Adoption of technologies like AI, process automation, retail marketing platforms and e-commerce are being embraced at a rapid pace by most retailers today, a trend that has been greatly accelerated by the impact of COVID-19. That said, a portion of B&M retailers still remain reluctant to invest in something that does not immediately bring results to the balance sheet. In doing so, they put the long-term survival of their organization in considerable jeopardy.
The Importance of Investing in New Technologies to Recruit Talent
In addition to the crucial operational and business results, investment in new technologies provides a critical advantage when it comes to attracting talent to an organization, something that is, in fact, more important for a business in the long run. Ask successful business leaders and the majority will say people are the life blood of their company. The research in this area varies depending on the nature of the business, but typically three-quarters of a company’s value can be attributed to the people that work there. So, logic dictates that if an organization attracts the best, it will be competitive and able to secure a successful future. This is a dynamic overlooked at a senior leader’s peril.
Not long ago you could recruit talented candidates by simply offering competitive salaries and other perks, but young people entering the workforce today have different needs and expectations of organizations borne out of necessity. High value talent want work that is strategic, forward looking, and rooted in the technologies of the future, not the past or even the present. In a marketplace where technology is progressing so swiftly and countless roles are being replaced by it, this mindset makes perfect sense. Millennials in the job market are keenly aware that if they work in a business that does not offer development and an environment where new technologies are embraced, their skills will become outdated after only a few years.
For traditional B&M retailers this presents a significant problem if they are not making the necessary investments in new technologies and development. In fact, some B&M approaches to business have not changed since the 1970s with many roles remaining manual, tedious, and on the verge of becoming obsolete. Most millennials, and certainly the best talent, will look at this and decide that their career is much better served going to an e-commerce retailer, or one of the thousands of digital start-ups or traditional retailers who are making the shift.
Companies Who Are Making the Technology Shift Today
Traditional B&M companies like Walmart and Target, with their considerable resources, recognized the technology shift required to survive and compete years ago. They have quickly evolved beyond their historical physical business models and traditional processes. Walmart illustrates this transformation perhaps the best: accelerating their growth in e-commerce to become second only to Amazon and, early in 2021, laying out their forward looking “integrated omnichannel strategy” and accompanying $14 billion capital investment in technology.
A survey carried out in early 2021 among senior retail executives showed that it is not only the big retailers who are making this shift, but that the bulk of B&M have recognized the importance of transforming their way of doing business. In fact, only 12% of B&M retail leaders “had no substantial plans” over the next two years to implement new technologies like AI and process automation. The rest are planning to adopt transformational technology, recognizing not only the direct operational benefits offered, but also the crucial long-term advantage it secures: having the right people.