Despite fears of a recession, finding and retaining retail workers remains challenging. In 2022, 74% of retailers faced shortages in customer-facing positions.
“The labor shortage isn’t going away for another few years. We just don’t have as many people entering the workforce as we do leaving it,” Releen Gagnon, VP and General Manager of Total Talent Intelligence at Magnit, told Glossy last month.
Over the last three years, the role of the retail associate has shifted. New consumer habits and the acceleration of ecommerce have put new demands on retail staff. Attracting and retaining a talented workforce will be critical for retailers to remain competitive in 2023.
The New Retail Associate
Previously, store staff focused on stocking merchandise, folding clothing, or completing transactions. But when stores reopened in the summer of 2020, retailers looked for safe ways to connect with customers.
Many companies introduced initiatives like curbside pick-up, buy-online, pick-up in-store (BOPIS), self-checkout, and contactless payments. These new payments and omnichannel fulfillment options impacted traditional store routines for retail staff.
At the same time, customers began to look to retail staff members as product experts and brand ambassadors. Today, most shoppers research products online before entering a store. When shoppers reach out to a staff member, they expect product guidance and a more personalized experience.
Employees’ responsibilities in retail now go beyond finding new sizes or managing fitting rooms. Instead, retail associates are integral to the customer experience and retail operations.
4 Ways Retailers Can Support Store Staff in 2023
As retailers look to the future, recruiting and retaining top talent will be critical to building customer loyalty, optimizing store operations, and driving revenue. Here are four ways retailers can support store staff in 2023.
1. Support Clienteling
While clienteling is not new—luxury, jewelry, and bridal stores have used it for years—it’s become integral to modern customer service expectations. Store staff must build trust and maintain customer relationships to increase loyalty and drive sales.
To support clienteling, retailers should provide associates with comprehensive customer profiles—including shoppers’ attributes and behavior. When a customer reaches out online or walks into a store, sales associates should be able to access and update customers’ profiles, including
- Notes about personal events like birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, or weddings
- Notes about style preferences
- Purchase history
- Online wishlist or favorited items
- Results from any product or style quizzes
- Previous feedback
Retail associates should also have instant access to product information—including updated pricing and inventory levels.
2. Optimize Store Operations
Today, many brands view their retail stores as micro fulfillment centers. With new omnichannel fulfillment options, retailers must rethink the responsibilities of retail associates. Companies should consider assigning omnichannel tasks—such as BOPIS orders—to specific employees.
Retailers should also look to technology to streamline routines and make it easier to train new employees. This includes an integrated POS system that will capture real-time inventory and tablets to access customer information.
3. Offer a path to advancement
A study by the Pew Research Center found that low pay and lack of career advancement were tied as the top reason retail associates left their positions in 2021.
For retailers to remain competitive, they must offer opportunities for upward mobility and upskilling. Companies should provide clear timing for promotions and outline the skills and qualifications needed to advance.
4. Rethink benefits
Although retail pay has increased by 22% since 2018, many brands are looking beyond pay increases to attract and keep employees. This includes sign-on bonuses, immediate access to staff discounts, and employee-only shopping days.
- Walmart offers employees free membership to Walmart+. The subscription service provides exclusive discounts, free shipping, and grocery delivery.
- Lush offers a $25 gift card to new employees.
- Starbucks offers tuition coverage for a first-time bachelor’s degree through Arizona State University.
- This year, The Body Shop offered five incentives for holiday employees, including cash bonuses and gift cards.
- Kohl’s offers sales associates the choice of weekly paychecks.
Health and Wellness
At the same time, retailers are emphasizing benefits that support health and wellness. Many companies offer discounted gym memberships, free counseling sessions, and access to apps that support mental well-being.
Finally, employers are exploring new ways to support work-life balance— including flexible scheduling. Walmart uses its Me@Walmart app to make it easier for staff to manage their schedule, swap shifts, and request time off.
Companies are also looking for ways to support working parents. Best Buy partners with Care.com to provide employees with backup childcare. Employees can access discounted in-home and in-center care when their regular care is unavailable. In the first half of 2022, employees avoided more than 1,400 missed work days due to the Backup Care program.
Empower Your Retail Staff with Salesfloor
Salesfloor is an all-in-one customer engagement platform. Salesfloor combines the power of AI and human connection to enable brands to build immersive shopping experiences for customers.
With live chat, video shopping, and appointment booking tools, customers can instantly connect with sales associates in-store and online. And our predictive customer insights and customer management platform enable associates to provide hyper-personalized customer service.
Book a demo today to learn how retailers use Salesfloor to empower retail staff.