4 new retail jobs spawned by the rise of technology
As people change the way they shop, retailers are evolving their org charts to meet new needs.
Whether it’s shoes, a socket wrench or a TV, the way we buy the things we want is changing with technology—and the job landscape of the retail industry is changing to keep pace.
Brick-and-mortar retailers are altering their operations to cater to online consumers, and omnichannel retailing—which seeks to create a unified, frictionless experience between online and traditional shopping—is expanding.
The goal is to provide better customer service, more interaction with shoppers, and smoother transitions from online to physical product offerings. That means retailers need employees who can work with this technology, as well as develop more and improve it along the way.
If you’ve never considered a job in retail—or are looking for a new challenge within the industry—there are some new positions out there that could spark your interest.
Many retailers are hiring executives to take charge of streamlining and managing their omnichannel efforts. Chief customer officer positions, or variations of this title, are growing, says Joseph Michelli, leadership consultant and author of the upcoming book Driven to Delight: Delivering World-Class Customer Experience the Mercedes-Benz Way.
“These individuals have enterprise-wide responsibility for aligning strategy, processes and technology to address the changing needs and increasing demands of consumers,” Michelli says. Positions vary from C-suite executives to mid-level managers who work to deliver high rates of customer loyalty and satisfaction by improving the company’s online presence and functions.
These new titles being created in retail are a reflection of companies rethinking their internal processes, says Vicki Cantrell, senior vice president of communities and director of Shop.org at the National Retail Federation. People within retail organizations are working together more closely than they used to, and that shift is leading to new jobs and new partnerships.
Big data crunchers
There’s a growing demand for analytics and other data-management skills in the retail industry, too. Titles may vary, but there are directors of customer analytics—those who sift through data about the company’s customers and seek out areas in need of improvement and spot those that are functioning well.
“By looking at the journey of your customer, you can better understand where you need to invest money to serve them,” Michelli says. Analytics professionals also compile data from the industry as a whole to find consumer trends and spending patterns. They can look at the top 10% of customers to see what they want or what aggravates them, and then make decisions about how to improve their overall satisfaction.
Analytics is huge in retail, Cantrell agrees. “It crosses into many areas: into marketing, technology and social media.”
The shift to online buying is creating a bigger need for IT professionals, software developers and Internet-savvy employees who can organize and refocus retailers’ marketing and sales efforts using social media and digital channels.
For example, car buyers are moving from showrooms to online shopping, and Mercedes-Benz USA is changing to adapt to this, Michelli says. “Consumers are spending more time making car purchase decisions online and validating those decisions in the showroom,” he says. “That change has required a different resource allocation to online assets and a different approach to the showroom experience.”
Additionally, the use of social media in retailing needs to be better understood, Cantrell says. “Retailers are in a tough position trying to know how and what to communicate through social because it’s instant and everywhere.” And each social media channel needs to be used in its own way. Different types of customers use different social media channels, so retailers need people who understand those differences and know how to leverage them.
Modern sales associates with an old-fashioned sense of customer service
New tech isn’t just changing the shopping experience in car showrooms. Customers in all sorts of retail settings are using mobile devices as they navigate physical stores, and sales associates may be armed with their own mobile devices to help them. Stores need employees who are good with mobile devices, which isn’t difficult to find, but also isn’t enough, Cantrell says.
“Sales staff need to be trained that different people shop differently,” she explains. “Not every customer is tech savvy—they come to the store for the experience. It’s really important not to assume that everyone wants the tech experience.”
Customer service is still the No. 1 skill needed in retail. Customers want great service no matter how they’re shopping, and they don’t want to wait for it.
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