Office products retailer Staples has been on a hiring spree to support its big bet on e-commerce. The company has been adding “hundreds of engineers, including many from Web-only retailers who can help the retailer to bridge gaps in creating and managing technology across stores and digital,” according to Internet Retailer.
In September, Staples announced plans for its Seattle Development Center, described as “an innovation hub rivaling Silicon Valley” with up to 50 employees hired in positions like software development, product management, usability, analytics and online merchandising. It’s now advertising for several software engineering positions there.
In October, Staples acquired San Mateo, Calif.-based conversion marketing platform company Runa to help build out its data analytics capabilities. Like other retailers, Staples is trying to gain capabilities in analytics through acquisitions that also yield highly sought-after talent. Other big-box retailers that have done the same include Home Depot, which bought pricing startup BlackLocus, and Walmart Labs that acquired predictive analytics platform Inkiru. At the time of its Runa deal, Staples said it planned to add 20 to 30 more people to build up its analytics staff up to around 50.
Staples’ mobile team is based at its Velocity Lab in Cambridge, Mass., with up to 75 employees focused on customers’ growing preference for mobile shopping. Its open positions there include senior engineer mobile, senior UI software engineer and e-commerce data architect.
“Staples has been hiring additional engineers to its Seattle Development Center, as it continually enhances its digital properties to help customers make more happen,” Staples spokesman Mark Cautela told Dice News. “For the new Staples Innovation Center in San Mateo, Staples has been adding associates with backgrounds in Clojure programming, deep learning and data science. And for Staples Velocity Lab in Cambridge, the company is continually searching for the best mobile talent. Staples is also looking for project managers, additional engineers and e-commerce professionals for its corporate headquarters in Framingham, Mass.”
Improving the Mobile Experience
Last August, the company rolled out a redesigned mobile website with improved integration with its Staples rewards program. It plans to launch its first iPad app this spring. So far, the company’s maintaining a separate mobile site, smartphone app and tablet-optimized site rather than using responsive Web design to create one site that adapts to any screen size. That’s a more expedient way to improve the customer experience, though the retailer plans to move all its sites into responsive design starting at the end of this year, Executive Vice President of Global E-Commerce Faisal Masud said recently.
Staples feels pressure to improve the mobile experience because frustrated buyers quickly move on to other sites, Masud said. “As much as we want to go to responsive, there’s not time right now,” he explained. “We have to fill a short-term gap where we have a lot of traffic going [to mobile].”
Among other things, the company is incorporating buying histories into its product recommendations and using information about users’ browsing habits to make each session more relevant.
In addition to its mobile strategy, Staples is leveraging technology as it pares down its brick-and-mortar stores. Its developers are working on software that allows customers with Android phones to connect with in-store kiosks that highlight products they’ve tagged in the mobile app. And, it has developed technology that alerts a sales associate if a customer stands in the store’s ink section for more than a minute and a half.
While Staples sells more than $10 billion worth of products online annually, second only to Amazon among the world’s Internet retailers, sales dropped 1.2 percent in 2012. It will announce 2013 results on March 6.