February 5th, 2017

The Weekly Archive: Retailers Face A Tech Talent Gap Crisis

Last summer I talked to a lot of banks and financial institutions about how they build or adopt technology. For years, the banks stayed on the sidelines of innovation. This was in part to see what trends would ultimately have staying power, but also because they had no expertise in the field. Bankers, by nature, are pragmatic people.

Financial institutions have very little in-house experience in the digital realm. Banks have trouble luring top tech talent. Only recently have banks really started focusing on their own software development, such as how Capital One hired Naveed Anwar from PayPal to build a banking platform. But, like everybody else, banks have to compete from a software talent base of finite resources that includes applicants that would much prefer to work for the cool big tech companies or hot new startups.

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One answer to this talent gap conundrum has been to take a vendor-based a la carte approach. Instead of hiring people to build new features and functions in house, which could take a year or more to come to fruition, many institutions pick and choose technology from vendors and plug it into existing infrastructure. The vendor approach is necessary in an ecosystem where there is not enough talent to go around.

Just like banks, retailers face the same talent gap predicament, but to a more pronounced degree.

Retailers do not have the in-house tech talent and often don’t know where to look to to obtain the solutions and implementation they think they need. Unlike the banks, retailers don’t usually have time or money to make mistakes.This is one of the reasons that the National Retail Federation’s “Big Show” has essentially become a tech show. What is the answer to this skill gap between retail tech needs and retail’s lack of tech expertise?

ARC talked to Mastercard’s  executive vice president for merchants and acceptance Linda Kirkpatrick about the solutions and as-a-service approach to technology for retailers at NRF.

“It is a fragmented market,” Kirkpatrick said. “There is no one go-to agency that is going to be the cure-all for digital engagement. But I do think that banks, historically, it is not in their wheelhouse to be digitally savvy. Merchants, not necessarily a foundational strength to understand how to engage consumers through an app.”

Kirkpatrick has been at Mastercard for 20 years, starting as an intern out of Manhattanville College (an easy distance from Mastercard’s Purchase, New York campus) and worked her way up to the executive vice president level. Kirkpatrick is uniquely situated to understand what retailers need and the approach that merchants need to take in an industry that will change more in the coming years than it has in the last several decades.

“When you use data and you test-and-learn and you do it in a way that is smart, that allow you to make tweaks without having to invest hundreds of millions of dollars and then see the results in your sales, that is super powerful,” Kirkpatrick said. “I believe the way to do it is the data and the data is the foundation for everything that a retailer should keep top of mind for them and their strategy.”

Stay tuned to ARC this month for more from Kirkpatrick and the notion of the digital-physical convergence that is, after so many years, finally starting to make real impacts on business and people on the ground.

Weekly Archive Links Of The Week

NEW … series on ARC this week: Making Decisions On Digital Experience. We’ve talked to many companies in our travels in the last several months on how they make product decisions about the experience their customers have products in the digital and physical realms. What have we found? Product research is the quintessential first step.

HERE … are the reasons why digital shoppers abandon their shopping carts.

MOBILE … banking: the new default way to bank.

EVERYBODY … seems to have bought something through a smartphone at one point or another.

THE … expectation for top-quality, personalized experiences has been raised. Personally, I blame the iPhone.

MORE … than 40% of people have experienced some type of financial fraud.

LAWSUITS … over digital accessibility are ramping up. For disability lawyers, the digital realm has become easy picking. Companies need to learn how to protect themselves.

PASSPORT … a mobile payments company that focuses on infrastructure (like parking) uses crowdtesting to perfect its product across hundreds of locations.

THE … second brain: we now live a bimodal digital and physical existence. The dreams of authors like William Gibson, Neal Stephenson and Ernest Cline are coming true.

SOME … serious concerns about the direction of the FCC under its new commissioner.

BOTS … are coming to the poker table … and winning. As someone who once considered going pro in poker, I find this concerning.

MEDIUM … will have a consumer subscription option coming this quarter.

PROGRESSIVE … Web Apps are becoming real options for developers. This is an exciting development.

COMEDY … of the week: Melissa McCarthy does Sean Spicer on Saturday Night Live. I swear, SNL has been so much better recently.

Take deeper breaths, think bigger thoughts.

Dan Rowinski
ARC – The Application Resource Center