It is often said that the key to succeeding in digital commerce is the ability to create value from your data.
Businesses that subscribe to this view (and the evidence for it is compelling) place a high value on people who can use their understanding of data science to create consumer-facing technologies that drive demand and loyalty.
Which brings me to Farfetch, the online fashion platform that sells luxury products from boutiques and brands from around the world. This week Farfetch announced the appointment of Kshitij Kumar to become its first chief data officer in a move that has demand-generation at its heart.
Educated in India and with a Masters degree from the University of Victoria in Canada, Kumar is a self-proclaimed data expert who lists AI, machine Learning and blockchain among his passions.
In his current role as VP for data solutions at online fashion giant Zalando, Kumar is the driving force behind its application of machine learning and AI to improve data analytics, personalisation and fulfilment.
Prior to Zalando, he was responsible for ‘big data’ analytics at Ericsson and has also founded and sold his own video delivery start-up TellyTopia.
Indeed, scroll through his CV and you’ll find numerous examples of Kumar employing cutting edge technologies to improve the customer experience across a variety of industry sectors.
Retail faces fierce competition from sectors such as financial services and communications to attract talented computer scientists like Kumar, but businesses like Zalando and Farfetch, along with the likes of Amazon and Alibaba, are increasingly able to attract and retain the best IT talent by conducting worldwide searches and giving candidates the opportunity to indulge their creativity.
Recruiting tech expertise in itself is not enough, of course. Announcing Kumar’s appointment, Farfetch also confirmed that Holli Rogers will become its first chief brand officer while remaining chief retail executive of its sister company Browns.
The business’s founder and chief executive José Neves said the appointments reflected Farfetch’s strategy of “blending both the ‘art’ of building a fashion brand and the ‘science’ involved in building world-class, data-driven, demand-generation capabilities”.
Retail is changing rapidly. And while core skills such as brand building will still be sought after, in other respects the skillsets of the future will look very different from those of the past.