You know you’re not anonymous on our site. We’re greeting you by name, showing you past purchases, to the degree that you can arrange to have transparency combined with an explanation of what the consumer benefit is. Jeff Bezos

Just as Uber is a software company, Amazon is a tech company. So are Google and Facebook. It just so happens that retail is one of Amazon’s major weapons in trading currency for data. To describe Amazon as a retailer is like describing David Jones in Australia as a corner shop.

And it remains entirely conceivable that others of this scale, such as Google and Facebook will follow suit at the intersection of technology accelerating retail and in some ways redefining the very definition of retail. Complex and grand datasets all permeating into deep learning, personalisation and speed on steroids.

Classically, retailers employ all the roles we associate with retailing and if Amazon are a retailer by these standards, then they would employ all the roles a retailer employs wouldn’t they?

So who do these global tech companies employ and in what areas?

Amazon head office draws many of its staffers from nearby University of Washington in Seattle, and 83 per cent of its employees hold bachelor’s degrees. More than half (57 per cent) know Java, and 45 per cent are skilled in software development.

Even Apple, that we typically refer to as a retailer, has the following skill sets within its  ranks, software development (28 per cent), with Java coming in second at 27 per cent.

At Facebook, programming languages are in demand, with 46 per cent of its employees knowledgable in Java and 44 per cent in Python. Other top skills include C++, distributed systems, algorithms, and machine learning.

I wonder if David Jones or any other “traditional’ retailer would have such a profile in their collective skill sets? And for that matter should they? Are they the professional role profiles of our future retailers?

We are being swept into this wave of the science of retail. Consumer science is one thing, automated personalisation, predictive capabilities are another, although the “human to human” relationship is at the heart of retail if we do it brilliantly and with passion. The art of retail if you like.

Very hard for a Java programmer to replicate that,  isn’t it?

Brian Walker is founder and CEO of the retail consulting company, Retail Doctor Group. He specialises in the development and implementation of retail and franchise strategies. He can be contacted on 02 9460 2882 or


First published InsideRetail on August 17, 2017