Shopping isn't what it used to be.The new retail landscape is dominated by cost and online convenience at one end, and in-store immersive experiences offering ‘dwell space’ at the other. Savvy customers - “I’ll just check the price online” - are squeezing retailers that are already facing increased costs and suffering the ‘high street jitters’. To reinvent retail therapy, we need to focus on people, both customers and frontline staff, writes Launchpad’s Will Hamilton.
Why has shopping lost its soul?
The high street isn’t a shopper’s paradise as we enter a new year of trading. A crisis in confidence has led big names like House of Fraser, Debenhams, New Look and Toys R Us to seek rent reviews, to ‘redesign’ their operating models and close stores. All of this comes in the wake of the collapse of BHS last year.
It’s not all doom and gloom. Christmas trading figures show John Lewis, Next and Aldi all did well, but the challenges of convenience, cost and customer experience still loom. So why has the high street lost its shine?
- Online: Online is "taking a bigger share of the spoils with every month” says retail consultant Richard Hyman.
- Convenience: According to Natalie Berg of Planet Retail, "in retail, time wars are becoming the new price wars.”
- Savvy customers: Julie Palmer, retail expert at Begbies Traynor, says shoppers have “grown wise to the gimmicks and discounts on offer in store.”
The saviour of retail will be great people
The combined challenges of online, convenience, and savvy customers mean retailers have to offer something in-store that customers can’t get via other channels - an experience.
We’re starting to spend more on experiences and less on ‘stuff’ – meaning successful retail recruitment needs be centred around the emerging experience economy. China’s leading phone manufacturers Oppo and Vivo recently chose to “eschew online and instead open retail stores on high streets in rural province” and so far, the approach of offering an Apple-esque in-store customer experience has been successful.
In-store technology means we no longer need retail staff to scan items, pack bags and replenish stock. Excellent customer service, the right retail atmosphere, a slick click-and-collect operation create that unique customer experience. In response, the model for hiring in retail has to change.
A new model for hiring
- The shift change for the high-street is promoting brand over products, and for this, you need right-fit hires who are customer-centric and help to drive in-store footfall. It’s a huge challenge in retail where distributed networks and a large number of hiring managers add complexity to recruitment, but this is where technology can help:
- Creating a super-fast, super simple and engaging process. This is what our retail clients demand. A process that is free from lengthy application forms and CV submissions. A process that’s mobile enabled, slick, personalised and keeps communication flowing.
Technology can “negate the need for CVs” says Launchpad Account Director Janet Cane: “Given that a lot of frontline candidates will be applying to their first job, assessments to measure future potential, values and behaviour are more meaningful.”
Technology shrinks time and cost to hire without compromising on candidate engagement: “Automating steps in the process reduces bottlenecks where manual intervention was required, allowing you to progress candidates through to offer stage as quickly as possible. Time to hire is critical in retail. If you take too long, you lose good candidates.” says Launchpad’s Nam Nguyen. For example, “an online scheduling tool eliminates telephone ping-pong.” By getting a good candidate into role quickly, you can negate the impact on sales and customer satisfaction, that could have a significant impact on the bottom line.
- Hiring at volume. Whenever you need to, with no worries about internal resource.
“In retail, there is no shortage of candidates or opportunities and this means finding right-hires in a huge talent pool is highly competitive.” says Nam Nguyen. Technology means you can reach out to large audiences without compromising on communication or timescales for assessment and selection. Automation and machine learning, such as chatbots, help to manage large candidate populations.
“We can tailor an automated candidate journey that works in tandem with an existing ATS” says Janet Cane. “Clients can assess and screen before interview and therefore fast-track those that are best fit.”
- Ensuring consistency of candidate experience. This is especially important in retail where there is usually a large number of distributed hiring managers. Technology empowers store managers, bringing consistency to the process and giving them the tools they need to make fair and consistent hiring decisions.
Technology “makes the candidate experience much more engaging and allows candidates to really understand what a role entails - through video for example” says Janet Cane. A positive candidate experience is the first step giving employees a great brand experience.
Consistency of decision making is also improved through technology:
“It allows you to make more data driven decisions. Analytics mean you might consider candidates that could potentially be a great-fit but might not have been considered using traditional selection processes.” says Nam Nguyen.
We’ll be hosting a number of retail and hospitality round tables over the coming year. If you’re in retail or hospitality recruitment and would like to join our network, please get in touch.