Hiring Seasonal Workers And The Impact of Online Shopping

Hiring Seasonal Workers And The Impact of Online Shopping

Emily Smykal

Online shopping certainly isn’t new–Amazon.com went live in 1995–but its prevalence among consumers today is unprecedented. And it’s changing retail recruitment as we approach the holiday shopping season.

Hiring seasonal workers for the holidays is standard practice among retailers on the ground and online. But the types of seasonal workers retailers need this season, and the places where they’re needed, are anything but standard. The rise of online shopping means more transactions are not happening at the cash register, and more customer service is conducted on the phone or online.

Retailers who want to benefit from the increased consumer spending during the holidays need an influx of temporary employees who can handle order fulfillment and delivery, and manage customers in far-flung locations. Not to mention build and maintain increasingly sophisticated online shopping platforms. In this post we’ll examine how online shopping is changing the way retailers are hiring seasonal workers.

Retail Holiday Recruitment Data

Every fall, major retailers announce upcoming hiring plans, advertising their need for more holiday employees. Perhaps the biggest announcement of 2015 came from Amazon, which intends to hire 100,000 temporary workers. That’s a 25% jump compared to last year’s holiday season. Amazon already has 90,000 permanent employees at nationwide warehouses and shipping centers. Clearly the country’s largest online retailer wants to maintain its premise that shopping on Amazon is nearly as fast as picking up gifts at the local mall.

Other major retailers have made similar announcements. Macy’s plans to hire 85,000 temporary store workers, and Toys “R” Us will hire 40,000 employees, both slightly less than last year. Wal-Mart said it will hire 60,000 new employees, which is almost the same as last year. The two major delivery companies are hiring seasonal workers to keep up with the demands of their retail clients. UPS will hire 95,000 temporary workers, and FedEx announced openings for 55,000 seasonal employees.

How do retailers and delivery services know to hire so many temporary employees? Predicting holiday spending and fulfillment needs can be difficult, but expectations of consumer spending and online shopping trends can help. FedEx made their announcement based on an estimated 3.5% – 4% total increase in holiday sales. While this figure is lower than last year’s holiday increase (5.2%), online shopping sales are expected to rise 6% – 8% this year. So even if total holiday spending doesn’t set new records, the number of packages to be delivered just might.

The Switch to eCommerce and Mobile Shopping

Just like online shopping isn’t new, holiday shopping has been around for a long time. What’s changed is the way the people shop, and the way retailers respond to customer preferences. Research from Google estimates that 54% of holiday shoppers will use their smartphones to shop at some point during the season. Google also found that, among smartphone users, 82% plan to consult their phones while shopping in stores, and 40% intend to use their phones to pay for purchases in brick and mortar stores.

And Facebook recently compiled data based on its platform ads, noting that 30% of sales driven by Facebook ads took place on mobile devices. While this doesn’t represent the entire eCommerce market, the social network’s 172 million monthly active users in the U.S. are a good indication of how the rest of the country shops.

We know that the growth in online shopping has surpassed growth among traditional brick and mortar stores consistently since 2013. But the growth in mobile is even more impressive. Some research indicates that online shopping via mobile devices accounts for 22% of all digital commerce revenue. Predictions for the future of mobile range from 25% to 50% of all online shopping by 2017. Traditional retailers have been taking note, and boosted their online sales by 22% in the second quarter of 2014.

What This Means for Recruiters

So what’s the takeaway for recruiters? The shift towards online shopping, including mobile, doesn’t necessarily lead to an increase or decrease in hiring. But it does make sense to inspect changes in the talent acquisition mix. Online shopping requires more staff in warehouses and fulfillment centers, and more drivers on the road delivering goods. It also means retailers need tech and IT staff to build and manage their eCommerce platforms, and customer service staff at call centers to answer questions and resolve customer issues.

Recruiters still need to hire seasonal employees these retailers need for the holidays, and they would actually benefit from taking cues from the world of online shopping itself. Consumers now expect sophisticated, smooth, easy-to-use websites and apps when they shop online. And talent acquisition teams should be shooting to offer the same level of user experience quality to job candidates.

Job alerts kill two birds with one stone for retail recruiters. They help build up a local talent pipeline over time that can be tapped as holiday hiring ramps up. In some cases, we’ve seen hiring organizations able to build up a database of millions of candidates, all who opted-in to receive location-based job alerts. This can dramatically reduce cost per applicant and time to fill. On top of that, job alerts provide the same tailored, consumer-level of attention that so many applicants look for today, regardless of whether a candidate is job searching on a desktop or mobile device.

Going forward, it’s also recommended to inspect the quality of your mobile apply process. It’s often the case that workers like drivers are on-the-go. And as a consequence, the best way to attract and convert them is with a simple mobile-friendly application process. Otherwise, they’d have to wait until they had access to a desktop (not much of a consumer-quality experience). This can make hiring seasonal workers difficult (or any workers for that matter).

Like shopping, talent acquisition is going the way of the internet, and the companies moving as fast as (or ahead of that trend) are the ones poised to benefit as it only accelerates.

Have you had trouble hiring seasonal workers? Let us know in the comments section below.

Candidates are consumers, and providing them with a consumer-quality experience will go a long way when few others are. Read our new eBook, “The Talent Acquisition Leader’s Guide to the New Candidate Journey” to learn more about this topic and what to do about it.

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