How Digital Transformation is Impacting Recruiting

how digital transformation is impacting recruiting

The pandemic has made focusing on digital growth essential. Learn how smart companies are adapting to the rise of digital so you can get ahead of the curve.


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The pandemic has ignited digital acceleration in the retail world. A company’s ability to thrive depends on how quickly it can upskill to meet the demands of today’s digitally-oriented climate. Thus, brands are upgrading their teams to bring the necessary talent on board so they can excel in the fast-changing digital realm. According to Dell’s 2020 Digital Transformation Index, 8 of 10 companies decided to fast-track digital transformation plans in 2020, and 79% revamped their business model. 

As you know, recruitment can pose special challenges due to the pandemic. We’ll delve into them here, providing detailed guidance on how to address these emerging issues. Because we are partnering with many brands working to implement a digital-first strategy, we can provide a detailed lay of the land that will help you answer the call to focus on digital-first. 

How is the retail landscape changing?

Ecommerce growth and product enhancement through creative digital solutions have become hot-button topics in the pandemic. A recent study in the UK found that companies are focusing on digitizing in the following areas:

  • Digitally-enhanced selling (47%)
  • Expanded customer services (47%)
  • Improved data analytics for employee performance management (44%)
  • Digitizing of organizational processes (42%)
  • Digital upgrades to the workplace (37%)

Most notably, today’s customers expect an outstanding buying experience. They want more intuitive digital experiences than ever before, and they are adopting new shopping behaviors when retailers meet these expectations. Customer engagement and retention hinge upon a retailer’s ability to fulfill these demands, which will form the backbone of a solid growth marketing strategy.

Before the pandemic, digital sales were appealing for their convenience; now, customers miss the in-person shopping experience and want an equally rich digital version of it. Thus, 88% of customers expect companies to prioritize digital initiatives

Dell’s study found that 82% of companies think augmented reality could soon play a key role in business by showing customers how to do things at the moment. Further, 85% think AI and another modeling will help pinpoint where future disruptions will occur. 

In light of these changes, hiring employees who are Digital proficient has become increasingly vital, along with upgrading e-commerce and performance marketing skills. Recruiting the right people will help you thrive within this digital revolution. We’ll dig into the specifics of how digitally smart companies are adapting, followed by a detailed look at challenges and best practices for recruiting the right talent. 

How are smart companies adapting?

A lot of companies that weren’t born digital have been working hard to catch up over the past year. Although they’ve faced a steep learning curve, they’re helping redefine the digital roadmap for the future. They are upgrading their talent-seeking strategy and often reorganizing their business model to provide a higher tier of experience for their customer base. 

According to a recent study published in the German Journal of Human Resource Management, companies need to not only digitize but “adopt a digital identity and culture.” They need to show that digital is who they are now. The following strategies will each play a role in rebranding yourself as a digital leader.

1. Leveraging social marketing

Harness the power of social marketing to connect with new audiences. Social branding is more important than ever, so leverage social influencers and ambassador programs to grow your brand image. Find new ways to tell stories online through images, video, and narrative forms to create a robust digital identity. Most of our partners on the DTC side are testing new channels as well as adopting social listening as well as analytics tools to measure their investments on social media channels. Technologies have advanced there quite significantly, and paid social channels can now be truly measurable when it used to be the challenge.

2. Closing the gap between digital and physical

Find creative ways to shorten the distance between digital and physical spaces through eCommerce product enhancements.

Companies must work harder than ever to create that personal connection with customers. Retail is experiencing a growing need for customer service support, along with fast return resolution, troubleshooting, technical support, and innovative thinking. The product experience, the ability to engage with customers online and service them in the instant while enabling them to go in-store to swiftly pick up a product is kingand definitely here to stay. We have seen most of our partners upgrade their eCommerce UX and Product teams.

As the pace of change continues to skyrocket, new technologies like augmented reality will radically redefine the customer experience in the coming years. Have ideas in the pipeline for how your brand can continue reaching customers where they are through blended digital/physical reality.

3. Adopting a DTC model

Direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands manage the entire customer journey from start to finish. During the pandemic, many brands have been adopting this model, which allows them to retain a much greater share of their profits. (They’re also getting better first-hand data on their customers as a result!) Performance marketing can help new DTC brands mitigate risk by guaranteeing increased ROI.

4. Investing in analytics and assessing your eCommerce platforms

A lot of eCommerce platforms are now a thing of the past. We have seen some new platforms emerge, saving time and money for eCommerce companies, which should not have to rely only on an eCommerce platform but also an agency retained to manage this platform. Some companies are offering one-stop solutions to scale a brand online long-term and globally (Scalefast) with a lot of personalization and very limited resources. These platforms are the future of eCommerce.

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Meanwhile, the laggards are those that maintain rigid structures and processes while refusing to take risks. Centralizing everything can hold you back, so you may want to rethink decision-making processes to allow for more agile and creative teams.

The bottom line is that as you plan your digital-first strategy, nothing should be off-limits. Be open to reconsidering absolutely anything, and you might generate ingenious solutions that will bring you to the front of the pack. Look for outside-of-the-box thinkers who are ready to reinvent the roadmap to success.

What are the main challenges in recruitment?

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The key challenge in digital recruiting is the sheer amount of competition for digitally savvy talent. Moreover, companies face a great deal of competition for candidates who are also excellent critical thinkers. The best candidates don’t just have technical skills. They need to be data-driven, creative thinkers, adept at problem-solving with a solid innovative mindset. That is what we evaluate every day in our approach.

The type of talent you need to build your DTC brand through digital transformation differs from what you needed in a more traditional retail environment. To seize emerging opportunities, you need both innovative thinkers and people who can handle the technical wizardry required to bring new ideas to fruition.

You need people who are savvy about the digital realm and understand how to redesign your brand as digitally-oriented. You need employees who can reimagine the digital customer journey (and hybrid digital/physical journey) and think of omnichannel at all times.

They need to be growth-focused, and they need to understand the new tools and have the ability to connect all the dots so these efforts spent across all marketing channels can be measured, valued, and leveraged to drive effective traffic to websites.

Here are the key challenges to attract that talent in the wake of the pandemic.

1. Scaling up quickly

Brands need to fill positions swiftly, as they’re scaling up faster than they’d ever imagined. As mentioned, demand is spiking in areas like customer service. The need to recruit and onboard quickly can feel overwhelming!

2. Assessing whether recruits fit the right profile

Determining whether candidates fit your desired profile can prove difficult if you’re not digitally savvy yourself. Usually, HR teams do not come from digital and therefore have a really hard time even evaluating what is needed to be a strong growth marketer. You may find yourself hiring people to help manage your digital transformation without quite knowing what that journey should look like. This can be a confusing time, but doing some research and talking with digital experts can help you assess what to look for in candidates. 

When discussing your ideas for digital transformation with recruits, show that there’s still room for creative thinking. New talent might bring in game-changing ideas, so make sure you don’t present yourself as closed off to them.

3. Positioning yourself as a digital leader

You’re also tasked with presenting yourself as a digitally oriented company to candidates who want to work for technologically advanced firms. Even before the pandemic, this was important. In 2018, 80% of employees said a potential employer’s use of the latest digital technologies would influence their decision to accept a position there.

4. Hiring remotely

Finding and hiring the right candidates remotely also presents a challenge. Like customers, these candidates want an outstanding remote experience. If your company falls short, it will speak volumes about your prowess in the digital realm. One study found that half of all candidates have turned down a job offer because of poor recruitment experience. Don’t skimp on the details; provide them with a stellar experience that will make them proud to work for you.

Overcoming barriers to recruiting digitally savvy employees

We’ve found these key strategies helpful in recruiting the best possible talent. They’ll help you think outside the box and position yourself as a digital leader!

1. Decide where to upskill your current employees rather than solely recruiting new ones. Conduct a skills audit of your current staff, looking for skills like innovation, problem-solving, and technical abilities.

2. Use enhanced analytics for strategic staffing decisions. Analytical platforms with intuitive dashboards are key to helping managers make better strategic staffing decisions.

3. Redesign organizational roles, upgrading functions. New types of positions may better serve your needs, so consider creating new ones like Chief Digital Officer. Here are a few more functions that are in high demand right now based on what we are seeing in the market:

    • Head of Retention – focusing on customer lifetime value, email marketing, and push notifications to engage with clients and optimize the user experience.
    • Head of eCommerce/Growth – driving the company forward along with its eCommerce and performance marketing roadmap. This should be one role, whomever is responsible for the Acquisition budget should ultimately be responsible for full eCommerce P&L.
    • User Experience (UX) Designer and Product Roles – focusing on optimizing the customer journey across all channels. The omnichannel component is key here.
    • Social Media Coordinator and Community Management Roles – creating a meaningful connection between the consumer and your brand, and driving organic growth. Innovate there, pushing video content and trying new channels.

In native eCommerce companies (those that have always been digital), consider adding more
specific roles centered on community management, placing more emphasis on lifecycle
marketing and analytical roles, and refining your growth marketing with paid media roles.

4. Don’t overlook human skills. Soft skills like adaptability and curiosity are arguably more important than ever because the retail landscape will continue to change. “Technical competence is temporary, but intellectual curiosity must be permanent,” writes HBR.

5. Provide a top-tier recruitment and hiring experience using tactics like these if hiring on your own:

  • Design an intuitive candidate portal to ensure transparency and help them track their status.
  • Make the experience mobile-friendly so candidates can schedule interviews on their phones.
  • Consider holding a virtual job fair to subtly showcase your digital prowess as you recruit new talent!

6. Eliminate unnecessary steps from the hiring process.  If you know you have identified the right candidate and are ready to hire them, move fast; you are not the only one. Great talents are flying now.

7. Consider bringing in consultants who can help existing employees to upskill. Some companies are bringing in new talent who possess needed skills on a temporary or consulting basis, with the objective of integrating those skills into the workplace. Digital upskilling of existing employees can maximize your talent’s capabilities.

8. Working with recruiting partners who are also digital professionals above all will be a game-changer and will accelerate your ability to attract and retain talent because they have the ability to speak about roles accurately. Thus, they can address any of the candidates’ concerns when it comes to expectations, digital journey, digital pace, and overall growth strategies.

Take these actions and you’ll definitely attract more talent. The competition is tough, but by using the right digital recruiting tactics, you’ll show them that your brand’s digital-first strategy makes you an excellent company to work for in the long run.


Dell Technologies, “Measuring Digital Transformation Progress Around the World”

Deloitte, “Future of Work for Retail”

Forbes, “Ending the Retail Apocalypse and the Next Era of Post-Pandemic Retail Innovation: Insights from IKEA’s Chief Digital Officer”

Gartner, “Why Now Is the Time to Accelerate Digital”

German Journal of Human Resource Management, “Recruiting Digital Talent: The Strategic Role of Recruitment in Organizations’ Digital Transformation”

HBR, “Digital Transformation Is about Talent, Not Technology”

HR Daily Advisor, “Digitally-Savvy Companies Have a Greater Ability to Attract and Retain Talent”

IMRG, “Direct-to-Consumer Booms During Covid-19”

Robert Half, “Digital Transformation and the Future of Hiring”

Salesforce, “State of the Connected Customer”

Security Magazine, “Global Pandemic Accelerates Digital Transformation According to Latest Study”

Society for Human Resource Management, “Employers Get Creative with Hiring During Coronavirus Pandemic”

PwC, “The New Virtual Reality of Recruiting”

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Elise de Saint Didier

Elise supports DTC and b2b organizations in growing and scaling through hiring the right talent. She spent 15 years as an eCommerce leader building successful organizations.

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