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“Location and analytics consultant,” the job description read. “Responsibilities include supporting the delivery of business insight software tools, helping with product demonstrations, client training and onsite project delivery.”
Javelin Group, which is headquartered in London, is an agency that works with retailers on a wide range of problems, including the not-insignificant question of where to open future stores. Its Location and Analytics Practice, which has more than a dozen specialists on its team, has worked with more than 200 firms and more than 250 shopping centre developers.
“This is very much an emerging role,” says Robin Bevan, director of the Location and Analytics Practice at Javelin. “It’s also becoming a much sought-after resource.”
Much like the early days of the Web, where the need to be discovered through Google drove demand for search engine optimization (SEO) expertise, the rise of location data is opening up the potential for new career paths and increased specialization in many different fields.
“People are aware of the usefulness of location analytics but most are unable to derive from it insights they can use to do their jobs better,” it said.
Mark Smith, Ventana Research’s CEO, told HERE Three Sixty that having location and geographic competencies brings differentiation to those that are applying to any level of analyst or operations position as it helps provide context to optimizing business processes and resulting outcomes.
“Analysts or those with data-related jobs will need even more speciality in knowing how to code and attribute data with a geographic reference,” he said, “and those analysts who know how to apply location-specific analytics will also be important to discover and explore new business potential. Both are critical skills sets.”
Robert Half International, a recruiting firm with more than 400 locations worldwide, has been seeing a steady rise in demand for all sorts of roles in analytics and big data, according to its Toronto branch manager, David Tighe.
“Many of them have huge data repositories with location data, but they’re not using it,” he said. “There’s no mechanism to combine that data into a formula that gives them an advantage.”
Tighe believes location analysts may not always be a new role, but one that evolves from those already working in specialized functions such as business analysis, or those working with business intelligence software. However maximizing the benefit of location intelligence means thinking beyond the company’s own resources, he added.
“The key to optimizing this whole location intelligence plan is not only to leverage your own proprietary data but then to learn how to access open data sources,” he said, referring to data sets that are increasingly being offered out by public sector organizations or industry associations.
Location analyst roles may also flourish as result of consulting projects with third parties, said Bevan.
“Certainly one of the things driving the growth for us is not just providing consulting and analytics support -- it’s taking retailers on the journey to self-service,” he said. “We want to help them migrate those skills and tools across different areas of their business.”
Bevan said the scope of a location analyst’s work might be so specific to a given company that will it mean training recent graduates with the right aptitude.
Smith, however, said location analytics will require a comprehensive kind of business savvy -- understanding where costs and margins can be improved, for instance, while maintaining proper levels of quality in the business.
“This type of talent will not be easy to find, as there are not enough graduating students with these skills, and not as much continuing career education available,” he said, “so finding and retaining these individuals and skills will be essential for every organization.”
Recruiters are used to highly granular needs, argued Tighe. He cited software developers, a broad class of professionals that, in reality, are usually expected to know specific programming languages or certifications to be considered for various jobs.
“I’d suggest people who want to get into this ask to take on additional responsibilities in their current environment,” he suggested. “If you’re a business or systems analyst or developer, it’s making sure that my company has a data management plan, and finding out how to get involved and be a part of that.”
Either that, or wait for more job postings to pop up. If what experts say about the potential of location analytics careers is true, Javelin Group will by no means be the only firm looking.