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A Really Obvious Way to Overcome the Great Resignation in Retail

Retail job postings are getting harder to fill (never mind that turnover...) Let's take a closer look at one unsung reason why this is the case - and a possible solution for overcoming it.

Much virtual ink has been spilled about the downfall of the great American mall (heck, I even wrote a blog dedicated specifically to Blockbuster), and all the nostalgic memories that go with it. 

A lot of those memories are rooted in our own personal experiences not just shopping at the mall, but working there. In the 80s, 90s, and 2000s, the teenager took over the shopping center, slinging screen printed baby tees and Orange Julius smoothies alike. 

Today however, it’s a different story. Much virtual ink has also been written about the ‘Great Resignation’ of 2022, much of which actually kicked off or stemmed from the mass layoffs or decision to quit front line roles in the retail, service, and hospitality industries during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Retail job postings are now unfilled for significantly longer than before or of course, are subject to the high levels of turnover that have plagued the sector for years. 

Many store leads are left with the impossible balance of bringing enough capable workers in with the same slim set of perks and benefits that have been on offer with ‘mall jobs’ for decades. 

Not to mention, many front line workers got used to staying at home for long stretches over the last couple of years, and wish they could get the same WFH (work from home) or hybrid work environment that's become the norm for so many office workers.

And with pressure bubbling up around ‘livable wages’, it’s only going to get harder to recruit retail workers from here.

In writing this blog, I did a bit of research to understand the primary reasons why retail postings are so much harder to fill, and many of the answers actually boiled down to employees wanting, or actually needing, access to similar benefits they might get in a corporate role. Childcare, competitive wages, comprehensive benefits were just a few worker demands that have cropped up. 

The good news is all of those criteria are things that many retailers are in a position to offer their employees, at least to some degree. 

But I’d suggest there’s another factor at play here: Fame. 

Let’s talk star power

A decent cross-section of Gen Z has realized something simple over the last few years. They could make more money “doing what they love” as some sort of creator than they could grinding it out at a retail, or even a corporate job. 

Ironically, one of the hallmarks of the Great Resignation has been Gen Z’s that have ventured into the workforce recording ‘I quit’ videos and posting them to their social media channel of choice. Fun stuff.

But let’s talk about the realities of going full-time creator.

Yes, I will readily admit as a former creator myself that things have gotten a lot more formal in recent years, with the rise of influencer-specific agencies and influencer-led brands (or collabs), alongside a more stringent approach to measuring, well, influence, on hard metrics like sales.

But from many other angles, the creator / influencer industry is still quite nascent - we have no long-term data to demonstrate how one might sustain and grow their income and experience in this space over an extended period of time, the way they might in a typical career path. 

The rapid evolution of what social media platforms are trending now can also force creators to have to rebuild their following on multiple platforms on repeat, all while competing with new stars that were ‘birthed’ on these emerging channels.

In a lot of ways, the influencer economy feels like a bit of a Ponzi scheme. Or to be a little more delicate - like a typical VC portfolio. 

Think of it this way. At present, a brand might be willing to invest in a dozen influencers that have their unique audiences, interests, or channel domination. Five years from now, in that same group of a dozen, it’s likely that a few will have moved on from social media altogether, flatlined their follower growth, or not been able to keep up with whatever new platform has taken off. 

From that original dozen, a brand might be lucky to have one star that’s still relevant. Any dollar spent on influencers then, is basically betting on a racehorse - and not necessarily for the long-term. 

Reaching the top of the influencer pyramid (arguably helmed by the business-savvy Kardashians) is pretty near impossible. But the people on each tier of influence and popularity will always look up to those that are just a little more famous than them and strive to reach it - until they can’t go any further. 

It’s a hustle folks. Getting sponsored by a big brand might feel like a rung climbed on that never-ending influencer ladder, but step back for a sec.

Just like tech startups, for every one creator that has a wild success story, there are hundreds more that just abandon their accounts when their life, preferences, or focus changes. 

All of this is ultimately another problem to contemplate for another time. 

I bring it up though, because as appealing as it might be to shirk the trappings of a traditional job, there’s some harsh realities about the sustainability of a career in the ever-evolving influencer sphere.  

For now though, a lot of young people are seeing and hearing stories of this friend or that person they follow that just signed a major deal or got picked up by an agency or is appearing in a Netflix movie - all stemming from posting videos, photos, art, music, or soul-baring thoughts on their platforms of choice.

No cheesy uniforms. No minimum wage. No shift work. 

No wonder the mall is falling out of fashion in more ways than one.

In short, for the up and coming workforce, the conundrum comes down to: Why make minimum wage folding t-shirts at Old Navy when you could make $100,000+ a year having fun producing and posting TikTok videos of drinking alcohol in unusual settings?

Kind of a no-brainer. 

How to make retail jobs better

So what can retailers do about all this?

The answer is simple and logical and frustrating: Make the job better.

And to be super clear, I get that many retailers have been hard at work making the role better. Wage hikes, benefit packages, and even signing bonuses have been cited as ways to get jobs filled in the retail sector.

Not only that, but the application process is being streamlined, with new methods of applying that align with Gen Z user behavior like text to apply or yes, TikTok resumes. 

There are many, many people who will happily take retail jobs and stick with them because of the financial security or need for benefits. 

But circling back to our fame chasers: They’re  looking for a job that is creatively fulfilling and flexible. 

And guess what, they’re actually pretty damn desirable, because many of them are really good at selling stuff to people. 

The only real way to get those folks in the door is to not just make the role better, but the work itself. 

*Alert* Here’s the part where I get a little self-serving but I wouldn’t do it unless it benefitted anyone reading up to this point. 

When it comes to making the job better, live video shopping might be just the thing you’re looking for to enhance typical retail jobs. 

Or in some cases, create an entirely new job altogether - one that marries the creativity and fun of being an influencer, with the stability and structure of a traditional job.

If you’re not familiar with live video co-shopping, here’s the gist. Online shoppers request a call with a live shopping associate either on-demand, or via an appointment booking.

The live shopping associate gets to function like a personal shopper and a tastemaker all at once as they recommend products for customers and get them to check out. Curious to try it for yourself? We’ve got an interactive live shopping video demo of the experience. 

We’ve seen savvy clients tackle the staffing of their live shopping experience in a variety of clever ways, including:

  • Tracking sales by live shopping associate and providing kickbacks or commissions 
  • Encouraging live shopping associates to promote co-shopping to their personal follower base
  • Staffing live shopping experiences with retail associates who are either dedicated to live shopping or split between other retail store duties
  • Promoting specific individuals as stylists or product experts on their site
  • Produce AGC (associate-generated content) to surface on PDPs, live shopping wait rooms, and social media

Here’s another perk: Offering live shopping opens up some intriguing hiring opportunities that can generate more sales for a retailer’s online channel.

Take for example, a beauty store with two flagships in New York and Los Angeles. Let’s say they have a brand evangelist named Kara that happens to attend college in Chicago. With live shopping, Kara no longer needs to move to New York or Los Angeles to work for her favorite brand, nor does she have to keep the hustle of trying to outdo the millions of other beauty influencers floating around out there. 

Instead, Kara can literally be employed by the beauty brand, stay put in Chicago, and hop on live shopping calls on a schedule that works for her - just like she would if she were choosing to generate income as an influencer / creator. 

The beauty brand wins too, by recruiting someone who truly loves their products and may have generated micro influencer status among her network.

Whether you opt to create an entirely new role for live shopping associates or add it on to an in-store retail associate job, live shopping is yet another way to make the job better on multiple counts:

  • Helps prospective employees ditch the zero sum game of climbing up the influencer ladder
  • Be more creative and interactive while at work
  • Flexibility to work from anywhere (live shopping associates CAN enjoy that #WFHlife)
  • Set their own schedule and hours 
  • Show off product knowledge and become an industry tastemaker

Those sound like some real wins to me - and I’m guessing, to a few prospective employees as well. 

You can learn more about how staffing is just one part of orchestrating a live shopping offering in our handy playbook, How to Build a Live Shopping Experience. Or, hop on a call with the GhostRetail team. We’ll see you there. 

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