“For the last twelve years, I’ve worked at a local big-box supermarket store. I’ve done it all–cashiering, stocking shelves, inventory, and even managed a small department for the past two years. Honestly, though, I feel like I’m going nowhere! I want a career change that uses skills I already have. What are my options for transitioning into an online retail job?”
Online retail is hot right now–this isn’t news at all to most people, but it’s a fact that’s already had an impact on waves of different big-box retail stores around the nation and the world. For some, this might’ve seemed like a reason to run away from a retail career and jump ship for a new industry. In fact, though, there are a lot of ways you can move into a new job within retail that’s built to last. That is, you can find a new career in online retailing and use the skills you already have.
Transferable Skills That Bridge You Into Online Retailing
As someone who’s worked in the world of big-box retail already, you’ve probably picked up some useful skills that can carry you into a career in online retailing. It often pays to take a self-inventory of what you’ve learned.
- Merchandising: This is a vital skill for many jobs at online retailers, even if you don’t have “merchandiser” in your official title. Having some basic familiarity with how retail goods are presented to attract more shoppers can give you an edge, even when products are sold online. Knowing what makes for attractive product presentation can translate directly to online retailing–where the right photos and product presentation is essential to boosting sales numbers.
- Retail Lingo: You know COGS (Cost of Goods Sold), SWAS (Store Within a Store), PDQ (Pretty Darn Quick), and what an endcap is. Item numbers, barcodes, and out-of-stock are familiar to you. Whatever retail terms you’ve picked up may help you out when you switch to your new role. While not all of these concepts have exact counterparts online, there’s plenty of overlap and that can help you.
- Departmental Knowledge: What you know about different store departments can give you an “in” at an online retailer. If you’ve been managing a housewares department for ten years, you’ll probably be a natural fit for the household goods segment of an online store.
- Supplier Savvy: If you’ve spent time interacting with representatives from your store’s suppliers, such as merchandising reps or account managers, then you might know a thing or two about basic interactions with vendors. You might know the right questions to ask, how to troubleshoot problems with store accounts and how to work with brand ambassadors.
- Sales and Reporting: Your knowledge of the nuts and bolts of sales, particularly if you’ve worked in a store management role, has probably taught you some basics of inventory, shipping, product management, forecasting, and planning. You can probably read a basic sales report and understand how to look for what is directly impacting your department’s bottom line and profitability.
Okay, so you know now that you probably have what it takes to succeed in a career within online retailing, working for an ecommerce platform like Amazon, Wayfair, or Jet. That’s only half the battle. Now, you have to position yourself for the right entry point and find your first job with an online retailer. Do you know how to make the leap?
Making Your Move from Big-Box Store to Online Retail
Before you start looking, you’ll want to define your expectations and look for realistic ways to switch to online industry. While these roles clearly do have a lot in common with your old career, there are some important differences and you’ll need to prepare yourself for the different work environment and different demands. Since online retailers depend on the Internet, you’ll also need a basic level of technical know-how. You should be comfortable with technology and unafraid of using websites, of course, to work well for an online store. For that matter, it probably helps if you buy online yourself.
You may also need further education and training, depending on the type of job you want. If you plan on helping design retail websites, for instance, you’ll likely need formal education in web design.
Great Jobs in Online Retail
So, what types of jobs are available? Here are just a few of your options:
- Merchandiser: You’ll be managing in-stock levels and making sure the right products are ordered from suppliers in the right quantities. Website retailers, just like brick-and-mortar retail stores, also need to make sure they always have the products customers want and are ready to ship them. Titles: Assistant Merchandiser, Distributor, Merchandise Administrative Assistant, Senior Merchandiser, Online Merchandising Analyst, Director of Merchandising. Salaries: $59.049 to $95,184 per year; $71,721 average (Source: Paysa).
- Online Retail Buyer: Buyers in online commerce, just like in big box retail, are responsible for understanding and responding to trends in customer demand for various products and making the decision to purchase new product lines on the retailer’s behalf. The products you select will show up online, so it’s important for buyers to have a great grasp of both the segment/department they purchase for and what customers really want. You may also need a college degree for this job. Titles: Assistant Buyer, Online Buyer, eCommerce Buyer, Senior Buyer, Director of Purchasing. Salaries: $76,531 to $85,719; $79,716 average (Source: Paysa).
- Online Sales and Logistics: If you know about managing store books and records, tracking reports, managing store logistics and watching sales data trends, a career in online sales and logistics may be for you. You may need a degree and/or background in accounting or finance for this one, but retail experience in the field at a big box store will be very helpful. Titles: eCommerce Sales and Logistics Coordinator, Internet Sales Coordinator, Online Sales Analyst, Logistics Analyst. Salaries: $33,433 to $65,072; $44,574 average (Source: Paysa).
- Web Designer: Looking to design online storefronts? You’ll be applying your retailing knowledge and experience to help you create and modify online stores so customers can find what they need and have a painless buying experience. Keep in mind, though, this career will require training and/or experience in web design, so you’ll need to make sure you get the right preparation. Titles: Junior Web Developer, Web Developer, User Experience Designer. Salaries: $58,232 to $86,362; $68,077 average (Source: Paysa.)
Ready to Make the Switch?
If you’re ready to make the change to online retailing, it’s important to stay focused and be willing to experiment with different strategies. Online retail is a growing field, but can be very competitive–candidates who are flexible and willing to look at multiple ways to break-in may have the best chances.
With a little luck and hard work, you too can join retail’s fast-growing segment and boost your career.
– Kaitlin Morrison, is contributing writer for careers and jobs.