Labor Shortage: Solutions for retailers this holiday season

After this year’s Black Friday, different statistics reported that online sales considerably dropped, as in-store traffic increased by 47.5% compared to last year. With Christmas around the corner, people will start rushing to the store and begin their holiday shopping. A considerable issue that retailers might face is to not have enough staff to take care of their customers and provide them with the best experience possible. Yet the most effective way to attract clients and create brand loyalty is to provide a personalized experience. 63% of consumers are more likely to do holiday shopping with brands that customize the experience to their needs, according to an Optimizely survey.

It is no secret that countries around the world are currently experiencing a real labor shortage. The most recent U.S. Labor Department’s monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey showed that there were 10.4 million job openings in August across all industries. For retailers, there is an estimated need of 500,000 to 665,000 seasonal workers for the holidays according to the National Retail Federation. Many sectors are suffering from this situation, but it is the retail industry that is arguably one of the hardest hit, as it can heavily compromise the customer experience.

The question retailers are asking themselves is: how can I face these busy times while being understaffed? The easy answer would be to hire new people, but we know it can be quite difficult during these times. 

Here are some strategies you can implement to help you get through this busy period.

1 - Turn your current staff into brand ambassadors

The employees that you do have are your strength, you have to focus on them and turn them into brand ambassadors. Make sure they know everything about your company and your products; they must be passionate about them and become subject-matter experts. Train them, give them clear guidelines and share your vision. Organize team meetings regularly to make sure everyone knows their roles and most importantly their strength; communication is the key to success! 
Once they’ve become real experts, put them in the spotlight! Assign your staff more adequately according to their strength and let them become the faces of your company by putting your best employees in front of your best customers. Human interaction is the best way to increase brand loyalty and provide a personalized experience. 

The atmosphere of the workplace is one of the most important things to keep your staff motivated. It must be healthy, stimulating and have a sense of team spirit. Reward your employees with team lunches, after-work drinks, team-building activities, etc. Keep in mind that happy and motivated staff will do their best for their job and will develop better relationships with clients. Encourage them and recognize their efforts; according to HR Morning, 36% of employees say that the lack of recognition is their top reason for quitting. It is really important to tell your staff how you value their work, never miss an opportunity to acknowledge their achievements and thank them!

2 - Offer your clients consultations by appointments

During busy periods, your staff can quickly become overwhelmed. The real challenge this year is to find a way to attract customers to your store and offer them the best experience possible, all while being limited in staff.

That's why we advise you to offer your clients the possibility to make an appointment to come to the store at a specific time. Whether for a consultation or a personal shopping session, scheduled appointments are a great advantage. Once they are properly trained and become true brand ambassadors, your employees will be perfect to advise your clients and answer all their questions. You will be able to manage your staff's schedule and choose the right person according to the customer's needs. When clients schedule an appointment in advance, your staff can study their needs and have enough time to prepare before each store visit. 
In terms of return of investments, one-on-one appointments bring new clients to your business and increase the size of their shopping cart by 2-7x. This method is perfect for time optimization and reduces in-store queues. 

3 - Implement a Clicks-to-Bricks strategy

With this method also known as Click & Collect, your customers will have the possibility to purchase online and pick up their order when it is ready. This strategy, helping control in-store traffic to fit your workforce, can be offered when it suits you the most: choose the time slots when your store is quieter to dedicate time to each consumer picking up their order. Brands need to capitalize on each human interaction customers have with them and with Booxi, you can schedule specific staff to offer the best service possible.

4 - Recruit more creatively

The best remedy when you’re understaffed is to hire more, but we know it’s really difficult. So, you have to find ways to attract potential candidates using creativity! 
First, you need to list all the benefits and perks you offer at the top of your job description; be open about your company, why you hire, the environment… Make sure your website describes your values as an employer and your company culture! Don’t forget to optimize your career page, it must always be updated with your latest job opportunities. It should include all the essential information about your company, and you can also add various content like diversity statistics, awards you’ve won, etc. Have your employees testify about what it's like to work within your company, have them write reviews on Indeed or Glassdoor, film a video showing life at work, share your culture and feature your employees on social media… 

Be creative! Like when Apple created an engineer job offer that was hidden in a random page of their website, or when Ikea placed a job ad in the assembling instructions of their products. 
If you have the resources, create a recruitment video, it’s one of the best ways to attract new candidates and show a visual idea of your company’s work life. You can also host virtual or in-person recruiting events : invite people to your headquarters and show them your culture in a less formal way. Don’t hesitate to use social media, consider creating an entire hiring campaign to attract potential candidates and have your current employees share it. Hiring through social media is a great way to find younger candidates.

Don’t be afraid to dare! For example, Social Talent filmed a recruitment video with their employees’ testimonials but instead of asking them why people should join the company, they asked them why they hate their job! The video was made to prove that their employees aren’t part of the statistics stating that 70% of people hate their jobs. This showcases a more fun side of the company and its culture.

In conclusion, in a period of labor shortage, don't be scared to adapt even if it seems difficult! If necessary, reduce the number of services you offer, reorganize your departments, allocate your staff differently and try out different techniques… We know this can disrupt your workflow but this may be the best solution if you're short it staff. 

Labor shortages can be frightening and difficult to go through, but don’t get discouraged, there are plenty of ways to make things work. Never forget that the most important thing is to create a healthy and friendly work environment and to value your current staff.

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