According to The DNA of the Future Retail CEO from the World Retail Congress, the top two current and future technical skills for retail CEOs are:

  1. Understanding of digital commerce and omni-channel
  2. Data/insight driven approach

The expert panel went on to say that the future retail CEO needs to be data driven “in the extreme”. Meanwhile, Korn Ferry Institute’s study of UK retail CEOs led them to say that the new retail CEO needs to be experienced with both budget and strategy. That is a demanding list of attributes for anyone.

Luckily, CEOs are not alone in managing their retail companies, no matter how big or small those companies may be. The right technology, along with the right people, can make the difference between shooting in the dark and creating a company strategy that is based on the most up-to-date and accurate information possible for unified commerce.

That is right, retail technology changes quickly. Keeping up with change and coping with it is one attribute of a leader-type CEO, according to research at Harvard Business School. More importantly, the researchers at Harvard found that being a leader-type CEO is linked with better outcomes for the company. But how can one person stay on top of the newest technological, financial, and retail trends? Here are some tips.

1) Have unified commerce technology for all your sales channels

Unified commerce is a step beyond omni-channel in that it brings together various, integrated systems into one platform. No matter what your company sells and where it sells it, your software should be a single-platform solution for e-commerce, m-commerce, and in-person sales. Pieced together systems, no matter how integrated, cost more money, and lead to lags in getting the data – or even to data not matching across the various channels. That means that you are missing out on important insights needed to make crucial strategic decisions. A unified system gives you the data you need quickly and easily so you can make long-term and day-to-day business decisions.

2) Have unified commerce technology for your core business functions

Unified commerce is not just about retail channels. A truly unified commerce system allows the front end and back end to talk seamlessly together. This means that tracking financials along with inventory, sales, customer satisfaction, and all other moving pieces of retail is possible in one system. What seems almost impossible if the company is running on different ERP, POS, and inventory systems, becomes smooth and consistent with the right technology. Data can flow freely from one area to the other. With the right business intelligence tools, you can make the connections between various aspects of your company to make better business decisions.

3) Set the goals for your company, but be able to cope with change

Retail changes quickly, but a retail leader can’t run after every shift that happens in the industry. Richard Branson, who got his start in retail, said in a recent interview with Freakonomics Radio that it is important for the head of the company to set the vision. At the same time, Branson has pivoted from retail music sales, to mobile technology, to airlines, so he understands the importance of changing course when needed. In order to change course, you first need to know where you are. Perhaps the change is to launch a series of pop-up stores. You then need to know how this kind of project fits with the overall vision of the company before jumping on the trend. At the same time, you can’t turn your back on a change that will help your business keep up with the modern pace of the industry.

4) Know how your retail business is doing and where it is going

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry famously said that “a goal without a plan is just a wish.” A strategic retail CEO doesn’t make wishes for the company, he or she sets goals and has a plan to track their success. If the retail goal is to sell more products online, the data-driven CEO needs to know where sales were before setting the goal, what data to monitor and how to track that data to know if the goal is being met. This is where key performance indicators, or KPIs, come in.

KPIs are exactly the measures that the retail CEO of today and the future needs to track how the company is doing financially and beyond. A unified commerce platform helps you collect and maintain in one place all the KPIs you need to track. It also enables you to easily split them between channels, product types and even individual products, so you get the level of detail you want for your decisions.

In The DNA of the Future Retail CEO, only 31% of the retail experts asked said that the retail CEO of the future will have the technical skills needed for unified commerce and to make data-driven decisions. Prove them wrong! Don’t be left behind as retail moves into the future. Be the strategic leader your company needs, with the right systems and data to support the decisions you make for your company