being a retail and e-commerce manager in the era of augmented management”

What is the place of AI, data and new technologies in the daily lives of retail and e-commerce managers? Axys Consultants conducted a survey with 223 managers to understand the impacts of these technologies on their missions and focused on retail and e-commerce.

Axys Consultants, an important player in management consulting, supports the main companies in the CAC 40 and SBF 120 in the digital transformation of their organizations and their information systems. Its teams, made up of more than 220 consultants, work on a project basis, in France and abroad, on strategic missions.

The study, which was recently published, was carried out from April 18 to June 29 with 223 managers, 17% of which were from retail and e-commerce. Axys focused on the latter and compared its responses with those of its counterparts across industries.

AI, Big data, technology in the daily life of retail/e-commerce managers

in the question “Did the digital transformation transform the role of the manager?🇧🇷

10% of managers across all sectors combined said that digital transformation had no impact on their role, while 100% of retail/e-commerce managers said they had been impacted:

  • positively for 89% versus 82% of all sectors combined;
  • negatively to 11% against 8% all sectors combined.

The most complex challenges (in %)

  • Appropriating/using data, AI and new technologies on a daily basis is the most complex challenge for both groups of respondents, but it is more important for those in retail/e-commerce (33% vs. 24%);
  • Developing team skills also seems complicated for them, but to a lesser extent than their peers (29% vs. 21%);
  • Recruiting/retaining talent is less of an issue for them (11% vs. 24%);
  • Manage projects too (11% vs 13%);
  • In addition to participating in strategy development (16% vs. 18%).

Technologies and innovations used as part of the managerial role

Technologies are used most by retail/e-commerce managers (66% versus 63% of all industries combined).

These 66% of retail/e-commerce managers make greater use of Big Data (56% vs 53%) but also AI (56% vs 43%).

Of the 2 groups of respondents use virtual reality almost as much (11% for retail/e-commerce vs 12% for all industries), none of the retail/e-commerce managers use the metaverse vs. 2%.

Retail/eCommerce best equipped with Big Data and AI tools

We found the same classification of the tools used in both groups of respondents, however the rates are higher for retailers/e-merchants in 4 out of 6 cases:

  • #1: Data collection and analysis tools (forecasting and forecasting) 67% retail/e-commerce vs 59%;
  • #2: Automation of management tasks (recruiting, reporting, etc.) tied with #1 in retail/e-commerce: 67 vs. 47%;
  • n°3: Microlearning, fast learning, gamification: 33% vs 31%;
  • #4: Semantic search engine: the percentage is lower, 22% vs 25%;
  • n°5: Conversation assistant – chatbot – voicebot is equally widespread in both groups: 22%;
  • Recognition/identification of emotions from text or voice, technology is a little more used according to retail/e-commerce managers: 11% vs 10%.

Managers’ expectations

Automation and predictability are top goals for retail/e-commerce managers.

For both groups, task automation is the first expectation regarding technology/AI/Big Data with a percentage of 67%.

Opinions differ: retail/e-commerce managers want these tools to help them predict their activities (56%) and increase performance (44% versus 51%). For their part, their counterparts favor the improvement of collective intelligence thanks to collaborative tools (53%).

Obstacles to the development of new technologies/AI/Big Data

If lack of training and acculturation is the main obstacle to the development of new technologies/AI/Big Data for all managers, it is felt less strongly by retail/e-commerce managers than by their colleagues (67% vs. 73% ) .

This is followed by the fear of not being able to explain/interpret the results of AI, which is stronger in retail/e-commerce (56% vs. 37%) while the cost of solutions is identified as a less significant obstacle (44% vs. .55% all sectors).

Ethical issues are ranked 4th by 33% of retail/e-commerce managers and by 35% of others.

Limits of AI: Cases where a machine/AI is less efficient than a human

Retail/e-commerce managers are more tech-savvy than their peers and therefore were less likely to state that machines and AI are less efficient than humans for:

  • lead and create cohesion in teams (67% vs 73% for
    other sectors);
  • be creative (44% vs. 65%);
  • take risks (only 22% compared to 55% of managers in
    other sectors).

On the other hand, they are more likely than all managers to believe that machines and AI are less efficient at making confident decisions (44% versus 18%) and fostering collective intelligence (44% versus 35% ).

Tomorrow’s Manager: An Augmented Manager?

Retail/e-commerce managers are least familiar with the notion of an augmented manager (33% vs 46%).

All managers agree in placing AI as the first characteristic of an augmented manager, with the retail/e-commerce sector being the most enthusiastic than the others: 29% vs. 23%. They have the same opinion on the ability to classify info-obesity (14%), but while retail managers put the ability to notice weak signals (14%) in the 3rd position, their colleagues choose to work collaboratively (14%) .

What are the requirements for becoming an augmented retail/e-commerce manager?

Both groups have the same needs to become an augmented manager, but in different proportions:

  • Training in digital strategy in order to create value through data is favored by retail/e-commerce managers (63% vs 43% for the rest);
  • management coaching to develop some soft skills, creativity, risk taking, etc. with virtually similar percentages for all respondents (50% for retail/e-commerce vs. 49% for all sectors);
  • Training in new technologies/AI: retail/e-commerce managers, better equipped with technological solutions, are less demanding while their counterparts cited this need first (38% vs 57%).

The future of management

If retail/e-commerce managers are convinced that management will be increasingly humane, it is to a lesser extent than their counterparts in other sectors ((67% vs. 74%). On the other hand, they are a little more believe it will be more tech (22% vs. 20%) and nearly twice as many believe it will be more vertical (11% vs. 6% all industries combined).

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