eCommerce Expo shines a spotlight on need for D&I in retail

Day two of eCommerce Expo 2023, which took place at London ExCeL on 27 and 28 September, opened with a keynote session on diversity in retail and how businesses have adapted to the modern needs of digital customers.

Hosted by Anna Brailsford, CEO at Code First Girls, executives from Sainsbury’s, IKEA, Ralph Lauren and Just Eat sat down to give their opinions on why businesses need to accelerate diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives and how employees and customers are driving changes.

Explaining the UK supermarket’s approach to D&I, Karen Brown, Deputy Chief Technology Officer at Sainsbury’s said, “We always think about how we promote diversity across the brand, but it’s driven by the culture of the organisation. Internally, our employees are asking more and more about why they’re doing the work in the first place and what their purpose is. In turn, we’ve started to ask ourselves a lot more about our own values and how we can take a more human approach to our work.”

Jessica Hall, Chief Product Officer at Just Eat, agreed, stating:

“Diversity and inclusion (D&I) isn’t just about doing what businesses feel is the right thing. Studies have proven that having a diverse team brings better creativity and innovation, and at Just Eat we’re always looking for the latest innovation to give us a leap forward and make sure our customers keep coming back. Therefore, ensuring a diverse array of voices are heard within and outside of the business is incredibly important for success.”

With digital channels opening up opportunities for retailers to welcome more diverse customers, Cristina Rutgers-Astolfi, Global Head of Analytics at IKEA said this has had an impact on the way the company operates.

“For IKEA, our customer base has changed so much that it’s critical that we stay on top of these new, diverse needs,” Rutgers-Astolfi said.

“Because we lead through our countries, we need to understand what is driving trends around the globe at a regional level. Whether it’s by country, age, or if they’re male or female, it’s all really important to look into the levels of diversity in each field that impact us.”

The information age has also changed the way consumers shop online, with Kelly Coutinho, Senior Director Data Science & Analytics at Ralph Lauren arguing that retail needs to get smarter in selling to customers.

“Customers these days are so savvy and well educated. They know what they want but they also want different things depending on the generation,” Coutinho said. “As a business, you need a team that reflects these broader perspectives. Innovation is key here but you also need to keep education and learning. That means developing a team that can bring different opinions and ideas to the table but also having a team that can educate you as a leader.”

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