Skills shortage triggers retail bonus for data experts

shopping_2Retail brands’ quest to build in-house data teams is being hampered by a dearth of suitable candidates in the market, but this is creating major opportunities for data firms and consultants to step into the breach and support firms’ ongoing data strategies.
With data science and analytics now recognised as one of the key strategies to tackle high street woes, three-quarters of UK retailers are planning to invest more in their data operations.
Yet while upskilling internal teams is the number one priority for the vast majority (74%), both purchasing external data and hiring data consultants feature heavily in their investment plans.
That is according to Knowledge is Profit, a new Retail Week report containing exclusive research and in-depth interviews with nearly 60 retail leaders.
When it comes to strategic and investment priorities, 48% of those surveyed said they have struggled to find candidates for data roles, with 36% saying their organisation has an insufficient data skill-set. Almost a quarter (24%) put engaging third parties for data analysis support in their top three goals.
Last year, Marks & Spencer took matters into its own hands to tackle the skills shortage by becoming the first major retailer to launch its own data academy in an effort to turn staff from every department into data experts as part of plans to bolster its digital strategy.
Meanwhile, Argos ramped up its data and digital operations by launching a major recruitment drive with the aim of hiring over 150 new staff for its tech division, boosting the headcount to 450.
Speaking to Retail Week, Shop Direct chief technology officer Andy Burton said: “We still want to bring in new tech and data talent and have gaps that we’re looking to fill. Hiring more big data engineers is high up on our current agenda.”
A recent IDC report predicted that the data analytics market is set for a major surge over the next five years as more and more companies embrace digital transformation, with revenues for big data and business analytics solutions predicted to reach $260bn (£200bn) by 2022 with a compound annual growth rate of 11.9%.

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