Want to shop ‘til you drop – or help people shop ‘til they drop?
Mash up your love of shopping with a tech career in retail where a wide range of technologies is changing how we shop faster than you can say - where did you get that outfit!?!
Creating innovative, convenient and fast ways to shop online is one tech career area that needs the best and brightest talent to keep thinking up new ways for stores to win the digital race against competitors, especially as mobile shopping explodes.
In 2012, 45% of Canadians planned to do part, or all of their holiday shopping online. More people are shopping either by computer or mobile device for convenience and avoiding the stress of crowded malls, according to an eBay Canada survey.
When you think “retail career” you’re probably not thinking 'tech' because all those professionals who create the coolest things happening in shopping today are behind the scenes. They are the unsung innovators behind everything you take for granted like easy-to-use websites and mobile apps.
Retail also employs armies of data analysts who crunch mountains of data to match market trends to fashion or to ensure a store’s website remembers your shopping preferences so the next time you visit, it immediately shows what’s new in stock that you might like.
But real stores aren’t going to disappear any time soon. They’re also benefiting from some clever techie things that make mall shopping more convenient too since – let’s face it – some of us will always want to hang out at the mall.
Cool Retail Tech
Mobile apps are making big waves in retail. Hot retail apps like Checkout 51 lets shoppers collect cash discounts for products through its online coupons which are accessed and redeemed from mobile phones. No more clipping paper coupons to present at a store’s cashier!
Based in Toronto, Checkout 51 was founded by three entrepreneurs who already have experience building successful businesses. Founders Pema Hegan, Noah Godfrey and Andrew McGrath each bring different educational backgrounds and skills to their new mobile app company including advertising, marketing, business, computer science and software development.
There are also mobile apps that allow shoppers to know everything about a mall like where available parking spaces are the moment you enter a parking lot. Once inside, a mall map on your smartphone will track your GPS location as you walk so you know which stores are near or where the restrooms are.
One new amazing tech for retail that's popping up at mall entrances across Europe, the U.S. and Australia are 3D body scanning booths, Step into the booth and let the tech work its magic! In just a few seconds, it takes 200,000 measurements in 360 degrees using low-power radio waves. The numbers are crunched, you punch a few buttons and out pops a list with your perfect size as well as the style that best suits your body type.
The body scanning technology was developed by a Nova Scotia company, Unique Solutions Design Ltd. Its tech savvy founder, president and CEO, Tanya Shaw is an inventor and entrepreneur who graduated from Dalhousie University’s internationally recognized Costume Studies program. She is also a past owner of a design and wardrobe-planning firm which proves there are many different paths to a career in retail and tech.
If you have a talent for analysis and want to be on the front line determining what will be the next big thing in fashion or consumer gadgets, a career in retail as a data analyst keeps you ahead of the curve. Data analysts crunch mountains of data on buyer preferences by age or geographic region to establish trends that help product or fashion designers develop what people will want to buy.
Apple doesn’t just guess at which new features to build into the next version of iPhone or iPad. Its famous success is based on knowing what people will want before they know they want it. Be a data analyst in retail and you’ll know before everyone else too!
Education, Skills and Careers
Retail employers are not only looking for people who understand information and communications technologies (ICT) and digital tech but have a range of other critical skills such as:
- Problem solving and strategic thinking
- Innovative thinking
- Communications and writing,
- Team work
- Project management
So, mash up these skills with tech to launch a career in retail! Below are a few examples of CareerMash profiles that focus on tech. Each profile includes suggestions for skills and possible education programs to help you get started.
Web Developer - Online shopping is growing every year so more and more retailers will require state of the art websites to provide customers with fun, efficient and secure ways to make purchases online.
Mobile Apps Developer - Shopping is big online but another huge area of career growth is mobile apps designed to help shoppers have the best and most convenient shopping experience possible whether online or in a store. Retailers will continue to need innovative ideas for apps to use on smartphones and tablets.
Tech Marketing - As the retail landscape changes to using even more technology, retailers will need creative and innovative strategies to get their products and services noticed by the most consumers. A tech marketing position will require savvy thinkers to use both traditional and digital approaches to marketing.
Data Analyst - Retailers gather a lot of information about consumers. In order to make the most of this data, it is assessed and organized by data analysts to help retailers forecast trends and identify buying patterns of shoppers.
Computer Security Specialist - More and more, big retailers rely on their websites for online shopping which means they also contain big databases with sensitive customer information like credit card numbers. Security specialists protect online information and ensure all of a retailer’s activities on its website – as well as its shoppers - are safe from hacker attacks.
Help Desk/IT Support - From online shopping software to store checkout systems, IT support is needed by both customers and employees of large stores to resolve their tech issues and guarantee satisfaction.
IT Consultant - To keep customers coming back, stores try to have the best checkout technologies for both online and offline shopping. That’s when IT consultants come in to analyze existing information systems and offer solutions for improvement.
Tech Product/Service Sales - Whether customers need a new phone or if a business wants to implement new hardware, software and information systems, tech salespeople are the pros that provide all the necessary information to close the deal with customers.
Tech Project Manager - When organizations invest in new hardware, software or systems, tech project managers develop the installation plan and manage all of its elements from start to finish to ensure there’s no disruption to the company’s business.
Business Technology Management (BTM) - Tech innovators especially need business skills to ensure their great ideas succeed in the retail sector. This is what the BTM program is all about. It’s not just a tech degree. It’s a business tech degree!