Retail Skills Gap: what skills are essential for success in 2023 and beyond?

Today’s retail environment is the era for omnichannel, speed and customer experiences so you’d expect the skills gap to be crying out for more digital experts, developers and experience curators. What might surprise you are the seemingly down-to-earth skills that retail is really calling for to deliver change and success beyond 2023.

Retail is moving fast, but sometimes so fast that it’s leaving behind skills that may not be slick or flashy but are essential for customer engagement and building meaningful experiences that are rewarded with higher spending and increased loyalty.

In a world where many skills are being replace by AI, perhaps it’s time to re-visit those that are inherently human and rediscover the power they have to underpin your success.


You might think that empathy is a no-brainer for anyone working in retail, at any level. But evidence suggests that our levels of empathy are declining.

“Being a psychologist studying empathy today is a little bit like being a climatologist studying the polar ice caps,” says Jamil Zaki, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. “Our collective empathy is eroding over time.”

But despite this decline, customers are crying out for empathy to drive decision making and brand experience. The power of retailers to make consumers feel welcome and included shouldn’t be underestimated – according to a 2022 Deloitte global consumer survey, 57% of consumers are more loyal to brands that commit to addressing social imbalances in their actions.

Which means that if people can feel your inclusion and diversity efforts - experiencing it for themselves in-store, online, in marketing messages and on a strategic level, then you’re more likely to see higher levels of retention and customer satisfaction.

Research suggests that blind internet users abandon a staggering two-thirds of e-commerce interactions because of inaccessibility. This leaves them to hunt out alternative, accessible options.

Hiring people with the capacity for empathy is key to creating meaningful impact on inclusivity and diversity. Whether it’s helping store staff and customer service teams to provide effective solutions to customer problems, or enabling your digital teams to design inclusive environments online, empathy should be a heavily invested skill for retail now and into 2024.


Store and brand experience has become integral to building trust and loyalty with your customers. We’ve written previously about how it’s become a key differentiator for many brands, with retailers competing based on customer experience alone.

With trust and loyalty influencing 58% of your customers’ buying decisions, how you design those experiences can be the difference between success and failure for retailers.

Good design has the power to influence the majority of buying decisions, whether that’s inclusive and accessible store design or creating stand-out brand experiences that lead your customer through a seamless phytigal journey.

And with 86% of consumers willing to pay more to receive a superior customer experience, it’s time to start embedding design skills from top to bottom in retail roles.

“Today, customers expect brilliant everyday experiences and with an abundance of choice. They are often more willing to switch brands if their expectations are not met,” says Dean Lanzman, Head of Data at MullenLowe Profero in The Europe Customer Loyalty Report.

It’s important that design becomes a consideration at every level of your strategy and within every role that’s involved in customer experience – from staff on the shop floor, to marketing and user experience teams.


Listening is one of the most important skills for retailers to invest in for success. So much so, that 91% of business leaders say social listening impacts their critical customer insights. And according to Hubspot, research has shown that improving retention by just 5% can drive profits up over 25%. It pays to listen.

Without listening to your customers, you could be missing out on key insights that can shape how you improve your services and future products to avoid losing dissatisfied customers.

Creating a culture of listening across different channels and for the long-term while investing in systems that allow for listening to be done with ease is crucial to ensure really hearing your customers – and internal teams - is not a fad or one-off corporate project.

Dutch financial services provider, Achmea, invested heavily in becoming a 'listening organisation' across several of its brands – implementing changes to bring benefits among staff, stakeholders and customers.

One of the changes they made was to analyse the unstructured comments that customers made within surveys, and to respond directly to negative ones over the phone via a team of specially trained call centre staff.

The results were surprising. Achmea discovered that 48.6% of those customers who were highly likely to become lost customers, converted directly to promoters of the brand and were retained.

Prioritising skills in retail can be a challenge but by taking it back to basics, you can help to ensure you set yourself up for success and create meaningful change and experiences for your customers and staff.

If you’re looking to create change that matters to your customers, then speak to our team on +31 (0) 88 494 20 80 or email us at

David Mines
Business Development Director

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