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More 'pi-shaped people' needed for the retail sector

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15th Jul 2014
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Despite a growing need to place data analytics at the centre of customer insights and marketing, retailers are failing to find the “new breed of professional” required to evolve their businesses and compete for the omnichannel customers’ attention.

That’s the view of Rethink Recruitment, which has released its latest retail report documenting employment trends in the sector.

It appears the future retail employee is pi-shaped; or rather, someone who has an understanding of how to use data and analytics tools, but is also able to tap into a broader range of skills both in art and science, with capabilities in both ‘left brains’ and ‘right brain’ disciplines.

However, a skills void is developing as education institutions attempt to mould this more all-encompassing, technical scholar to the job market. Jim Sterne, founder of the Digital Analytics Association stated last November that the type of person being searched for was at present, a “purple unicorn”, and that it could take a number of years before the jobs market was deliver the skills sets required.

Rethink’s director of retail, Kate Barron is more optimistic; suggesting the shift towards analytics simply means retailers need to “think outside the box” in terms of talent management:

“It’s not entirely surprising to see a shift in demand from professionals with extensive retail experience to those from outside the sector, particularly in the midst of a skills shortage. Businesses need to innovate to drive improvement and one of the only ways of doing this is to look for fresh thinking.

“That’s not to say those already in the arena will be out of work. The traditional roles such as buying, merchandising and production will always have a place in the sector, but they’ll be joined by roles in new areas that will aid the organisation’s growth. In the future we predict retail professionals will possess well rounded skill sets with experience and understanding of different areas of the market and how they can affect the business.”

Rethink’s research cites a recent survey by technology firm Brickstream, which found that 71% of businesses in the retail sector are using, or plan to use, analytic technology in their stores.

Yet the need for more insight and a fusion between physical and digital stores is driving the need for more expertise, as well as what the research calls a “shift from organisations being retailer-led to consumer-driven”.      

This year’s IBM Global Business Services Executive Report found that the percentage of consumers making purchases in store has declined to 72% from 82% in 2012, with ecommerce creating a whole new need for retailers to try and better understand their omnichannel customers, and in-turn, search for potential employees with the ability to do so.

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