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Data skills to spearhead UK retail revival

Paul Winsor, Director of Retail & Services Market Development, Qlik


Uncover the skills needed to spearhead the UK retail revival.

Uncover the skills needed to spearhead the UK retail revival.

British retail is facing an apocalypse – with many retailers closing shop for good. In fact, the British Retail Consortium has dubbed 2018 as retailer’s worst Christmas in a decade. But as we enter this year’s London Fashion Week, it’s a good time to focus on the many positives for Britain’s fashion and retail sector. What does the future hold? How are skills evolving to meet changing customer demand?

For retailers and fashion brands wanting to get ahead in the competitive retail environment today, it must be about data literacy. Being able to interpret data to learn more about shopper habits and knowing what customers actually want is an incredibly powerful tool to retain that competitive edge.

Many fashion outlets are guilty of thinking it’s all about moving to e-commerce when what their customers actually want is a better ‘retail theatre’ experience – an enhanced in-store experience. Only by ensuring that all employees are equipped to work with data to uncover new insights and customer trends, can the future business leaders of the high street or catwalk truly succeed in rescuing the in-store experience.

In accelerating this journey towards a more data literate retail environment, retailers and fashion brands should consider taking the following four tactics into account:

  • Find a data leader: Organizations can often experience resistance from senior business leaders, especially those in more traditional retailers that are opposed to change. By ensuring that a ‘data champion’ has a seat at the table, you help them recognize the importance of data and inevitable change within the sector.
  • Create a roadmap for data governance: With a wealth of new data sets opening up it is easy to get carried away in the new world of data production and consumption and use inaccurate data. As data literacy involves the democratisation of data and self-service analytics, it’s vital that insights managed by employees that are not data scientists are properly vetted and accurate.
  • Plugging the data skills gap: Our recent Data Literacy Index showed that 16-24-year-olds fall below the average level of Data Literacy, highlighting that young adults are not equipped with the skills to succeed in a technology-based workplace. Despite this, retailers should harness the ‘digital comfort’ of this generation, but not assume they are confident with analysing data.
  • Unlock performance by breaking down silos: Most data literate talent is likely to sit within the IT or business intelligence teams, which is all very well but doesn’t lend itself to fostering a data literate organization. Retailers should therefore create opportunities for data leaders to share knowledge with employees from across the wider business.

The pace of change and the level of competition in today’s retail landscape is staggering. Unlike any other industry across the globe, retail is undergoing transformation so significant that the way consumers buy products and interact with brands is forever changed.

Whether used to drive loyalty online or to personalise the in-store experience, data analytics plays an increasingly critical role in retail. By grasping consumer behaviour patterns from multiple channels, retailers can effectively achieve higher conversion rates, ensure efficient supply chains and drive improved customer experiences.

However, to achieve this, retailers and their employees at all levels must be data literate and capable of understanding and interrogating data in order to make their own decisions based on the insights. Despite the buzz around the applications of AI, machine learning, VR and robotics, we must not skip a step and lose sight of the importance of data literacy as the foundation of these innovations.