Regardless of where your organization is on the e-commerce maturity curve, in response to the rapid growth of online retail sparked by COVID-19, it’s a good time to reflect on whether you have the right capabilities on your team. For some, e-commerce capability is mature and only a question of scaling. For others, it’s an emerging channel. There’s little left to say about the inevitable adoption of e-commerce — we were already on a blistering pace toward that end prior to the pandemic. Now we’re being forced to make big decisions that will have an impact on business success for a long time. It’s tough to shake the legacy mentality, but it’s necessary in order to tackle these problems and opportunities. Is your team ready to make the right decisions?
With e-commerce primed to double as a percentage of retail sales, organizations need to examine their current level of maturity to understand whether their talent matches their present and future needs. It’s a well-known fact that the war for the digital shopper is won or lost with logistics. Certain capabilities are becoming increasingly vital, if not table stakes: free shipping and same-day delivery, to name just a couple of examples. Shippers that choose to partner with logistics service providers understand that high levels of customer service have become a ticket for entry, not just a differentiator. It’s no longer only a pricing game.
To scale operations in line with growth, automation will be key. Human error must be reduced across all processes, from the customer’s first click to final delivery. Warehouse robotics will reduce costs and increase efficiencies. Artificial intelligence will enable operations to meet demand and adopt a customer mindset. Consequently, spending on robotics process automation (RPA) will skyrocket. While over time, opportunities to reduce workforces may present themselves, we expect that more people — including frontline managers, supervisors and analysts — will be needed to do the work in the near to medium term. In the same vein, many organizations will have to tackle the increasing complexities of independent contractors offering services such as compliance, insurance, and training. Longer term, automation will reduce headcounts, but there will still be a need for improved leadership skills and capabilities.
Organizations will be grappling with increasing scale and supply-chain complexity. Hence, the consequences of their decisions will have a greater impact, and entail more risk, than ever before. (Making the choice to invest in a million square feet of warehouse space carries less weight than one for ten million.) As e-commerce takes a bigger share of overall sales for shippers and service providers alike, there will be a pressing need for the tools, skills and capabilities needed to make optimal decisions and result in better performance. Many are already feeling the talent gap.
Companies must embrace this opportunity if they are to survive and thrive. We do not suggest this is easy. It’s a matter of is cultural change, which is always difficult. It will likely mean bringing in some new team members with the right DNA at all levels. But for those that get it right, they’ll see a positive impact across the whole of the organization — a shift to better usage of data, improved problem solving, and faster solutions. Following are some of the competencies and questions that companies should be focusing on, as they strive to capitalize on the new normal and become market leaders:
Dustin Ogden is Senior Client Partner with Korn Ferry.
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