According to retail executives from Tumi and Zalora, a new set of job skills are needed for successful retail professionals in a post-Covid world. With the coronavirus outbreak forcing retailers to shift their companies’ operations, fast-track digital transformations, and reimagine strategies and business models, it is important for employees to have excellent digital skills, talent in storytelling, and the savviness to easily adapt. “I came from a very traditional public relation
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lations firm, I used to do PR for very traditional fashion brands, one of the things that I had to learn when I joined Zalora was to really get my hands dirty with data and insights,” explained Christopher Daguimol, head of corporate communications at fashion and lifestyle e-commerce platform Zalora. “I think part and parcel of a modern retailer is being able to make sense of numbers and look at data and trends as part of their day to day job.” He added that marketers need to know where trends are going and be able to interpret numbers. Since the pandemic hit last year and shopping patterns shifted, historical data in retail businesses has been pushed to the side, as analysts have had to quickly understand new information to cater to customers. Imran Khan, consumer goods and retail industry director at Salesforce, said the retail industry also need game designers and programmers. “If you look at it from a futuristic retail industry [perspective], retailers need to gamify,” Khan said. “People from the retail industry would need to change their customer experience and make it more interesting [for their consumers].” According to an Alibaba study, gamification is one of the best ways in building a good digital experience for consumers. Similarly, Alibaba saw a 100 per cent increase in time spent on Coach’s Tmall Luxury Pavilion store after the brand introduced its gamified shopping experience, according to David Lloyd, UK managing director of e-commerce giant Alibaba. He added that when the business launched its pet cat game last year, it caught the attention of 100 million consumers who signed up for it. Creativity and talent for storytelling According to Adam Hershman, vice president of luxury travel brand Tumi, it’s important that retail teams include creatives who can share compelling stories about the brand and its values in the current climate. “People really want to connect with a brand and its values,” Hershman said. “Now, consumers are everywhere and have certain expectations about your brand. You need to be able to articulate your brand’s story in a way that’s relevant to the customer today.” UK department store John Lewis is famous for its moving Christmas advertisements, which it first launched in 2013. The first ad told the story of a hare giving a present to his best friend. The commercial cost £7 million to create but realised about a £100 million in return on investment. “Our TV campaigns at Christmas are our most profitable ROI, which demonstrates that when you invest in creativity and in creating memorable brand building campaigns you not only create short term commercial success, you build the brand over the long term,” said Rachel Swift, the company’s former head of marketing, according to an article on Marketing Week. “We don’t just do it for the sake of it, we do it because it actually gives a return to the partnership and makes it more profitable.” Adaptability and resilience It’s no secret that since Covid hit, retailers have had to respond quickly to various government-imposed lockdowns and be flexible. “We’re a brand with a lot of stores, so in the morning, my first instinct is to know which market is open, which stores are closed, which one had a stringent policy overnight, and [think about] staff safety. Those are the things I think about when I wake up every morning now. You have to think on your feet,” Hershman said. One of the ways that retailers have maintained their relationships with customers and adapted during Covid is by offering personalised online services, added Khan. “Most of the shoppers don’t just need a transaction, they need a relationship,” Khan said. “So the biggest challenge is not that retailers should have an abundance of data but how do you use that to drive a relationship that matters, and in line with their needs?” Zalora, which is part of the Global Fashion Group, made the decision to personalise its target audience’s shopping experience and introduced a “personalisation squad” to offer a more structural approach to reach its target audience. “We have different people from different cultures focusing only on personalisation, offering their expertise,” said Alessio Romeni, Zalora’s chief revenue officer at a virtual conference last month. Zalora serves several Southeast Asian countries where each market is unique, including Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines, Hong Kong and Taiwan. It also introduced new products and categories to customers at the peak of the pandemic and began offering new payment methods on its platform. “We had to guide consumers towards becoming e-consumers because it was not easy for a lot of traditional shoppers to shift all of a sudden last year. So you need to make the experience really stand out and seamless for them,” Daguimol said.