what price (sale or fresh arrivals).

Retailers with loyalty programs and relationship management systems in place also know their customers’ birthdays and anniversaries and are able to track their choices when it comes to categories and product lines.

Therefore, hiring a data and business intelligence consultant is a great idea for retailers at a time when e-commerce companies are using data to personalize messaging and target shoppers.

H&M, for example, hired Cambridge Analytica whistle-blower Christopher Wylie recently to help the company get better insights on customers, products, and markets.

According to Bloomberg, H&M is betting that big data and AI can help provide the insights it needs after inventory rose to a record level last year.

# 3 | Virtual and augmented reality specialist

There’s some magic in being able to experience something in real-life. This is especially true in the case of products that people like to buy only after touching and feeling them. This is also true for cars — hardly anyone buys a car they’ve never test-driven before.

Virtual and augmented reality makes it easier to marry the physical and the digital world, providing a life-like experience on a screen.

Hiring a specialist who can create such content can really work wonders for retailers struggling to compete with the comforts of desktop and remote shopping provided by e-commerce companies.

AR and VR are not only exciting for customers but also earns browny points with loyalists who appreciate the fact that the company is making efforts to go digital and keep them engaged.