Mind the gap – the skills gap that is. Everyone knows that supply can’t meet demand when it comes to ecommerce roles.

Mind the gap – the skills gap that is. Everyone knows that supply can’t meet demand when it comes to ecommerce roles. Retailers rationalising their store portfolios and focusing online will only exacerbate the issue.

And given the growth opportunities presented by the web and cross-channel, a combination of lost sales demand and market share will be the effect of the shortage of skills and resources.

But a shortfall of resource is not the only challenge. There is also a lack of ‘relevant resource’; by this I mean people with the appropriate skills to do the job.

The lack of appropriately skilled resource is partly driven by the fact that too many retailers still don’t fully understand what skills are required to run the online channel. There tends to be too much emphasis on technical skills and not enough on core retailing requirements such as good old-fashioned day-to-day trading.

This can be evidenced by the fact that most retailers have very similar structures for their store business because it’s a well-understood model, yet there are no two retailers that have the same structure for their online channel.

One of the main drivers of the shortfall in resource is short-termism, where businesses appear to accept the fact that employees in ecommerce roles will churn faster than in other parts of the business.

Few companies put enough emphasis on staff retention in the online channel. Succession planning, long-term bonuses and opportunities to develop new skills have to be the starting point if you’re serious about giving employees a reason to walk away from the lure of big salary increases to jump ship, which is now commonplace.

Someone told me recently that there are twice the number of people studying journalism today as there were 10 years ago, with half the number of jobs available.

We need to ensure more young people are choosing to come into our industry. Surely the starting point has to be creating more choice of courses for students to consider ecommerce and multichannel retailing as a career.

  • Martin Newman, Chief executive, Practicology