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Industry Insight

The changing face of the retail industry

27 days ago by Rachel Bowman

Tags: digital, Retail Gazette, retail, Customer Experience

The digital revolution has changed many things, from how we consume media and communicate with each other, to how we receive information.

Its implications are all encompassing and the retail industry is no exception.

In the past five years advancements in technology have transformed how people shop, how retailers sell, and the roles of every employee in the retail industry.

The BRC estimates 100,000 employees in the retail industry are now in jobs that didn’t exist five years ago. New roles require new skills, and a large number of these require high levels of technical, digital and scientific knowledge.

With the retail sector contributing 5.9 per cent of the UK’s GDP in 2016, and employing over 2.8 million people, this dramatic change has ramifications.

Rachel Bowman, managing director of recruitment company Quest said: “The retail industry has undergone a huge transformation in the last five years due to massive developments in technology and the constant demands and expectations from consumers.

“We have seen newly created roles emerge such as chief customer officer, designed to ensure the retailers are truly implementing an omnichannel strategy.

"Plus, enhanced expectations at all levels, including the shop floor, to be more digitally savvy and commercially aware.

Questions have been raised as to whether prospective employees can keep up with the rate of change in the retail industry. A new raft of skills is needed with every development in technology and London’s Fashion Retail Academy have raised concerns over a coming skills shortage.

Michael Jary of OC&C Strategy Consultants said: “The retailers’ hiring struggle is very real. The industry is changing at a breakneck speed, but the pool of skilled candidates ready to step up to the challenge simply isn’t there.”

It is becoming more essential for retailers to offer training to employees, as education simply cannot keep up with the rate of progress. 

Add to this the introduction of the National Living Wage and the landscape of retail employment changes even further, meaning roles will decline in numbers and require higher levels of multiple skills.

“It has been predicted that one third of retail roles in will have disappeared by 2025 due to the rise in both technology and the minimum wage, but the quality of the roles that remain will increase," Bowman said.

“With the continued rise of online sales and innovations such as VR and Robots the expectations from customers when they are in physical stores is that the human support is there. 

"Shop assistants, using the latest technology, are now able to offer personalisation in-store by getting shoppers digital profiles and can now make recommendations and suggestions that give shoppers a much better enhanced shopper experience. 

“Overall customer experience, especially those in these types of roles, will need to keep up with the constant evolution of the retail industry.”

Ben Stevens @RetailGazette

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