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New retail industry lead, Jill Standish, stirs things up at Accenture

See what trends excite this retail industry veteran and get a peek into what she thinks makes for a great shopping experience.
"I see us as ‘innovator enablers’. We help our clients come up with new ideas, put them in practice and measure the impact."

What excites you the most about Accenture and your new role?
The people I’ve met at Accenture and the opportunities we have in this industry are just fantastic. It’s such a fun culture—with very vibrant and diverse people. This makes it a dynamic place to work, with lots of great ideas and a can-do attitude.

As the global Retail industry lead, I try to ask a lot of questions about what makes us different from our competitors and how we can use that to benefit our clients. My team and I focus on what’s shaking up the industry now—and what it will be tomorrow. We then use that insight to help our clients be more adaptable and competitive. I see us as “innovator enablers.”

What do you find exciting about the retail industry?
Retail has always been my North Star throughout my career. I’ve worked in marketing, sales, consulting and technology but always within the retail industry. It’s a real passion for me. Retail affects everyone, and changes at a much faster pace than some industries. It’s exciting to work in this environment, where we can offer clients our experience, knowledge and fresh ideas to help them stay competitive.

And I confess: I don’t have much time to do it, but I love shopping!

What are traditional retailers doing to stay competitive in such a turbulent industry?
The industry today is in big turmoil. Online retailing has completely transformed the industry and will continue to shape the landscape. Retailers are no longer asking “Why do we need to be omnichannel, why do we need to be seamless or adaptive retailers?” They get it now. It’s about the how. They need to come up with new ideas and manage the complexity involved in executing them. And that’s where we come in.

What is Accenture’s role in helping clients face off disruptive new business models—and even become the next disruptor?
Companies need to get a grip on how fast innovation is happening around them. One way we are helping is by offering to crowdsource start-up creation and bringing it to them. That’s why we participate in Millennial 20/20, which focuses on start-ups in the retail and consumer space. It allows us to bring fresh ideas to them a couple times a year, which they can then use as a catalyst for their own businesses. This of course is only the start. The real work begins when putting these innovations into real experiments.

As “innovator enablers,” we can help our clients find out what will offer real value for their business. We can help them come up with new ideas, put them in practice and measure the impact. Speed is of the essence. A lot of traditional retailers struggle with fast experimentation. They may spend a long time selecting something, piloting and rolling it out—often when it’s far from clear that it would be a valuable commercial idea in the first place. We can help them do all that and fast, before fickle consumers move on to the next thing. And if the idea fails to show value, at least it fails fast—so they can move on to another idea that may prove successful. Some retailers can even set these mini-innovation labs up within their stores to test how consumers respond to a concept.

What trends do you see cropping up that get you excited?
Probably the biggest retail trend right now is flexible fulfilment, like click and collect, curbside pickup or even using Uber for deliveries. Consumers know they have alternatives and they are the ones driving the change. Retailers have to go back to basics to get real-time inventory visibility in order to offer options for pickup or delivery to the consumer. This lack of product transparency is very visible to the consumer. For example, log on to a website and see if there is an option to check whether a product is in stock at a store near you. Most retailers don’t have this capability today and consumers don’t understand why this is so hard.

As a consumer, what do you look for that makes for a great shopping experience?
You can have best technology and processes, but if anything goes awry in the last mile planning—it can have a disproportionate effect on the consumer. Getting it right will make a lasting impression in the customer’s mind. For instance, I recently ordered 10 dresses online from a high-end retailer so that when I am home I could try them on and return those I don’t want. I received seven different boxes, some of which were shipped directly from the store and others from the warehouse. I could tell from the quality of the packaging. The ones from the store were haphazardly thrown into a box without being wrapped in tissue and the packing slip was not the standard. The ones from the warehouse were adorned in the brand’s quality packing material and the bill of lading had clear instruction and shipping labels for the free return. Guess which dresses I bought? Certainly not the wrinkled dresses, which gave me a negative feeling. This doesn’t apply to fast-moving consumer goods, of course, where expectations about presentation are much lower. But in higher margin segments, the brand promise needs to be fulfilled at the last mile to the consumer. If a retailer embarks on ship-from-store fulfillment, they need to make sure they are doing it right—training and rewarding store personnel—otherwise it will be hit or miss, with a negative impact to the business.

Where can we find you on the weekends? What do you do for fun?
I used to be a runner, and even got some of my teams into it. At a previous company, my team thought we should do something crazy if we won a large deal. So we all ran a marathon in Warsaw. But now I’m a yogi. I love the spiritual and physical side of it. And it’s easy to take on the road with my yoga app and a travel mat that fits into my carry-on! It’s very centering for me, when my brain is full of things to do and deadlines. It helps me to focus my mind and sleep well. As a result, I think I’m a better leader; I’m more patient and grounded when getting through situations.

What would people be surprised to know about you?
Even through I’m really busy, I love to cook. Most meals we have as family are mine. And both of my sons, now young adults, are really good cooks. I’m sure that their future wives will appreciate that! I have a huge repertoire, from roasts and chicken pot pies to Italian, Chinese and other Asian cuisines. I like to cook according to the seasons. And I bake a lot. That’s my Zen thing—and my family truly appreciates it!

Recently, I received a coupon for a recipe box or what some refer to as subscription meal service. It was an interesting concept and the recipes looked good, so I thought I’d try it. Well, when I served it to my family, their faces around the table were like sad emoji. The flavors were disappointing, and at that point I realized that the service is for people who don’t normally cook, not gourmet foodies. It’s not something I’d try again. So the lesson for even these new business models—like all retailers—is to know your target audience and market accordingly!