An article written for Retail Recharged by Greg Wellman
We have all seen over recent years that as technology has advanced far beyond our expectation, the way the average consumer goes about their spending has completely turned on its head. This also means that consumer expectation and what retail businesses need to achieve to stay competitive is vastly different to the strategy which kept Retailers successful even only 3-5 years previously.
Once, a physical store with a nice sign and good footfall was enough to turn an admirable profit. Then, the internet came and figuring out delivery logistics and commissioning an expert to design a beautiful, functional website was the next challenge. Next, came omni-channel with buyers refusing to let their device, location or schedule stand in the way of their spending! And again, the unbelievable speed at which the wave of digitalisation is taking over means that what we have now, soon will also no longer be enough.
So, as a retail business facing unprecedented challenges in a never before seen landscape, it’s going to take a new type of person to live up to the task of helping retail thrive!
Thinking outside the box
As someone who focuses day in and day out seeking out and market-mapping the careers of the leading talent within retail businesses, I’m expecting that the forward-thinking brands who excel in the current e-commerce world are those who are exploiting the growing Online Marketplace sector and hiring Online Marketplace Managers or entire departments dedicated to this area.
The likes of Amazon, Wayfair and Farfetch are powerful allies, but if you are a retailer, you are right to want someone in your own business who can make sure you are getting the very best out of these relationships.
So, where are these candidates? Usually when tasked with a finding a new candidate for a client, we look at the options and send the profiles of those who have already done that role or something similar in another organisation, sometimes even knowing offhand that a particular business does a particular type of work exceedingly well and choosing to focus only on candidates who have worked at those companies!
However, what if because of the unique nature of the situation you find yourself in, no one on the planet has yet had the experience for the role that you are looking to hire? Then, a little like the first ever Astronauts, you’ll probably have to go with someone (exceptionally) bright, who understands what needs to be achieved, isn’t put off by the fact that it hasn’t been done before and isn’t afraid to take a risk to achieve something remarkable.
For example, we have recently had an influx of Big Data and Customer Analysts roles and before that were developing E-Commerce Departments and Social Media Execs. At the time, there were barely any individuals with the existing experience our clients were looking for, because those roles hadn’t existed before. We ultimately settled on people who showed promise and perhaps some of the skills from another discipline. However, it wasn’t always smooth sailing. Flexibility in the recruitment process isn’t something that comes easily to Leaders who have spent their entire career always knowing that they can find the perfect candidate (or 5) with all the skills already waiting for them, and therefore always having peace of mind that their new starter will be able to ‘hit the ground running’.
Marketplace Managers – The perfect candidate?
Marketplace focused roles are an emerging trend and people that do have the experience are extremely limited and especially tough to secure. So how can we approach this talent problem in relation to Online Marketplace Managers specifically? The most straight forward approach might be to look at Sales professionals or Account Managers, but many hiring managers might feel that people from this background alone may not have the strategic thinking and analytical skills needed to predict and pre-empt future consumer behaviours. For these positions, you need to be a strong negotiator, have a strong analytical background and could build relationships with an element of diplomacy. We found that merchandisers have a strong background in analytics and Commercial Finance Business Partners again have this mind-set in both quite business/customer facing positions. The negotiation background is one of the areas that isn’t clear and this is where exercises in the interview process have helped us determine who has the potential in this area. There is also currently a surplus of Commercial Finance professionals and many derive their careers from the technical side of finance because they are wanting more operational roles outside of the function. You can then focus on these competencies and really search for other roles where these traits are key for success. By looking on a skills, rather than on a job title basis, for appropriate candidates for these new types of roles, this might then highlight to employers that the same approach could also be effective for more ‘traditional’ roles too? Would we then be able to challenge the status quo of the usual recruitment process? Would we then have a solution to the far too familiar lengthy, drawn out recruitment process in a candidate short market?
However, after the identification of appropriate talent is done, a new challenge looms on the horizon. How do you motivate and encourage someone to leave a career where their next 5-10 years are mapped out clearly in front of them and where there are thousands of examples of peers who have successfully climbed the same ladder to jump ship into a new and exciting position that didn’t exist 6 months ago? Our approach to work is changing, people want to know what their next role will be in the next 6/12 months and this is impossible with these roles in the emerging technologies. Instead of a steady wage and a secure role, Millennials now demand a clear set of responsibilities and to see how their contribution fits into the wider business goals, something which is extremely difficult to achieve in a role where the parameters are not yet defined and success of the work done will depend on the future changes in consumer culture. This is also something employers will need to consider when looking to attract these types of trailblazers, although some businesses such as Tesco and Amazon have demonstrated that it is possible to do this successfully albeit in large structures.
Ultimately, we are used to recruiting in our own image but this is impossible to do with new brand new hybrid roles. In short, retail is a challenging, exciting and constantly shifting place to be right now, and changing your approach to recruiting might just give you the edge.
Do you think you are making the most of your people? Are you getting the most out of online marketplaces? Please feel free to reach out to the Agora team to talk through actual projects/examples of where this has worked in the past.