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Helping Women Lead the Way in Retail Technology

Melissa Campanelli is the co-founder of the Women in Retail Leadership Circle, and the brand and content director of the Retail and Travel Group at NAPCO Media, which includes Total Retail, Women in Retail Leadership Circle, and Women Leading Travel & Hospitality. 

Prior to joining NAPCO Media, Campanelli spent 10 years at DM News, where she was first a senior editor and then deputy editor. She is also a leading expert in small business e-commerce and author of the books “Entrepreneur Magazine’s Open an Online Business in 10 Days” and “55 Surefire Internet Businesses You Can Start for Under $5,000.” 

We asked her about some of the women currently in leadership roles in the retail technology industry, and how we can inspire the next generation of female leaders.

Melissa Campanelli

Co-Founder, Women in Retail Leadership Circle

Who was a women CIO in tech who put some innovative strategies into place when the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year?

The first woman who comes to mind is Eileen Mahoney, the executive vice president and chief information officer of PVH, the parent company of leading fashion brands such as Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Van Heusen, and other well-known brands. 

When brick-and-mortar retail stores shut down, Mahoney and her team evaluated their personnel and started to build cross-functional teams based on certain skill sets, disregarding who reports to whom. For example, they took someone in supply chain and moved them to help with e-commerce to provide a fresh perspective and new skill set. Eileen said she found this unlocked people’s creativity and that employees really wanted to help and contribute during this difficult time. This is an example of the kind of creative and out-of-the-box thinking that was necessary during this period.

Can you talk about a few retail tech trends you are watching closely right now that you believe will have a big impact in 2021? 

There are four that really stand out for me:

  • With the growth in online shopping triggered by the pandemic, there has been a huge surge in customers using buy online, pickup in store, or BOPIS, and curbside pickup options. This trend is likely to continue, and retailers that offer these options will thrive.
  • Augmented reality experiences that allow customers to virtually try on clothes will become more popular in 2021. While virtual fittings have been done before, as the technology develops, consumers will start to develop an appreciation for it, and it will start to become even more popular.
  • Personalization, or delivering brand messaging and content tailored to individual customers, has always been an important part of a retailer’s marketing strategy, but thanks to advances in data and AI technologies, personalization has become easier to achieve and as a result will become even more popular in 2021.
  • Livestream shopping, which enables consumers to buy products directly via a  livestream, is one of the most popular trends to emerge from the pandemic. More retailers and brands are embracing this virtual approach to engaging consumers, and as a result, I predict even more livestreaming opportunities will emerge for consumers in 2021. 

Can you discuss some ways women in tech leadership roles can help get more women into the retail technology leadership pipeline? 

As retail continues to become more digital, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) roles are becoming essential to the industry. Currently, however, there is a huge gender gap in STEM professions, with men dominating the fields, and some studies show there are fewer women working in tech and other STEM-related fields today than there were 10 years ago. 

So it’s clear retailers have some work to do to get more women into STEM positions. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Start speaking to girls in their early teens about STEM careers. Make them aware of all the opportunities out there and how to properly prepare for them. Women in STEM can also act as role models, partnering with schools to speak at or develop STEM-based programs, which ultimately help to normalize the concept.  
  • Young women in tech interested in moving up the corporate ladder should find mentors and sponsors or join networking groups where they can meet other women in tech. These kinds of connections are invaluable as they can offer women in tech professional advice, as well as information about job opportunities or opportunities for advancement.
  • Finally, recognize our own unconscious biases towards promoting STEM to boys and not girls, and work toward fixing it.
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