Retail is serious about tech. It’s time for tech to get serious about retail

By Luke Coleman, Argos

20th June 2017

Guest post by Luke Coleman, senior tech talent partner at Argos

Despite many recent developments, retail is still not seen as particularly tech-focused or forward-thinking. Its reputation for being a comparatively slow environment to work in with old legacy code, bureaucracy and consultancies and offshore teams is proving difficult to shake.

At Argos, we’re on a journey to become one of the UK’s leading digital retailers. And we recognise that the role of technology in maintaining and increasing our lead in the market has never been more fundamental, and it’s my job to find the people who will help to make that happen.

In such a competitive environment, where skilled technologists are in high demand, I believe that the most fundamental part of attracting the right talent to this industry is being totally clear about who you are and what you can offer a potential candidate.

This has to go beyond remuneration and working environment: both are important, but the most impressive people are looking for more. They want to join a business that is on a development path that mirrors their own career plans and interests, and which presents them with the opportunities and challenges they in turn want to encounter and overcome.

So how does a retailer still seen by many as defined by catalogues and little blue pens build a corporate ambition that matches those of the country’s top minds?

We start with pledging our commitment to technological advancement. A lot of it is there to see in the numbers: we saw roughly 1.2 billion hits from consumers on our digital channels over the past 12 months. That demonstrates to everyone, from the accounts department to the sales executive, how important we know digital retail has become.

A robust internal communications machine is also crucial. We launched the ArgosLabs accelerator programme where developers can share what they’re building or what they’re learning—not just within the business but also externally to build their own reputation. We hold seminars with external speakers and encourage knowledge sharing throughout our team­­—that’s an important self-development exercise both for the individual and for our business.

Naturally, we won’t be the right fit for everyone. But we stand by the nature of the work our teams undertake, and are boosted by the reputation we have forged—as a business that is serious about tech.

Our pitch to technologists is: ‘we’ve noticed that the industry needs a fundamental change—wouldn’t you like to be a part of that?’

Listen to more of Luke’s thoughts about finding the best tech talent on Eulogy’s latest Behind the Headlines podcast below: