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How to Attract Top Talent in Today’s Retail Landscape

Guest Blog by Susan Vitale

The workforce is more competitive than ever due to cost-cutting and consolidations across the board, and the retail industry is especially feeling the squeeze. Mobile shopping has consumers skipping stores and using their mobile devices to make purchases instead. It’s a trend that’s altering the composition of the retail job market.

Recent reports show that department stores cut more than 38,000 jobs last year, and with consumer spending dipping in the first quarter of 2013, things are getting even tighter. On the other hand, economists are optimistic about e-commerce, which now accounts for 5.5 percent of total sales and is estimated to increase 15.2 percent from the first quarter of 2012.  Retail recruiters need to find cost-effective ways to source, communicate with, and hire talent to fit the changing landscape of available retail positions. Here are some of the fundamentals for attaining top retail talent on a tight budget:

1. Build Relationships with Your Target Audience

Recruiters in the retail industry have one huge advantage: strong brand recognition. Leverage your brand to connect with candidates. If you use talent acquisition software, you can easily display a consistent brand across all communications, like career portals, career microsites, and automated email communications.

And don’t forget to harness the power of social media to showcase your employment brand. By promoting job openings through sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+ you can further your reach to potential new talent and immerse them in your company culture at the same time. It’s a great way to keep candidates actively engaged ensuring top talent is looking when an opening is posted.

2. Social Recruiting

Social media is also an extremely effective recruiting tool. Retail recruiters who deploy an automated social media distribution tool for their job openings gain insight into which channels perform best for specific positions. For example, some retail positions, like part time cashier, tend to be geared toward a younger audience. Millennials, defined as individuals born between 1981 and 2000, have the highest social networking penetration of any generation, so if you want them, you need to use social media to reach them. Retailers find increased effectiveness by targeting niche networks. Pinterest, for example, can be a great environment to find creative types, while LinkedIn tends to attract white-collar candidates. Choosing the right venue will help you better target your search and save time, money, and effort. Recruiters should also tap into their current social media following. People interacting on your social sites should be considered potential quality candidates since they have already shown an interest in your brand and your organization. One of the great benefits of social media is that many engaged users on your page are part of an untapped candidate pool right at your fingertips.

3. Finding the Right Fit

Lastly, as recruitment marketing budgets continue to tighten, the emphasis is on effectively identifying the right candidates. The retail industry has a high volume of applicants with a wide range educational backgrounds and skill levels. In order to streamline the hiring process, you need a system with a robust search functionality that allows you to pinpoint specific skills that each unique position requires. Targeted screening questions are another useful tool in a retail recruiter’s arsenal.  For example, if a job entails night and weekend hours, posing a simple question such as, “Are you available to work on nights and weekends” eliminates unqualified candidates, saving time and money for your organization. Screening questions, based on a candidate’s salary requirements and level of experience, are also helpful to quickly evaluate a candidate before the application even reaches a recruiter.

Engage Candidates, Further Your Reach, and Selectively Hire

The entire retail industry is changing rapidly, re-designing the landscape of recruiting. To attract and attain top talent, you have to do three key things; build relationships through consistent branding across all communications, harness social media to snag the best and brightest, and pinpoint the right candidate for each unique position. Your organization will need a well-executed plan to move through this process, and there are several solutions on the market that can be easily implemented to put your organization on the path to success quickly and efficiently.

Susan Vitale is CMO of iCIMS

Are you ready for the “Third Wave of Social in Retail”?

Guest Blog By Mike Heffring

2013 is shaping up to be a tipping point for the retail industry on Facebook, according to insights Expion has uncovered in its F.A.V.E. 50 Social Retail Report*. In the first half of the year (H1) retail brands experienced the greatest decline in key metrics since 2011, including total volume, fan engagement, and the lowest new fan acquisition growth rate since 2011.

In addition, H1 was the first six month period where the company posts trends didn’t mirror engagement and volume trends – showing that brands are publishing less effective content than before.

Brand behavior on Facebook is still relatively new, and has come in waves, as the charts above illustrate. These waves have been clearly defined:

Wave 1 – More Likes Please. In the growth phase, brands focused on building up their fan base by getting everyone to “like” their brand page. The rapid rise in fan base early on is now starting to taper off, shown by “Lifetime Total Fans” above. Once critical fan mass had been reached, brands turned to strategies to engage their fan base.

Wave 2 – Engage with My Brand: Once fans bases were solidly established, brands looked to increase the number and type of posts they shared to increase fan engagement, measured by likes, comments and shares.  The total number of posts in this 2012 time period increased by 60 percent, as highlighted in Total Company Posts above.

Now there’s another wave upon us…

Wave 3 – My Brand as a Social Channel.  As engagement has dropped off in the last six months we believe we are now entering the third wave of social.  Brand marketing on Facebook has matured as more and more companies are focused on creating a unique social channel by not just by pushing out content, but creating a brand narrative with targeted campaigns in near/real time.

How can brands successfully navigate this third wave?

  1. Replace one-off posts with social campaigns.  On average, retailers are posting 50 times a month – and some as much as 150 times. Retailers should group posts into campaigns around categories – new product launches or seasons, entertainment and pop-culture tie-ins, and ties to larger advertising or marketing campaigns. These posts can then be tagged to a specific campaign and tracked.
  2. Develop a clear social persona for your brand: The best performing brands (Tiffany’s, Victoria’s Secret, Walmart, Bath& Body Works and Coach) have figured out what type of content is most appealing to their fans. Engaging content tends to be highly relevant (Tiffany’s designers and Victoria’s Secret “Angels”) and conversational (Q&As) in nature with strong visuals, rather than pure product and sale/promotion oriented.
  3. Turn best posts into everyday posts: Every brand can deliver or two great posts, but most aren’t learning from and replicating their success for the other 80 percent of underperforming posts. Learn from what works. The technology now exists to repurpose successful posts across brands, locations and countries in real time, and to quickly create related new posts that will drive higher performance.

Despite overall lower engagement by retailers on Facebook in H1, 50 percent of retailers did improve their brand engagement in the past six months, showcasing that indeed there is still room to grow.  By embracing social’s third wave, retailers, and brands in general, can continue to move from high quantity strategies to a high quality one.

About Expion’s F.A.V.E. 50 Social Retail Report*

Expion F.A.V.E. 50 Social Retail Report analyzes the Facebook presence of the top 50 U.S .retail brands1 during the first half (H1) of 2013. Expion leveraged its social media and marketing insights software to unearth key social trends in the industry, as well as winners and losers across brands, posts and post types in both engagement and volume. Over 16,000 posts were analyzed.

Mike Heffring is Expion’s CMO

Connected Classrooms Mean Changes for Retailers During Back-to-School

Guest Blog By Jon Stine

Technology adoption rates in schools and at home are growing significantly and back-to-school shoppers need products that can engage with the connected classroom. For example, laptops and iPads are no longer just optional tools for education; they are increasingly essential for classroom and homework success. Combine this with the fact that parents of elementary children are the most technologically savvy generation of parents ever. They’ve never known life without cell phones, barely knew life without ubiquitous WiFi and were the early adopters of smartphones and tablets. Technology has always been a part of their life, and it will be a normative part of their children’s life.

Internet search engines such as Google and Wikipedia have replaced the printed and bound encyclopedia, and YouTube serves as a remarkable repository of historical and explanatory information. We see the tremendous benefits the student can gain from digital connections in the classroom and at home and retailers that wish to remain relevant in this new era in education need to evolve their inventory.

Impact of digital revolution on back-to-school retail

The National Retail Federation estimates that 55 percent of families with school-age children anticipate purchasing personal electronics during this year’s back-to-school shopping – that is 1 in 2 shoppers. This year, the Back-to-School shopping period will see an increased demand for digital technology, and not just for the college-bound students. Now, we see younger students venturing off from the “family” computer or school computer labs, to needing their own personal digital technology at nearly every grade to be successful in the classroom. For retailers, this means an important evolution.

How retailers can respond

  • Smaller retailers need to add to their traditional back-to-school supplies of crayons and paper notebooks with more fun decorative computer accessories, such as thumb drives and creative laptop/mobile phone covers, or backpacks/clothes that hold that technology.
  • Superstores and consumer electronic stores need to work with schools/parents to offer more educational school systems and educators to create appropriate and secure digital back-to-school technology offerings for parents to buy. Apple and Best Buy are examples of companies using this approach.
  • Fashion stores need to remember technology is in every aspect of students’ lives including clothes and fashion accessories. Purses, backpacks; cell phone/laptop covers are big trends in back to school.
  • Retail store managers could personalize the back-to-school aisle by working more closely with local schools on making supply lists available on their website or in a pre-boxed bundle, allowing parents to just click online and get everything on their list.
  • For in-store shoppers, retailers could offer list print-outs on the back-to-school aisle, and/or pre-packaged bundles that kids can simple slip into their backpacks.

Targeting your back-to-school shoppers

Although young men and teens will select products based on cool looks and features, when it comes to digital tools for the K-12 back-to-school set, Moms still have a significant influence on purchasing decisions. Moms are the family’s chief purchasing officer and their decisions are made based on safety, security, and replacement-repair options for the technology. Women also have the highest rate of digital content consumption such as Internet-based video, digital imagery, and social media.

Retailers also need to engaged in all aspects of the omni-channel including digital commerce when targeting moms or they may be left behind. Moms start their back-to-school shopping by doing their research online and then bring their children into the store to gain agreement once the purchasing decision has been made. In a Cisco Study, entitled, Catch and Keep Digital Shoppers, we found that 65 percent of U.S. shoppers regularly research products and services online—and another 17 percent express a desire to do so.

The back-to-school shopping season is second only to the holiday shopping season, so it is important that retailers respond to the latest trends in education. To capture shoppers, retailers need to adjust their marketing and their inventory to meet the needs of the digital student in the connected classroom. There are limitless opportunities for learning, the new technology for education brings new opportunities for smart retailers.

 Jon Stine is Director Retail, Cisco Consulting Services