The Omnichannel Executive: Beyond E-Commerce

By Suzy Stewart, DHR International

It appears that 2010 was a real turning point for retailers going to the outside to find experienced and talented omnichannel executives.

As online shopping surges, with no retreat in sight, Retailers are realizing the urgency of adapting their organizational strategy and talent to accommodate the shifting demand toward the digital, omnichannels, and anxiously anticipating the next new technologies on the horizon.The new world of the omnichannel is much more than just web sales. True innovators understand the bigger picture in needing to leverage technology for the absolute and seamless integration of strategies for branding, drive to store, efficient and targeted marketing, loyalty, customer service, distribution and more.
 
Experienced teams are being sought out and recruited to build and manage these functions, while they revolutionize complex inventory management, establish new distribution centers/supply chain, and tackle the inevitable logistical puzzles that come with implementing and updating new channels.
 
The message is clear that the omnichannel is not merely another channel, but in fact the future of retail; and those who fail to embrace it can expect to be left behind.
 
In order to effectively compete for the digital dollar, retailers will have to face the music and understand the need to establish clear career pathing strategies to recruit, grow, develop and support these new age innovators. Companies will also have to determine where the new and increasingly blurring roles of marketing, analytics, planning, social media and mobile will sit within their organizational structure, and how they will ultimately shape their omnichannel strategies. 
 
The meteoric rise of the omnichannel is a reflection of today's ever changing technology and culture.The big question today is: where to find the webby - techies who can fully relate to the culture and needs of bricks & mortar, yet appreciate and embrace the future technologies of the omnichannel.

This is very similar to the mid 2000’s when retailers were forced to go outside the industry in order to find experienced brand building marketers. Once inside, the CPG-revered marketers often felt like fish out of water, as they encountered the then-existing culture of the merchant prince and advertising/sales promotion teams, who often didn’t understand or appreciate what the marketers were recruited in to do.
 
Today, retail giants like Walgreen’s, Target Corp., J.C. Penney, Wal-Mart Stores, and Kohl’s Corp. are all in the process of bringing in new leadership for their digital/e-commerce teams, as are smaller luxury brands such as Sur La Table, David Yurman and Coach.

In case any remain unconvinced of the necessity of digital sales, Internet giants like Amazon.com are there to remind them as they aggressively expand to new platforms and siphon off more and more online purchasers.

Suzy Stewart is an executive VP and senior retail and e-commerce specialist at DHR International, a Top 5 retained executive search firm. She is in the firm’s New York office.

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