The Retail Industry: What the Headlines are Missing

Man telling a secret to an astonished woman

Recently, the U.S. Department of Labor issued the May 2017 employment report and it was very positive, for the most part. The unemployment rate fell to 4.3% in May, the lowest level in 16 years. Yet, on the surface the retail industry is not seeing such positive numbers. The report found that 6,100 retail jobs were eliminated.

Yes, some established retailers are playing catch-up and trying to reinvent to stay relevant with today’s consumers. But retail is not dying as many headlines suggest. And physical stores are not going away anytime soon. Let’s not forget, retail stores are still a top generator of sales, according to the pwc Total Retail 2017 report, and Generation Z, the first “digitally native” generation, favors a hands-on shopping experience.

Retail is not dying, it is transforming

Most headlines today focus on the end of the “old school” retail industry, but few discuss the emerging, reinvented brick-and-mortar experience. Successful retailers are rewriting the rules. Traditional department stores are being transformed into entertainment hubs. And brands that were once online-only are opening stores in major U.S. cities, including Bonobos, Warby Parker and Rent the Runway. Even the online retail giant Amazon is opening stores and just offered to purchase Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion. Other seasoned retailers have announced aggressive expansion plans including Dollar General, Ulta, TJ Maxx, Aldi, Petco and many more.

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So why are these retailers opening new stores, when many others are closing? Because they focus on the customer experience. Companies are investing in making the in-store customer experience convenient and memorable. From product demos to exclusive events, the brands that are getting creative are succeeding. This strategy leverages a human-to-human connection and therefore generating more work for the industry.

Retail jobs are still there, just not where we are used to looking for them

As retailers invest in the customer experience, traditional retail jobs now get staffed with experts by brands and third-party companies.

Every month, numerous companies are using Natural Insight to execute tens of thousands of work assignments on behalf of dozens of brands inside Best Buy stores across the U.S. From brand ambassadors to assisted sales reps, these workers are product experts and helping to enhance the in-store experience. They are on the sales floor, working alongside Best Buy employees, to engage with customers, answer questions and drive sales. It’s paying off  —  Best Buy just reported strong first quarter revenue and profit.

Match Marketing Group is one of North America’s leading activation and consumer engagement agencies. The company uses Natural Insight to manage its 7,000 field workers in its experiential and merchandising practice, and is currently looking to fill an additional 600 vacant jobs. That’s 600 opportunities for work — impressive!

In the end, customers have questions. They want to see and touch products. They might need help making a purchasing decision. But they don’t want to wait in long lines, search empty shelves or stalk employees for help.

So, how does a retailer enhance the in-store experience? We think it’s all about people. Recruit and train the right people. Build the right team and supply them with the best tools. Supplement your workforce when needed, such as major product launches and holiday promotions, to maintain a positive experience even during peak traffic times. Customers will keep coming back and stores will thrive.

MORE: Are You Ready for Back-to-School Shoppers?

Stefan Midford

Stefan Midford
Stefan Midford is president and CEO of Natural Insight and has more than 30 years of experience in information technology, operations and workforce management.

Stefan Midford

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