Tom Keighley

Member Article

Multi-channel retailing calls for new breed of boss

Recent appointments at Argos, Marks & Spencer and Dixons have highlighted an emerging breed of multi-channel retail chief executives.

Research from Korn/Ferry Whitehead Mann shows that multi-channel retail functions are becoming central to the sector, integrating the customer experience across stores, websites, direct mail and catalogues, mobile platforms, social networks, home shopping and gaming.

30 chief executives were interviewed in order to understand how retailers are tackling innovation, with seven out of 10 leading retailers changing leadership functions since late 2010 to adapt.

Sally Elliott, Senior Client Partner and Head of Retail, Korn/Ferry Whitehead Mann, commented: “The role of the multi-channel director typically includes profit-and-loss responsibility for sales over the Internet, but also the challenge of integrating mobile, Internet, and telephone sales with stores.

“They have to work with IT, marketing, product, supply chain and store teams to ensure that the brand experience remains consistent and the organisation is equipped to meet customer expectations.

“As a result, the multi-channel director is pulling the strings on much of the leading-edge innovation in retail at present and his or her remit is likely to continue to expand so that they will oversee every aspect of the customer journey including strategy, brand and all sales channels.

“In the years to come this will emerge as the starring role; we expect it to become the recognised number two position and the most likely route to becoming a chief executive in the sector.”

Recent appointments including Marks & Spencer’s Laura Wade-Gery as executive director of multi-channel e-commerce and the hiring of chief executives with a mix of traditional retail and e-commerce experience at Argos and Mothercare, has reinforced this trend.

In the last year, 23% of non-executive directors appointed to the boards of FTSE 350 retailers had online experience, compared with only 7% five years ago.

More than half of retailers surveyed said their biggest innovation in recent times had been service related, with click and collect, mobile-commerce and price optimisation software among the innovations helping to revolutionise the industry.

The report also suggests many retailers are reluctant innovate given the current economic climate; with 80% indicating no dedicated innovation function, and 50% proactively recruiting and developing innovation skills.

Sally Elliott continued: “As traditional retail models are overturned, it is crucial for businesses to attract, develop and retain the talent and leadership they need to deliver multi-channel strategies.

“A culture of innovation needs to emanate from the top of the company but not stop there, and forward-thinking retailers are ensuring innovation is led throughout their business.”

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Tom Keighley .

Explore these topics

Enjoy the read? Get Bdaily delivered.

Sign up to receive our popular morning National email for free.

* Occasional offers & updates from selected Bdaily partners

Our Partners

Top Ten Most Read