Kristen Bahler of Money.com and Time, Inc. on the Retail Worker of the Future
Facing stiff competition from Amazon and Walmart, the retail industry has been on a steady decline. Yet some retailers have found success with “experience shopping,” which focuses on creating an “emotional connection with their customers” combined with a special “in-store experience to keep [customers] coming back,” steered by employees who strive to heavily personalize the shopping experience and form strong relationships with customers. One of these companies, Bonobos, refers to their employees as “guides” rather than just sales associates, and a key to Bonobos and other experience stores’ success in finding and retaining this type of talent is by prioritizing employee development.
Training the Retail Worker of the Future
Designer-label rental company Rent the Runway even sets a higher bar for their new hires, seeking out applicants with strong customer service backgrounds, such as those who have worked in fine dining, at elite fitness studios, or served as concierges. Experience store employees also tend to make higher salaries than the average retail worker. Larger retail companies have taken notice of the experience shopping model: Walmart acquired Bonobos, put $2.7 billion into training programs designed to improve customer service, and launched its first portfolio company revolving around “highly personalized shopping”, which is being run by a former Rent the Runway co-founder. The experience shopping model is not without its challenges, and with Walmart already taking strides to leverage experience shopping, time will tell if Amazon will begin to follow suit. In the end, however, the customer will still be right.