Leading retail from the front – Data Literacy is key

The retail industry continues to adapt to the changing demands of the customer and this also means new behavioural attributes are required of the CEO

If you have spent your entire career like myself working either for a retail organisation or providing a service to a retail business, you are often made aware of the phenomenal paradigm shifts the industry has gone through these past 30 years.

You don’t need myself or someone to outline these changes in detail. However, we should never underestimate the thousands of retail businesses that flourished in the ‘brick and mortar’ era of retail, that right now are trying to survive by becoming digital ‘omnipresent’ retailers – that was never their core business in the first place. This is why we are seeing some many ‘high street’ branded retailers go out of business, or close a large number of stores, which in the UK alone equates to 6,000 stores in 2017/2018.

So, it is also evident that to lead a retail organisation today, you need different behavioural attributes and skills than the CEO’s and executives of the past. A recent report produced by Retail Week wrote in detail about ‘The DNA of the new retail CEO’. In the article it describes, ‘this new style of CEO requires a much broader skillset and diverse leadership profile. The modern, new type of retail chief executive profile will need to be much more adaptive, innovative, able to think outside the box and open to change, says Katie Thomas, partner at executive search firm Ridgeway Partners. “They need to be highly data literate and tech-savvy as all decisions will be anchored around data and analytics,” she says.

This type of report and commentary is exactly why the organisation I work for, has recently launched a technology agnostic data literacy program to lead the change required today inside retail organisations. Data literacy is as important today as reading and writing, but we're facing a major skills gap. That's why we’re on a mission to help people and organisations understand, analyse and use data with confidence.

Whilst the retail industry is all a buzz around technology advancements in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Augmented Intelligence, Virtual Reality and Robotics, we must not lose sight the significance of ensuring human intuition by being able to read, write and argue with data is just as important.

As it is understood that one of the new DNA attributes for a successful future retail CEO is being data-driven, I hope data literacy will be a key component of the employee training and education curriculum. For the future, survival of retail businesses will come down to whether the retail business has a data-driven culture or not.

Evaluate yourself on how data literate you are, by taking the free product agnostic course here.

@PaulWinsor1969 highlights what it takes to become a #retail CEO and the importance of #DataLiteracy

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