All retailers rely on technology in some form. Large or well-known retailers, such as Morrisons, Tesco, Marks & Spencer and Arcadia, are expected to have an online platform. Retailers who offer their customers the best in terms of ecommerce and technology (both online and in-store) are dominating the market and online-only retailers, such as Amazon and ASOS, are adding to the competition.
Graduates may find work with two kinds of retailers:
- Online-only (also known as ‘pure-click’) retailers that sell products only from a website.
- ‘Brick and click’ retailers that sell products through physical stores as well as a website.
What is involved in retail ecommerce, IT and technology?
When deciding which employer you want to work for, it’s worth thinking about whether you want to focus on ecommerce or whether you’re interested in the IT systems across the whole of the business.
If you focus mainly on ecommerce, typical responsibilities could include:
- user interface design and web development
- designing and building mobile apps
- developing technology to improve the online shopping experience
One of the main priorities in ecommerce is to try and drive online sales by making the online shopping experience as good and as easy for the customer as possible across all platforms. Commentators have noted that sales through digital channels have been on the rise in recent years.
If you work in technology across a ‘brick and click’ business, you may well be involved in all of the tasks included in an ecommerce-focused job. Additionally, other aspects that you may be responsible for include:
- improving delivery systems
- control systems engineering
- developing new in-store technology, such as better check-out systems
- performing essential tasks to keep the business’ IT infrastructure functioning smoothly
What degree background and qualifications do I need for a graduate job in retail ecommerce, IT and technology?
Some retailers will want you to have a degree in a relevant discipline, such as computer science or engineering, but many will accept applications from candidates of all degree backgrounds. Tesco, Morrisons and John Lewis, for example, accept candidates with any degree subject. However, even if employers don’t specify a degree subject, it is likely that they will specify a degree classification. Tesco, Morrisons and John Lewis, for instance, ask that candidates have a 2.1 or above.
Skills needed for retail technology roles
- Able to adapt quickly to new technology
- An element of natural creativity (particularly useful for those interested in website or app design)
- A creative, but logical, approach to problem-solving
- Excellent commercial awareness and sound business sense
- An understanding of the needs, and an ability to predict the future needs, of consumers
Retail ecommerce, IT and technology: graduate schemes
The focus of graduate schemes in retail technology will vary across employers:
- Some retailers will run general programmes across their ecommerce division, such as New Look’s ecommerce graduate scheme. Programmes like these may include a specific placement in IT.
- Some retailers will run IT-specific schemes within their ecommerce division.
- Some retailers will run IT-specific schemes across their entire business (not ecommerce specific), to help you understand the role of IT in running a successful operation. This is the case for Marks & Spencer’s IT business analyst graduate programme and the John Lewis IT graduate scheme.
Graduates will often begin their scheme by spending time in-store to get a feel for the bigger picture, before embarking on head office placements. Tesco, for example, places those on its technology graduate programme in-store following their induction. Many graduate schemes, particularly those that focus on IT within the business as a whole, will also involve working within different areas or departments of the business. For example, during an ecommerce scheme you may spend time looking at the content or design of the retailer’s website before moving on to a placement in online marketing. Once training is complete, many programmes will offer you the chance to specialise in a particular area. As you progress you could move towards a management role overseeing a small project, and then on to a wider management role overseeing a range of processes. Typical job titles include ‘digital product manager’ and ‘ecommerce operations manager’.