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How Retail’s Concierge Service is Changing Workforce Composition

As consumers become more and more pressed for time, concierge shopping services offer a great value to retail customers on the go. Traditionally, retailers forecasted their sales and staffing needs based on foot traffic to their stores, but concierge shopping services along with curbside offerings are changing the way the retail industry hires and leverages full-time, part-time and seasonal employees.

The challenges that concierge services will face in staffing can be found in another adjacent industry, restaurants. Take Starbucks for example. In 2015 the coffee company launched its Starbucks mobile app, which accounted for 7% of all sales in that same year. As the use and adoption of the mobile app order service grew, so did their challenges in workforce staffing and forecasting. The staffing patterns weren’t like their traditional models and in early stages, the peaks and valleys were hard to identify. This had a negative impact on drive through and coffee shop customers who order and then had to wait at their coffee shops.

How Concierge Shopping Changes Workforce Staffing

The lesson? Be prepared, and be nimble. Because our talent pool is also made up of consumers, the expectation for companies to provide always-available concierge services to employees is higher than ever before. In order to retain top talent, particularly in the retail and restaurant industries, companies will need to give them the tools they need to be productive, as well as embrace data and technology models that relate to customer experience and adapt staffing requisitions rapidly and efficiently.

Staffing, as we’ve seen in the Starbucks app example, is key to making the online as well as offline experience work for customers. A flexible schedule for team members, a good forecasting model, and technology that helps to identify potential challenges work to complement your existing retail staffing models. Additionally, training for store management on new technology and how to prepare for increased customer expectations, as well as helping them transition and flex location payroll hours, can make your customer experience better and help to ensure that your predictive models will continue to be effective.

Retailers and Omnichannel Marketing

Even large, well-established retail brands are facing great challenges to win in today’s marketplace. Challenges include: (1) winning on the internet, (2) being quick and responsive in distribution of merchandise, and (3) gaining customer traffic in physical stores.

Two specific examples: How Nordstrom and Macy’s omnichannel marketing efforts has impacted their presence in the marketplace. Using social media, Nordstrom has made it possible to buy items from Instagram and find items based on Pinterest favorites. Shoppers can scroll these photos at leisure and add items to their wish list or shopping cart. By having already invested in technology tools that help manage inventory, Nordstrom is prepared to support the use of these digital marketing tools and is able to deliver products quickly to the customer. Even better, it also reduces costs. According to Forbes, more initiatives like these will keep a retailer ahead of competition and truly make omnichannel shopping a seamless experience.

Macy’s has adopted omnichannel marketing via its loyalty program, which promotes shopping in stores. Rewarding customers with extra bonuses for shopping for more of their needs and wants is the first step that will pay-off in more traffic in stores. Adding a concierge service to some key locations is another option that would add to the ease of shopping.

And one more large-scale example. One of the world’s biggest big box stores is preparing to compete with Amazon with concierge services. In May, Walmart announced a Jetblack, a concierge shopping service for busy urban families. For $50 a month, members can text their requests and receive same-day delivery from Walmart, Jet and other retailers like Saks and Sephora with gift wrapping included. The service is currently available by invitation only and has been piloted for the past eight months in Manhattan doorman buildings and will expand to parts of Brooklyn and non-doorman dwellings in coming months ahead.

This launch comes as Walmart is upgrading its online operations to compete with Inc. through a redesigned website, hundreds of additional curbside grocery pickup locations and upscale brands like ModCloth and Moosejaw.

Competing for Talent in a Concierge Service Market

With these omnichannel retail marketing changes, it’s more important than ever to recruit and retain top talent, as well as develop an environment of ongoing education and training. In this tight talent market, employees expect more than an employee discount and competitive salary. They need perks and benefits like free education to attract and retain this high turnover workforce. Both Walmart and Starbucks offer free online degree programs for their employees. Macy’s has a management training program for entry-level employees.

Training and development works in a concierge service market for retailers by both attracting and retaining talent, and creating an engaged and innovative workforce that can keep up with the evolution of the retail market. It’s imperative to be just as focused on talent recruiting as on consumer offerings. The investment in education pays off twofold. How are you planning and preparing your workforce staffing to compete with these offline and online concierge services?