Five Jobs That Will Transform the Future of Retail

It’s easy to bemoan the end of brick-and-mortar retail when faced with continued waves of job cuts at companies like Sears and the decline of household names such as Radio Shack and The Limited. Watching the powerful forces on the internet slowly taking over our physical spaces with impersonal efficiency, it’s only natural to feel that traditional retail is heading into history.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Total retail sales have grown an average of 4.57% year over year since 2010, and show no signs of flagging. With that growth comes new competition and new investment. Besides spawning successful new players like Bonobos and Glossier, this environment is prompting larger retailers like Sephora to invest more heavily in technologies that bridge physical and digital shopping, while Target is partnering with Techstars to discover and accelerate its innovation in technology-driven startups.

Customers who spend more naturally demand more. They’ve demanded—and received—more service, taking full advantage of customized product recommendations, free and fast shipping, and seamless returns. Today, all of this still requires a human touch, either as a face on the front lines or as a strategist in the tech lab. Although the volume of traditional retail jobs is in decline, new opportunities are opening up for visionary retail minds.

Although the volume of traditional retail jobs is in decline, new opportunities are opening up for visionary retail minds.

Here are five new jobs that are the future of retail:

The curator (personal shopper 2.0)

While personal shoppers have long been a role practical only for the high-dollar transactions of the elite, today’s technology allows retailers to leverage their skills for every customer. Curators have their customers’ pulse, understand their needs and deliver the right products online and offline for them to buy.

Stitch Fix, a personal styling and subscription apparel service, knows curators are critical to the long-term satisfaction of its customers. It empowers its curators with data and technology in order to more quickly learn preferences and grow subscribers’ wardrobes. An advanced algorithm may be able to keep track of trends and tastes, but as of today, only a human can connect with a customer’s emotional needs and desires.

The scientist (data wrangler)

Data is a retailer’s most potent weapon, online and offline. At all steps of the buying process, customers produce a veritable treasure trove of data that’s easy to collect but challenging to leverage. KidBox, a juniors’ version of Stitch Fix, increases its success by using predictive modeling based on returns data to ship the proper sizes for each rapidly-growing child—often challenging even for the parent to keep up with. Its goal is for every box to “outperform the box before it,” and data is its secret weapon.

Big Data’s best and brightest are constantly coming up with new ways to engage with this resource, and an insightful Connector can apply these tools to give their retailer a competitive advantage in any realm of operations—including marketing, fulfillment or customer service.

The mixologist (experience designer)

Surrounded by media and hungry for information, today’s customers love powerful stories and rich experiences. The mixologist is a multichannel merchandiser weaving retail experiences that span the online and offline worlds, connecting customers to the brand both before and after the purchase.

Cosmetics retailer and our customer Sephora performs a model integration of the digital and physical. Starting with its Beauty Insider loyalty program, Sephora maintains a personalized and reactive shopping experience on its website and in-store. Its how-tos and interactive point-of-sale displays keep customers engaged and satisfied. Each element requires thoughtful design and careful integration, giving innovative designers rich new opportunities to think about retail interaction.

The expeditor (master operator)

A master expeditor is an oracle who has their finger on the pulse of the company, staying one step ahead of trends and fashion—and is able to align the supply chain to deliver them quickly.

This is the next evolution of the retail operations manager. In an age of instant gratification and agile manufacturing, expeditors maintain the relationships and the balances that produce and move products where they’re needed, when they’re needed. While premier logistics firms and advanced algorithms now offer cutting-edge supply chain management on a global scale, only a savvy expeditor can optimize a retailer’s competitive advantage to give them a leg up for tomorrow.

The dot connector (binding agent)

The shopping scientist is the glue that holds “new retail” together. They architect and maintain the platform of software and algorithms that the experts above use to do their jobs. With a holistic understanding of omnichannel retail, they understand the technological needs of both customers and customer service alike. Equal parts scientist, engineer and communicator, they discover the right methods, implement the right tools, and teach the right people how to realize the full potential of a retailer’s assets.

We’re firmly in the era of the consumer. Consequently, brands and retailers will go through a transformative phase where many (if not most) of the “gears of business” will need to be re-engineered. But every successful business is built by groups of talented people who work in a purpose-driven way to further the company’s mission in service of the customer. If we approach this change with the glass half full, retail reinvention will be a positive and exciting growth opportunity for businesses and consumers alike.


This article was originally published on Forbes.com.