Digital Transformation Officer – does every retailer need one?

Digital Transformation Officer – Does every retailer need one … or two?

There are a fair few retail CEOs who worry that if the digital transformation of their business fails, their company could go bust, for newcomers to the retail sector threaten the livelihood of existing businesses.

It is actually the lack of customer centricity that is the real threat to traditional retailers, because the disruptors build a business around the customer using digital technology. Many established businesses struggle, not because they do not recognise the need for change and the threat posed by more customer centric start-ups, but because they are hampered in implementing digital transformation (quickly) by legacy systems and historic ways of doing things.

An early example of that could be Blockbuster for not embracing a streaming service, instead trying to continue as a physical rental retailer.

The retail sector is a good example of a forerunner where digital technology is disrupting the industry.

So what do retail businesses need to do?

We’re seeing a few Digital Transformation Officers appointed. However, my question always is “How does a lone person secure success if digital transformation effectively changes the business model, which impacts not just the customer experience, but how the business organises its front of house and back of house operations, how it markets its goods or services, how it sells them and how it delivers them?”

Surely one person cannot take responsibility for all this!?

In my view, true digital transformation is embraced by and is driven by the Board. Top down across all business functions.

So what would be the role of the DTO?

Again, my view is that the DTO coordinates and brings together digital initiatives from all departments and work streams, whilst also playing devil’s advocate in challenging thoughts and ideas, and being a visionary who keeps a close eye on external developments, opportunities and best practise. This person needs to be as much as a conductor as they need to be a composer, ensuring ultimate harmony in delivering the symphony.

So does every retail business need one? ….or several?

The answer to the question is: absolutely!

Those CEOs who are visionary and who feel comfortable driving wholesale change will probably perform this function themselves alongside their CEO duties. Others may want to appoint a person who takes this on as a full time role. That said, all senior executives need to be on board to stimulate and manage digital transformation in their respective functions, thus becoming digital transformers themselves.

It takes a brave boss to admit they are overwhelmed to prepare the company for future challenges, however if the CEO is struggling then a Digital Transformation Officer could be the way to kick-start and embrace change.

Want to discuss further? Give me a ring!

WHAT?! Made a mistake? How to minimise career damage

How to recover from a major work-related mistake and minimise career damage.

It’s happened to the best of us. That spine-chilling moment when you realise you’ve made a monumental error that could cost you your job. Examples that spring to mind include missing a zero off a proposal on a multi-thousand pound deal, mistakenly sending an offensive email to a senior executive (or client), losing a key contract through missing a deadline. Whether it was down to carelessness, lack of knowledge or preparation, or the result of a couple of drinks too many at a business event, your boss wants to know:

  • Do you understand what happened?
  • Do you understand how it happened?
  • Are you remorseful?
  • What are you going to do to prevent it happening again?

Own up quick

As soon as you discover your mistake, go and own up to it (in person) before you get hauled in front of the boss. Make it clear that you understand the seriousness of your mistake, and what plans you have for dealing with it.

Face the music

Understand that there may be disciplinary consequences such as a verbal or written warning. Accept it gracefully and don’t make excuses, blame somebody else or try and deny what happened.

Handle the consequences

Take ownership of your actions, accept the situation for what it is, and resolve never to make the same mistake again.

Be discreet

There’s no need to make a soap opera out of your situation. It can be tempting to re-tell the story in the pub, or joke about it with your team-mates. But remember that not everybody will know what happened, and this could result in even more people knowing the situation, making the mistake bigger than it was in the first place. Let it just become yesterday’s news by itself.

Use it to your advantage

While it can be an uncomfortable experience, we learn more from our mistakes than we do from things going smoothly. Hopefully you can take something positive from the situation and improve your performance as a result.

Move on

Don’t let your mistake cast a shadow over the rest of your career. Everybody makes mistakes. Once you’ve faced up to it, done what you can to fix it, and accepted the consequences put it down to experience and move on.


Work/life balance – a pipe dream or achievable?

All of us have heard this term, all of us want to achieve it, however very few do!

What does work/life balance actually mean? If we strip back the jargon and psycho babble, we are really talking about managing stress in such a way that we feel we are in control.

Where is all this stress coming from? Often work, sometimes from our out of work activities (kids, their schooling) or from ‘duties’ you feel you have from volunteering.

I have found that giving yourself more downtime, having more holidays or exercising more will give temporary relief from stress, however the moment your nose is back to the grind stone, the stress returns. So what can we do to get a better balance?

Prioritise what you want
What is it that you really want to do? What do you really desire? Reduce or eliminate stress by closing the gap between what you actually do and what you want to do. Easier said than done, however start by recognising where your priorities really lie and making sure that you behave in line with those priorities. Sometimes it is as easy as diarising your life – if you want to exercise twice a week, book time in your diary (write it in pen not pencil) and stick to it!

Your diary can be your solution
Use your diary for work as well as personal activities and make sure that you synchronise it with your significant other. If they need to be at a work dinner, you might need to look after the kids – so diarise it. Include everything you can think of, from exercise to going out for drinks and seeing friends, and book things in early. Most of us make 6 monthly appointments to see the dentist, get the car serviced or the cat de-flea-d, book them in the diary, so there are no last minute surprises (and the accompanying stress..).

Look at the output, not the time spent
Measure your success in goals and objectives rather than the hours you put in. Those who think they have had a good day because they have spent hours doing something will be less fulfilled than those that achieve specific goals. Setting goal based targets rather than time spent also motivates people to find more efficient ways of getting things done so they can do them quicker.

Keeping up with the Jones’
We live in a society where we constantly compare ourselves to others – who has a new car or nicer house, whose kids achieve better results at school. Peer pressure, peer pressure. Don’t let anyone else decide what you should be achieving. Focus on achieving your own objectives in your career, your work and your private life.

Leave some space to just ‘be’
To obtain work/life balance doesn’t mean both sides of the equation need to be packed with activity. Achieving good work/life balance means doing both in moderation and minimising the stress in your life. Activities outside of the workplace can be equally stressful, especially if you feel duty-bound by them.

If you want to change your workaholic tendencies, it will require a bit of effort, and letting go of some things. But the benefits could be far reaching, including freeing up some time to progress your career.

Staff retention – use them or lose them

It’s a commonly accepted generalisation that Generation Y will probably have 10-12 jobs and three careers in their life time, whilst the Baby Boomers average 3 – 4 jobs and one career.

This change in attitude towards career and prospects will be, and in some cases already is (think about staff turnover in the digital sector…), putting companies under pressure.

Under pressure to retain staff, under pressure to monitor and review whether their staff are happy and content, under pressure to guard themselves from their competitors ‘stealing’ their staff and under pressure to employ the right calibre of person in the first place.

So what can companies do and how do they need to change in order to minimise the disruption caused by high staff turnover?

One thing is for certain, standing still is not really an option.

Should we look at what motivates people? Is that similar to Maslov’s hierarchy of needs?Maslov hierarchy of needs








Pyramid diagram








Job Motivation

That being the case, then by being employed the Money and Security segments ought to be fulfilled, therefore companies must look at the remaining three segments in order for their employees to think twice before they leave.

Easier said than done!

What do people need or want, what motivates them to do a good or even an outstanding job as opposed to a mediocre or even a poor job?

If we had the answer to that, would that help us retain talent for our business? Would it help to obtain ever improving performance from our teams and would it improve the performance of those historically underperforming? I think it might…

Belonging to neither the Baby Boomers or Gen Y, I have had 7 jobs and I’m on my second career. And on that journey I have observed and learned a few things about team dynamics and what motivates people (also what de-motivates people).

My top tips are:

  1. Make people feel valued – communicate, communicate, communicate. Give precise and specific feedback, recognise success and recognise when people have really tried (but may not have succeeded 100%). Critique in private, praise in public. But more importantly perhaps is to listen, get to know your team in a wider context. We are all juggling umpteen balls to make the life/work balance thing work. Being seen to empathise with that will go a long way.
  2. Promote from within – develop, mentor and coach people (all people, including the cleaner). Everyone needs to feel that they are making progress, everyone needs to feel that they have a chance to get a shot at a bigger job, more responsibility and grow.
  3. Have a clear strategy – it does not need to be over-ambitious, it does not need to be over-detailed. It needs to be simple to understand for everyone and clearly communicated. If everyone knows the journey the company is on, understands how they are contributing towards succeeding in this journey and can see what is in it for them, then people will feel ownership (and are less likely to leave).
  4. Fun – a dangerous one, this one. I once organised a rock climbing trip for the team and a fair few hated it. Needless to say, it had the opposite effect…
    To me, ‘fun’ is about team spirit, unusual benefits (dry cleaning, open bar on Friday afternoon, free weekend breaks, etc), but also flexibility. Your employees do responsible jobs, so why not trust them to be responsible with regards to the time they work (where you can of course, I realise that with shop staff this would be almost impossible). If they do the job that they have been entrusted to do, let them work the hours needed to do it well. I am not saying that you should allow your team to work 3 days instead of 5 days per week, however who cares if they leave the office at 16.30hrs some days, or turn up at 09.30am rather than 09.00am once in a while. My motto is, if everyone is happy with the work you’re delivering, then just let me know when you’re in the office and when not, as long as the job is done on time.
  5. Stay interviews – In my opinion exit interviews are important (if conducted by a professional, who can then act upon making improvements so that no-one else leaves for the same reason), however a ‘stay interview’ is about checking in with individual team members and with teams on a whole to make sure people are satisfied with the job content, happy with how they are treated and remunerated and feel valued. An uncaring manager is not a manager at all.

The above 5 points really are just a starter for 10, I’d be happy to discuss with you other ideas and best practise. Give me a ring or drop me an email!

Follow @maartenjonckers on twitter for links to more articles on the subject and retail related chat

Does your new job feel all wrong? What to do …

wrong job cartoonThe hangover of your leaving party has just about waned and you have joined your new company.

The first few days (perhaps weeks) were taken up by the induction programme and generally finding your way around the business (and the building). You’re now at the stage where you are starting to develop a routine and your feet are under the desk so to speak.

All should be well, however in the back of your mind something is telling you that all is not as it should be … You’re putting this slight feeling of unease down to new-starter’s jitters and fear of the unknown, but you’re slowly coming to the realisation that you might have made a mistake joining this business.

Arghh…! What do you do now?

Deep breath in, stiff drink, a gruelling hour in the gym or anything that works for you in order to take a step back and take stock.

Thankfully, this situation does not happen often but something has clearly gone wrong somewhere. It is now a matter of working out what to do. Grin and bear it? Resign on the spot? Start applying for jobs on the quiet?

In my experience it is worth doing the following, not necessarily in this order:

1. Let’s determine what it is that is not quite right. It could be the job content, your boss or your relationship with your boss, your colleagues or the general culture of the business.

2. Whatever it is, can it be fixed? Is it something that you can learn to live with? Or has the rot set in and there is only one option – leave.

3. However uncomfortable this might be, you have to talk to your boss. You’re both adults (assuming no paper girls or boys are reading this article) and you need to discuss this in the most neutral and objective manner possible. After all, your boss does not want a disgruntled employee, does not want to invest time, money and effort in fully inducting, integrating and perhaps training a person who might leave within their first 12 months. So, have the conversation, making certain to stick with the facts, no emotion. This is as much your fault as anyone else’s.

4. After this conversation it is decision time, if your boss can change things so as to accommodate you then make certain that you agree timescales and measures / review times. You’d want to avoid your boss paying you lip service, trying to find a quick replacement (maybe the 2nd candidate on the short list?) and to turf you out just before the end of your probation period …

5. You’ll find that if genuine changes have been made and you feel more comfortable in staying with the business, your relationship with your boss will be far stronger than if none of this had happened. After all, you have faced adversity together and have found a solution to the problem. Together.

6. However, if it transpires that you have made a mistake, didn’t do your research properly or indeed you were sold a pup, then leaving would be the only option.

7. The question then is – when? Of course, if this all happens within the first few weeks of joining the new business then you have the option to phone your old company to see whether you can have your old job back (another good reason to always leave on good terms…!). If that door is closed, then you’ll have to make a decision. If you leave immediately, without having a job to go to then you will be in a weaker negotiation position with any new opportunity then if you were still working. However, when explaining that you made a mistake, it is more likely that you are believed than the person who stayed only 12 months in a job because they found that they made a mistake. Really? It took you 12 months to find that out and do something about? If you leave immediately, the advantage you have is that you can make finding the next opportunity your full time job.

8. If you do decide to stay whilst looking for the next opportunity, then step up a gear and deliver your very best work whilst at this business. When you depart, you want to be regarded as a good leaver who, despite recognising that the business was not right for them, still delivered good work.

9. Finally, don’t beat yourself up, we all make mistakes. Just make sure to learn from it and be extra careful in your subsequent career moves…and don’t do it again!

Follow @maartenjonckers on twitter for links to more articles on the subject and retail related chat

Future gazing for the retail sector – the next 10 years

How will Retail change in the next 10 years? A prediction for the future…
(First published in Dutch by Ronald de Groot)

In the next 10 years the retail landscape will change beyond recognition, as we will see more change in that period than we have done in the last 50.


If one predicts exactly what the retail sector will actually look like, then you’re bound to be wrong. Because, who could predict 10 years ago what Facebook and Google would look like today, who’d have thought then that Apple would introduce the iPhone in 2007 which completely transformed the mobile sector (and has challenged the status quo in Marketing).


Internet minuteInternet minuteToday’s consumer is addicted to the internet via their smart phone and the media we consume: we chat via Whatsapp, watch Youtube clips and Netflix films, book an Uber taxi and date via Tinder. The 1999 consumer could not have predicted how their lives and behaviour would change. In the meanwhile we have welcomed Augmented Reality (AR), chatbots, Virtual Reality (VR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) into our lives.

Internet minute

We live in a digital world where vast and rapid innovation are order of the day, so any prediction today could be obsolete tomorrow.


Retail is shopping and more often than not, we already shop whenever it suits us – 24/7. Although today we migrate online when the physical shops are closed, in 10 years’ time we probably don’t have to worry about shop opening times. For a retailer to exist, means to be available whenever. Consumers’ expectations are high and they will increasingly become more demanding – on-demand access to all products and services via their connected device of choice. They do not expect a difference between what they experience online and offline. In fact on or off line will be concepts of the past, as our world will be interwoven and organisations don’t see different channels or silos. The total focus will be on the client, where the Brands are competing to be part of the consumers’ world and environment.
A no-channel world where personalisation is the order of the day, where technology and algorithms determine on a person by person basis which automatically produced message to send at the most relevant moment, and via the most relevant medium.


Generation Y and Z will be the most important consumers, generations who grew up with the internet, social media and instant messaging, and for whom the smart phone is their primary device. Generations with a mobile number and a social media account, rather than an email address – for these generations email then is the equivalent of the post box today. They will expect tailored, real time advice and service via chat and video. Shop Direct has integrated conversational technology on Very’s mobile app to answer customer queries in real time.


Whatsapp will be a version more akin to Wechat today in China. ‘Conversational commerce’ will be a combination of personal service, contact, advice and sales process that is driven across all communication channels with the consumer. AI driven chat-bots will communicate via speech, videos or chat in such a way that the consumer no longer knows (or cares) whether they are communicating with a human or not. Today we already see the development of selling, advice and service via Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger, be that supported by chat bots or not.


Being online 24/7 will be even more important than today and the smartphone will function as a remote control for everything in our environment. That said, it is unlikely that in 10 years we still use devices such as laptops, smartphones or tablets. Instead we’ll use smart devices with flexible screens, which are connected to our own personal cloud based environment. The discussion around data ownership will be a lively one! We’ll see more clever start-ups like DataCoup, who will configure your data to your advantage in your contact with the rest of the world.
Other than screens, there will be further developments in nano technology, which weaves the internet into ordinary daily products. We won’t just see digital tables and mirrors, we’ll see clothing with interactive ‘screens’. Jacquard is already a project both Google and Levi’s are working on today.

jacquard google

AR and VR will play a huge role in the whole retail experience. New Look have already launched augmented-reality photo booths instore. AR will blur the border between the online and real world. We will be able to really experience products in the comfort of our own home before deciding to purchase, which will significantly reduce the return rates. The offline shopping experience will increasingly become a leisure activity driven by the quality of the entertainment (food & drink) available in the High Street or shopping centre, as well as the instore experience with interactive mirrors and walls. The retailer’s objective is to give the customer a total day-out experience, where the product is relevant, the service personal and payment is efficient.


AR and VR will enter the consumer’s everyday life via smart lenses, which will lead to a totally new and improved online experience. The use of smart lenses will grow exponentially, much like the mobile phone in the 80’s and 90’s.


And finally, we’ll be able to voice activate Apps and control them with our hands – much like Magic Leap is already experimenting with.


Of course, this could be completely wrong and we might return to chalk and slate, but I just don’t think so somehow…


Black Friday – what did you learn last year?

Now that the summer is slowly coming to an end and seemingly, the worst of the Brexit dust has settled, retailers have started to think about the execution of their plans for the close of the calendar year.

Black Friday on 25th November, Cyber Monday on 28th November, then Christmas … what will you do differently from last year? Sales generators and margin eroders, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have proven to be two events that we all now have to seriously consider. Participation will prove to be a necessary evil: doomed if you do, doomed if you don’t.

On the one hand we all know that it brings customers’ purchase decisions forward at lower margins. On the other hand, if we do not participate in the madness, those sales may go to your competitors.

Having spoken to many of our client companies, there seems to be a different tactic depending on what business you’re in. Some of the premium, branded retailers will participate with focused offers on a (small) part of their range. They’re aiming to up-sell into full margin product and ‘staff-up’ accordingly, as last year many found that they had underestimated the footfall Black Friday generated and found themselves short staffed throughout the day. Other, general retailers, will take the blanket discount approach and clear any overstocks that may be accumulated by a probable slow Autumn. The hit on margin however will be significant and sales in the subsequent run up to Christmas Eve will most likely be slower again than previous years.

There is no doubt that the hype and press coverage around Black Friday has ‘educated’ the general public, so you can only expect the event to become bigger and bigger. So what to do and how to plan for BF 2016?

What measures have you taken to make sure that your website is robust enough to handle a huge surge in visitors and transactions? Can the fulfilment centre cope?

Is there an argument for segregating offers into in-store or online only? Have you allocated Open to Buy to special purchases sold on a ‘when it’s gone it’s gone’ basis, so that your current ranges are kept at full margin? How big is big?

One thing is certain, it is here and it is here to stay. Personally, I dread the development where one ‘clever’ retailer will start a Black Weekend – 3 days of sale madness. Now that will certainly provide a budgeting headache and a margin hangover!

Follow @maartenjonckers on twitter for retail related chat

The One Question Interview

We really loved this post from Bob Baxley and wish we’d written it ourselves. But the next best thing is to share it with you:

The One Question Interview

And so there you are. Ten minutes late for a thirty minute interview. With a glance at your calendar you confirm once more that you have a hard stop on the half hour.

A handshake, a smile, you’re seated and you’re ready. Having already met the candidate on multiple occasions, witnessed the morning’s portfolio review, and heard the afternoon’s commentary by the other interviewers, you know that the person before you is someone the team wants and given the demand for talent, indeed someone the company needs.

But it’s your job to be sure, for you know from experience that a bad hire is far more costly than no hire at all.

With only a few minutes to evaluate, to process, to decide; you find yourself with time for only one meaningful question. And that question is this:

“Let’s imagine for a moment that you get this job and choose to join us.

The one thing I am absolutely certain you will do is the one thing that everyone in every job eventually does. You will quit.

So now imagine that you are back in this very room some three to five years from now only instead of an interview, you’re telling me that you’re leaving. We’ll be sad and we’ll be bummed but we’ll both know it was time and that everything will be okay.

At some point after that, you will sit down to update your LinkedIn profile with a handful of bullet points encapsulating your experiences and accomplishments here.

What are those bullet points going to say?”

What would yours say?


The original article was posted here

Do you pay your recruiter £20k per month plus benefits?

Recruiter salary 250pxIf you wouldn’t consider paying your recruiter £20k per month plus 30% bonus, plus car allowance, plus pension and private health care, why are you asking your Commercial Director (who IS getting all that) to be your recruiter?

Is it really best use of your Commercial Director’s time to be sifting through CVs and conducting telephone interviews in order to screen candidates before inviting them in for interview?

Can you afford for them to take their eye off the crucial deal that is about to close, or the tricky negotiation that is ongoing while they meet potential recruits?

Think about this. While your Commercial Director is recruiting a Director of Buying, they are not giving their own job their full attention. And if they are, then your new Director of Buying is going to be a long time coming, because nobody is concentrating on finding them. Which means that there are 2 jobs not being done properly. That vacant spot is costing the company money in lost sales revenue that is not being generated! Can your organisation afford the detrimental impact of that?

The role of a professional executive search consultancy is to put the right people in front of the Commercial Director. They will use their extensive network to tap into potential candidates and devote the necessary hours to find those that tick all the right boxes – and will do it much quicker than your overstretched Board member ever can.

Next time you have a senior level vacancy, don’t have a half hearted attempt at being a recruiter. Get in touch and let us take on the task of selecting a well-researched shortlist, for a fraction of the (opportunity) cost you’d spend in doing it yourself.