IT in Retail & E-Commerce

Be part of the online transformation of selling and retailing consumer goods
Ivy Simon
Editorial Writer
Be part of the online transformation of selling and retailing consumer goods

IT has massively transformed the process of stocking and selling consumer goods, whether in-person or online.  Technology is now ubiquitous for nearly every task in the consumer retail sector, from sourcing new products and managing distribution networks, to in-store point-of-sale systems and maintaining online storefronts.

Graduates keen on going into this area of IT can expect to find work with three broad types of businesses:

  • Online-only retailers (also known as “pure-click”) that only sell products from a website.
  • “Brick and click” retailers that sell products in physical stores as well as a website.
  • Online marketplace providers, who provide the web platforms on which individual retailers can list and sell their products

Career overview

The type of work you can expect in this sector will differ depending on whether you choose to focus on e-commerce, or on the broader IT infrastructure that supports retail businesses.

If you focus mainly on e-commerce, your main priority is to try and drive online sales by making the online shopping experience as good and easy for the customer as possible across all platforms. Typical responsibilities could include:

  • User interface (UI) design and web development
  • Designing and building mobile apps
  • Developing technology to improve the online shopping experience.
  • Integrating e-commerce storefronts with external systems

By contrast, if you work in IT for a “brick and click” retailer, you may be assigned to handle e-commerce tasks in addition to some of the following:

  • Improving delivery and stock management systems
  • Engineering centralised accounting and control systems
  • Developing and integrating new in-store technology, such as automated check-out systems
  • Maintaining the business’ underlying IT infrastructure

Large retailers and online marketplace providers may run graduate programmes to onboard IT hires. These could be IT-specific programmes specifically within their e-commerce division, or IT-specific programmes across their entire business to help you understand the role of IT in running a successful operation.

If the business has physical retail outlets, you may be required to spend time in-store to understand how things work on the ground, before being placed back at the head office. The work will likely also involve working with different departments within the business. For example, in e-commerce, you may have to work with the marketing team in designing an online storefront site or tracking outcomes from digital marketing campaigns.

Once training is complete, you will have the chance to specialise in a particular IT area. As you progress, you could move towards a management role overseeing small projects, and then on to a broader management role overseeing a range of day-to-day processes.

Trends and developments

In 2021, the value of the Malaysian e-commerce market was forecast to be RM 28.5 billion. This was a roughly 10.7 percent rise from 2020, when the value of the e-commerce market was RM 25.7 billion Malaysian. Since 2016, the country's e-commerce market has nearly tripled in size.

The popularity of online marketplaces has contributed to the e-commerce market's rising worth. The top Malaysian e-commerce sites, including Shopee, Lazada, and PG Mall, receive millions of visitors per month. By 2025, it is anticipated that the gross merchandise value (GMV), or the total cost of the goods traded on such sites, will comprise at least 35 percent of all retail sales in Malaysia.

Omni-channel retailing is another major trend presently driving this sector. Retailers with physical stores are increasingly enhancing customer experience with tech-enabled product personalisation and augmented reality. This includes marketing products to potential customers through a combination of offline retail with online stores, social media marketing, and mobile applications.

Pros and cons

Wide exposure

Because of how fast-moving this industry is, tech professionals often transition between functional areas rather quickly. Those who work in this field frequently point to the wide variety of their work as one of the benefits.

Slow career progression

On the other hand, a common complaint is that job advancement is typically slower in this line of work than in other industries, whether due to high turnover or an overall lack of roles for upward mobility.

Required skills

  • Analytical skills
  • Commercial awareness
  • Ability to work in a team
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Adaptibility