Seeking data-savvy staffers

September 23, 2013

Data-rich competitors like Amazon will push conventional chains to find more tech workers.

Retail competition is reconfiguring, given the new ways people shop with phones and tablets and the increased power of online sellers. 

There will undoubtedly be growing needs for information workers, who can expediently analyze data to yield insights about what consumers want and what stores do that please or annoy them.  Few chains have the recruiting appeal of Google or Apple, but they are increasingly resourceful about attracting data talent.  Sears, for instance, recently hosted a hackathon to help fill technology positions, reported The Wall Street Journal

Brick-and-mortar operators will need more data analysts because giants Amazon and Walmart are experimenting with same-day food delivery services that could encroach on conventional supermarket business in many markets.  With every new customer order, online sellers build insights and learn how to leverage relationships. 

With data-savvy staffers who’d conceivably be technology-empowered to make decisions at many levels, retailers could respond quickly to customer needs and potentially improve performance.  However, demand for this talent exceeds the supply.  The Lempert Report believes the pending high costs to recruit are already influencing decisions to limit compensation and benefits for conventional retail staffers.

Add this to the possible impact the Affordable Care Act could have on business costs—and we’ll see less retail generosity to non-information workers.  Trader Joe’s—which had been exemplary for giving part-time workers (less than 30 hours a week) health care, dental and vision coverage for a reportedly modest cost—announced last week this practice would end this year.   Companies also impose spousal surcharges on health insurance—20% of large employers already do this, and 13% more will do so in 2014, according to a survey by Towers Watson and the National Business Group on Health, reports The Associated Press. 

Retailers need Millennials in abundance as tech workers as well as shoppers.  Chains that invest in the technologies and cultures that attract them will gain a significant edge—because the analysts will be delivering deep insights about their own generation.