BrainStation sat down with retail executives across three cities at our Future of Retail panel series to ask about where the industry is headed.
If you’re unsure about the future of eCommerce, consider this: each month, nearly 200 million people around the world log on to Amazon.com, the world’s leading online retailer.
Other global platforms are also experiencing growing success, and putting plenty of bricks-and-mortar retailers out of business in the process — from small, independent book shops to video store chains like Blockbuster.
“Purchases have grown year over year,” says Steve Tissenbaum, a Professor in the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University. “Spending on Cyber Monday, all the way up to Christmas, has grown to 40 or 50 percent of purchases.”
And according to the 2019 BrainStation digital skills survey — which included responses and thoughts on the current digital landscape from thousands of people around the world — more than 45 percent of executives say eCommerce is an area their organization is actively investing in.
So what does all that mean for job seekers?
Job Opportunities are Growing — Fast
Online shopping accounts for less than 10 percent of retail sales in the United States, according to the New York Times, but it’s sparking big growth in new career opportunities.
Employment attributed to electronic shopping firms has doubled in the last five years, the authors note, and went up more than 330 per cent over the last decade and a half.
“Since 2007, the e-commerce sector, including fulfillment centers, has created 355,000 new jobs,” says Michael Mandel, Chief Economist Strategist for the Progressive Policy Institute, in Forbes.
Part of that hiring boom comes from the fact that companies simply get more bang for their buck from eCommerce hires, by selling more products with fewer, better-paid workers.
And the growth “far exceeds” the 51,000 jobs lost since 2007 in the general retail sector, Mandel adds.
Tech Sector, Supply Chain Space Seeing Growth
eCommerce is a broad field, and Tissenbaum says job growth is happening in several key areas.
“There are more people in supply chain management, more programmers being involved, there are more sites, more apps… that generates a lot of opportunities for jobs in the tech sector,” he explains.
Social media, for instance, “is going to be very big” as companies continue striving to drive people to their online platforms and raise awareness amid an increasingly-competitive digital marketplace, Tissenbaum says.
And as physical storefronts are more likely to shutter, he says there will be a shift in those roles as well: The trend of fewer and fewer customer-facing retail jobs will continue, coupled with a rise in warehouse and transportation staff.
“There will be a greater need to satisfy consumers with deliveries,” Tissenbaun explains.
He also predicts major growth in the rental sector, which could continually displace traditional retailers as environmentally-conscious (and often cash-strapped) younger generations strive to own a lot less — which could create major growth in that current niche.
“They’ll rent from furniture to cars to bikes, as we see now — and clothing,” he adds.
How Job Seekers Can Put Their Best Foot Forward
Anyone hoping to tap into eCommerce hiring sprees needs to take stock of their own skill set and put their best foot forward to land a gig in this rapidly-evolving and growing sphere.
Tissenbaum says it’s important to keep in mind when job hunting which roles are on the rise (Programmers, Supply Chain Workers) and which ones are less secure (old-school retail jobs).
“It will be an interesting time,” he says. “But it will be very different as to the skill set that’s needed now.”
Given the increasing need to advertise emerging online retailers, specializing in advertising and promotion will be key, particularly when those skills are coupled with a tech background. “Those people who are extremely adept at creating traffic through social media will be in greater demand,” says Tissenbaum.
And the bottom line, he adds, is to get the high-paid behind-the-scenes jobs making eCommerce a reality, there’s one key skill: “Everybody really needs to learn how to program,” he says.