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RACONTEUR.NET 09 around openness to new technol- ogies and being quick to adapt to change. It's no longer enough to simply hire a chief digital offi cer and assign responsibility of the entire digital strategy to them; digital plans must be fully integrated into the overall business strategy. While it's important to lead from the top and ensure C-suite execu- tives have relevant digital skills, in many cases the younger generation of employees will be digital natives and are best placed to put digital strategies into practice. Breaking down long-standing silos is diffi cult to achieve, but if chief executives are able to embrace change and invest in new technological solutions, all employees can utilise technology to meet customers' needs. "Existing legacy big data plat- forms are used by retailers due to familiarity, but are often cumber- some and require dedicated train- ing to use them, resulting in more siloed data and specialist teams to manage it," says Mr Ceyrolle. "However, for CEOs who tap into the power of cloud-based data plat- forms, they will benefi t from real- time and easier access to data, with- out the signifi cant investment in up-skilling talent. All members of the workforce will be able to access this cloud repository easily, driving the speed at which insights can be gleaned about customer trends and reacting faster to their demands." Gaining access to the right tal- ent who can help push forward the type of digital transformation needed to reach today's connected consumers is vitally important for retail bosses as the future skillset required by top-tier retail leaders is rapidly changing. The current lack of e-commerce skills at retailers will see the traditional career path for many retail chief executives change, with the likely outcome of talent being recruited externally. "We're going to see more people joining retail from other sectors. Leaders will be collaborative, non- hierarchical, customer obsessed, with a desire to solve problems and constantly seek to add value, not necessarily seek to make profi t. The dynamics are changing, so will the measures of success," Ruth Harrison, managing director of busi- ness and technology consultancy ThoughtWorks, concludes. While CEOs don't necessarily need to be digital gurus, they do need to be capable of grasping the overall transformational journey of their business Department store chain John Lewis has long been able to capture viewers' attention with their creative Christmas television adverts, but the 154-year-old retailer's digital strategy has proved equally successful. Since joining John Lewis in January 2017, managing director Paula Nickolds has been tasked with keeping the business competitive in an increasingly intense retail environment. By embracing a multi- channel approach, John Lewis ensures that no matter the platform customers purchase on, whether it be through mobile, app or computer, the experience is the same. As part of a clear digital vision, the retailer has invested £4 million to give in-store employees iPhones with a pre-installed "Partner" app, enabling staff to access product information and availability quickly, while at the same time underlining the importance of data for employees at all levels of the fi rm. Digital transformation has begun to pay dividends as more than 50 per cent of all online traffi c now comes from mobile devices, with the number of mobile sales growing rapidly. In part due to strong online sales, which peaked at 705 items a minute, John Lewis broke its daily sales record on Black Friday last year. The run- up to last Christmas also saw a major sales jump in each of the retailer's key sales groups, including electrical goods up more than 11 per cent. Case study John Lewis Commercial feature F uturistic technologies have emerged from the dark recesses of fantasy and sci-fi, and dipped a tentative toe into mainstream retail. From virtual and augmented reality to artificial intelligence (AI) and voice-en- abled personal assistants, retailers have trialled and tweaked to enhance and personalise the shopping experience. A one-size-fits-all approach to pre- senting products and shopping expe- riences online is no longer enough to gain and retain consumers. In 2018 we'll therefore see a rise in the number of retailers offering more immersive shopping experiences and personal- ised product pages that adapt to an individual consumer's preferences. There's a fine line between immersive technology solutions that actually solve some of the challenges shoppers face and those which create new issues due to impracticability and cost. IKEA shoppers can now visualise bookshelves and beds in their living rooms and bedrooms, thanks to the retailer's Apple ARKit-powered app, while Amazon took the augmented real- ity concept to the masses with AR View. On the other hand, the market for and adoption of smart glasses by retailers and marketers has failed to take off. Innovating for a better shopping experience From virtual and augmented reality to artificial intelligence (AI) and voice-enabled personal assistants, retailers have trialled and tweaked to enhance and personalise the shopping experience Digitalisation was once seen as the major disruptive force in retail, but is now commonplace and an obvious next step for companies evolving in the sector. Instead, virtualisation and immersive technologies are sending shockwaves through the industry, as businesses arm themselves with the tools to deliver retail's holy trinity of consumer demands: simple, convenient, engaging. Empowering today's shoppers means delivering a holistic experience, which seamlessly incorporates both the physical and virtual, blurring the boundaries that can exist with tradi- tional, more siloed strategies. Amazon can be credited with pio- neering such a change in one of the most rigid and stagnant sectors of retail: payments. The opening of the first Amazon Go store in Seattle nudged the cashless checkout concept from niche novelty to a potential blueprint for convenience stores of the future. The promise of no queues and real- time personalised product recommen- dations, on the consumer side, and rich data insights, on the retailer side, mean the Amazon Go model is likely to be replicated across the industry. Payments and immersive technologies are just two examples of digital innova- tions aggressively entering the retail space and receiving a warm welcome from many industry players. The suc- cess or failure of such experiments will depend on whether brands and retail- ers can leverage the right technology to deliver what consumers want. The cash- less checkout concept, for example, will have to guarantee payment security and not overstep the mark when it comes to in-store shopper surveillance. On the topic of what consumers want, over the coming year we'll see the current incremental steps being made in AI and predictive analytics swiftly turn into significant strides. The future shopping environment will be powered by AI and retailers' technol- ogy that will "know" what the consumer wants before they do. We've already seen "buy" buttons incorporated into social media plat- forms, enabling instant, immediate purchases, so it's only a matter of time before this model is taken to the next level. Smart, voice-enabled per- sonal assistants will link with smart appliances in a consumer's home, so running out of milk, for instance, will prompt your smart fridge to commu- nicate with your smart assistant, which will automatically reorder the product. The likes of Amazon benefit from the resources and talent to deploy new innovations rapidly. Yet the success of a future shopping experience that is both immersive and engaging is dependent on a wider scope of the retail industry being able to access and wield these tools. Ultimately, retailers will only be able to satisfy increasingly demanding and expectant consumers if solutions pro- viders continue to invest and innovate. Retailers will only be able to satisfy increasingly demanding and expectant consumers if solutions providers continue to invest and innovate Scott Lester Chief executive and founder Flixmedia

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