Despite ever-growing announcements of store-closings and retail layoffs, there’s one retail job that is still in high demand: data scientist.
With the explosion of e-commerce, brick-and-mortar stores are facing increased pressure to deliver an exceptional shopping experience to their customers; they have to find new ways to compete.
U.S. consumers still make about 85% of their purchases at physical stores, but with tougher competition, retailers and brands need an edge when it comes to nudging consumers toward a purchasing decision. That’s where the data comes in.
Retailers have traditionally made pricing, inventory and placement decisions based on the experience and intuition of their managers. But now data can answer those questions for you with more accuracy, without bias and in less time.
“Data is your friend,” said Jay Samit, a vice chairman at technology consulting firm Deloitte Digital. “Data has no ego. Data will never steer you wrong.”
According to a recent article on Bloomberg.com, major retailers like WalMart and Macy’s are ramping up their use of data and expanding their data teams.
“Five years ago, if you were to say there was a team of Ph.D. data scientists at Macy’s that are thinking about our most strategic problems, people would have thought you are crazy,” explained Chief Strategy Innovation Officer Justin MacFarlane at an investor meeting in June.
But the team has come together “very, very quickly,” MacFarlane said. “And the real power of data and data analytics is focusing those resources and that talent on the core business.”
Glassdoor published a report on Wednesday that indicated that even as retail stores close, the retail industry is gaining ground in software jobs. It found that the retail industry increased 7.5% to 13.9% of software job postings since 2012. This was the highest industry segment of all, and over information technology companies, which came in second at 8.8% of job postings. Glassdoor attributes the growth of software-related jobs to the surge of online retail being driven by Amazon and WalMart. Notably, the manufacturing industry came in third, posting 6.1% of software jobs, with a push for leaner and smarter processing.
Glassdoor predicted this uptick in software jobs last year, naming retail data scientist as a top 25 job for 2016. SAP’s extended supply chain executives stated that these hires would be critical, stating that, “It’s essential for not only collecting, managing and analyzing supply chain data, but also for garnering advanced predictive analytics to help executives make more intuitive, accurate and reliable decisions, allowing them to deliver goods and services ahead of the competition.” Retailers are searching for great candidates in this area, and they are hard to find because of the need for a mix of retail business acumen, technology skills, intuition and the math they need to bring to the role.
There are 2 succinct roles retail is trying to fill: the data engineer who gathers and collects the data, and the data scientist who takes value from that data and tries to understand the meaning of what the data is telling them. Because both roles need to be filled, retail typically tries to fill it with one person (extra difficult to find) or they outsource the jobs to other companies, like Accelerated Analytics. Accelerated Analytics can take the large volume of retail data and embed the analytics into usable reports that can be understood and acted on by people across the organization.