Jo Roberts, director of content strategy at Circus Street, explores the must-have digital skills for senior leaders in the F&B industry, looking at where to invest time and resources to drive success.
This coming year could be one that puts many food and beverage businesses under the microscope. The economic downturn means that budgets will be under pressure. At the same time, the commercial landscape continues to rapidly evolve as the digital bar keeps getting higher. The sheer speed, scope and impact of technological change are challenging businesses in fundamental ways, and companies that can’t keep up the pace risk falling by the wayside.
Consumers and customers have higher than ever expectations of the digital capabilities of the businesses they use, and now expect a more personalised and instant service than ever. Businesses therefore need to look at how they can ensure they are positioned to take advantage of the technology available to them to best support their customers in 2023.
Many F&B businesses typically lay the foundations of digital capabilities in technologies and third-party partners, but to truly scale this needs to be driven by leadership. While the industry is filled with talented specialists, it does not follow that they have the necessary digital skillset for this day and age. Employees need to be given the opportunity to gain the knowledge and tools to use advanced and ever-changing technologies to support them in the workplace.
This can have an important knock-on effect on customers who quickly pick up on the competence of your people, and can make the difference between winning and losing a sale or contract. So, what are the critical digital skills F&B leaders should focus on in order to drive transformation, deliver success at scale in the business, and prepare for next-gen customer engagement?
A data critic
Data is vital for successful growth, and businesses desperately need the analytical skills required to effectively turn the information available to them into profit. At the root of this is the critical and rigorous evaluation of data. Success lies in considering the tasks that you want to perform, the data that you will need, how you will safeguard information, and how you will leverage it to build business cases and inform decisions. The more data expertise you can require the more future-proof and attractive your skill set becomes. At the very least, the leadership team need to have a basic understanding of statistics to apply data insights to their daily work thoughtfully.
Getting to grips with AI
We are living in a new age of AI and automation. The use of it will become increasingly common and ever more sophisticated, starting to really transform the way we do business. Businesses are increasingly adopting these technologies to aid and scale deep thinking and analysis. With this comes a requirement for businesses that want to be at the forefront of innovation to furnish their leadership team with a proper understanding of AI and new techniques such as machine learning, and the way it can support and empower a modern team. Colleagues need to be made aware of the possibilities that AI offers and its evolving changes, in order to understand potential AI applications in F&B.
The power of social media
More and more users are becoming aware of products, making purchasing decisions, and consuming brand media via social media. At the same time, the space is constantly evolving in terms of the relative popularity of platforms and how they are being used. These channels can not be fully understood simply by reading research or blogs – they need to be experienced. This means becoming an active user. Newer platforms, such as TikTok, Reddit and Instagram are drawing in a younger crowd, and whilst some marketers may be familiar, there will be another group of marketers who stick to old favourites like Twitter and Facebook. However, being a well-rounded digital expert means understanding every available social channel – even if you are not the target demographic.
A digital leader
To be an effective team leader it’s necessary to be able to adjust to the new digital environment that we work in, and the changing expectations of employees. Remote and flexible working is here to stay and this has brought about fundamental changes to the management experience. Understanding how to best use technology to manage tasks, monitor productivity and engage team members is critical. As is determining the best way to structure workflows, assess results and enable the equal development of remote and in-office workers. In short, to be a modern manager you need to be able to lead both in the office and digitally.
An environmental advocate
With the sheer volume of monumental news over the past few years, it can be easy to forget that we’re also in a major climate emergency. Environmental concerns are not going to go away and will continue to rise up the corporate agenda. In all likelihood, a combination of social and legislative pressure will eventually compel all businesses to act more sustainably. As a result, understanding factors such as sustainable sourcing, ethical supply chains, and carbon neutrality will be important for every marketer if they want to effectively protect their brand’s reputation. The more knowledge and practical experience you have in running green-focused marketing campaigns the better.
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