Effective interviewing is only the start

July 30, 2011

DISCUSSION TOPIC

Dramatically Improve Your Interviewing Process 07-28-2011

By Doug Fleener, President and Managing Partner, Dynamic Experiences Group

July 28, 2011

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Retail Contrarian, the blog of Dynamic Experiences Group.

The other day, I noticed that a manager was interviewing a job applicant on a bench in front of her store in a local mall. Since I’m never one to miss the chance to watch and learn, I decided to hang out and see what I could take away from the interview.

I can sum up the entire interview in one word. Boring! The interviewer was boring. The applicant was boring. I think they were boring each other. At the end of the interview, the only thing the manager learned was what was already on the application, and all the applicant said was the same stock answers everyone says in an interview, including the all important, “I’m a people person.” My day was complete.

Interviewing and candidate selection is just too important to not do extremely well. A great hire can have an almost immediate positive impact on the store, and a bad hire can lead to 60, 90, or more days of pure hell.

Here are ways to dramatically improve the interviewing and hiring process:

  1. Spend part of the interview working together on the floor. Instead of asking the applicant to tell you about her customer service and selling skills, have her show you with real customers. Sure, she won’t have a lot of product knowledge. Sure, she’ll be nervous. But I’ll tell you what — you’ll quickly separate the winners from the fakers. At the very least, do some selling scenario role-playing with a candidate.
  2.  Have him observe the staff and share his insights with you. You’ll be surprised how many people who say they’re good at sales and service can’t define it even when they see it.
  3. Require the applicant to interview you. You can learn a lot about a person by the questions he/she asks. Is he interested in the challenges and opportunities, or how the lunch breaks work? Is she interested in hearing why you’re a great company to work for, or is she already thinking about vacations?
  4. Have the applicant spend time with non-management team members. If he/she is good, we want to do everything we can to get our offer accepted. One of the best ways to do that is to have the candidate bond with one or two of your best non-management employees. It’s one thing for you to say how wonderful your store/company is, but it’s another when that message comes from a potential colleague.

Discussion questions:  Of the interview techniques mentioned in the article, which will likely provide the most value on average to the interview process? Do you have any unconventional interview techniques that you would add?

My post:

The ideas Doug shared are all good and are easily imbedded in a strong talent acquisition strategy.  The real conversation here should be around the creation of that strategy.  Without a comprehensive strategic approach to talent acquisition, any one touchpoint can only be marginally effective.  Keys to an effective talent acquisition strategy include, but are not limited to:

  1. A clear understanding of what talents are necessary for success – not just generally, but in your unique culture.  This is accomplished by a careful study of the best staff – not just the top sellers, but those who readily create real and human relationships with your top clients.
  2. Determining what is needed to “fit” into your unique culture, including the specific individuals on the team the new staff will be joining.
  3. Developing a structured interview which asks questions that enable the candidate to articulate their strengths in the talents you are looking for (or not)
  4. Training interviewers how to use the structured interview plus “fit” questions.  Here is where the suggestion to spend time on the floor & interview with non-management comes in.  There is no better way to judge fit than to observe the individual in the environment and with their potential peers.
  5. Finally, determining where people who fit your talent profile “live” so that your marketing efforts for candidates can be most effective.  Where they “live” includes social media sites, physical locations (zip codes), types of current employers (for direct recruitment) and more.

This is just the beginning.  A comprehensive talent strategy won’t stop here.  It will include the methods of onboarding, leader engagement, development programs, structured touchpoints for follow up with the staff to ask how they are doing and how you are doing in meeting their expectations, and annual engagement surveys to judge your progress in creating an attractive and retentive employment environment.  Look to the Ritz Carlton and the Container Store as benchmark organizations for this effort.

I have laid out a much more robust and demanding approach vs. the simplicity of an improved interview.  Anything less cannot deliver what you are truly after:  an improved selection process, leading to a more effective workforce, leading to more satisfied customers and a healthier business – creating a virtuous cycle of successful talent management.

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious! ™ strategist

www.OsorioGroup.com

What do you think?  Please add your comments and add to the discussion!

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Go to the full article at Retailwire.com:  Dramatically Improve Your Interviewing Process

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Retailers seek to keep up with consumers on mobile devices

July 27, 2011

DISCUSSION TOPIC

Mobility Survey from RSR Research 07-26-2011

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of an article from Retail Paradox, Retail Systems Research’s weekly analysis on emerging issues facing retailers.

The other day, on one of the many technology solution briefing calls we had, one of the technologists we were speaking with said something very interesting. His company is aiming to bring a solution to market that enables retailers to get ahead of consumers using mobile devices — a highly relevant goal for the times. To emphasize the need for such technologies, he asked us if we could think of a few case studies where retailers have had mobile “happen to them,” without much control of how mobility is being used in the shopping experience. My partner Paula Rosenblum’s response was perfect: “All of them!”

The retail respondents in our brand new mobile survey agree. Of the 60 qualified retailers who’ve responded so far, only six percent are happy with the results of their mobile offering to date. In fact, 49 percent are currently in the process of selecting the right components for their mobile offering as we speak, and 91 percent say that they “need to be there” right now due to the fact that consumers are using mobility as part of their everyday shopping routine.

But 77 percent agree that the true impact of mobile and its best uses are still not fleshed out. Retailers are hungry for practical, intuitive mobility solutions, and many more are willing to experiment than even we could have predicted. In three years’ time, 50 percent of our early respondents anticipate that slightly more of their total sales will come from the mobile channel — another 42 percent say it will be significantly more. These numbers represent massive and fundamental change in how retailers can and will interact with consumers.

Discussion questions:  What do you think is the most important mobile channel capability from the perspective of retailers? Where do you think most retailers should be focusing their mobile investments now?

My post:

We are still in early days of consumers interacting with retailers via mobile platforms. Most uses seem to be informational (store locations, hours, product availability) or seeking value (sales, coupons, other promotions). The level of usage is much more prevalent in Asia, with millions accessing blogs and other information channels unattached to the retailer or brand. I expect the U.S. to follow.

Retailers are losing direct control over consumer interaction and messaging, with consumers and independent thought leaders taking over. Retailers must learn how to authentically reach the influencers and ensure consistent customer experiences in-store and online to create more positive than negative buzz.

In short, the most important mobile channel capability will be to influence the influencers who are often on their mobile devices blogging, tweeting and more in real time about their experiences with the retailer.

A key mobile investment should be to enable mobile interaction in-store (free Wi-Fi) to make it easier for the consumer to gather information, access promotions, and blog/tweet in real time.

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious! ™ strategist

www.OsorioGroup.com

What do you think?  Please add your comments and add to the discussion!

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Go to the full article at Retailwire.com:  Mobility Survey from RSR Research

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Consumer Credit Use Rising Again?

July 24, 2011

DISCUSSION TOPIC

Consumers to Retailers – Charge It 07-22-2011

Much has been made of the progress Americans have been making in digging out from underneath piles of debt since the Great Recession began. Frugal consumers are watching their dollars and not letting credit card debt put them in financially untenable positions.

Every month, for example, Target provides an update on its credit card receivables, which has shown steady year-over-year improvement in credit card delinquency rates. In June, only three percent of the company’s cardholders were 60+ days past due. This compared to 4.9 percent in June 2010 and 5.7 percent in 2009. Going through the company’s table, a similar pattern is found for all the other months, as well.

Now, however, it may be that consumers are sliding back. According to research from First Data Corporation, the largest processor of credit cards, credit card volume growth was up 10.7 percent in June, the largest increase in over a year. Volume numbers, according to First Data, are largely driven by inflation.

“Consumers, particularly in the lower-income end, are being forced to use their credit cards for everyday spending like gas and food,” Silvio Tavares, senior vice president at First Data, told Bloomberg News. “That’s because there’s been no other positive catalyst, like an increase in wages, to offset higher prices. It’s a cash-flow problem.”

Discussion questions:  What does the increased use of credit cards mean for retailers? Would it be in retailers’ interests to dissuade customers from credit card use?

My post:

Most of the comments have gone well beyond the simple questions asked.  There is too little data in the articles to divine conclusions on the overall impact of increased credit card usage. The reasons vary from people needing to use credit due to cash running out, using their cards for convenience, the impact of inflation, and more.  What does this mean for retailers?  Credit is merely a means of payment. The answer will vary by retailer and will be more accurately tied to transaction volume and size.  It is certainly not in retailers’ interest, nor their responsibility to dissuade credit card use.  Between consumer education on the downside of overusing credit, to new government efforts to better regulate credit card issuers, consumers are much better equipped to make credit use decisions on their own.

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious! ™ strategist

www.OsorioGroup.com

What do you think?  Please add your comments and add to the discussion!

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Go to the full article at Retailwire.com:  Consumers to Retailers – Charge It.

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Staying curious allows senior leaders to stay connected to mulit-cultural trendsetters

July 21, 2011

DISCUSSION TOPIC

Youth and Age in Corporate America’s Cultural Dichotomy 07-21-2011

TOPIC SUMMARY:

Presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the About Marketing Solutions blog.

Corporate retailers, are you ready? I’m going to ask you a difficult question.

Is your age outpacing your organization’s relevancy?

The topic begs discussion when recognizing that, generationally and culturally, half of all Gen Z consumers (46 percent), and 40 percent of Gen Y and Gen X consumers are multicultural. Conversely, 66 percent of boomers and 80 percent of seniors 65+ are non-Hispanic white.

Commenting on my recent discussionon strategic relevance, Dan Stanek, EVP of Big Red Rooster, replied, “Innovation is more difficult when leaders are much older than the target market and do not understand how they operate.”

Is he right?

Generational and cultural skews represent significant challenges for a lot of today’s senior executives. If they want their companies to remain relevant and in demand, they are tasked at this particular point in marketing history to not only shed traditional views and ways, but to learn to understand and address cultural diversity in younger generations.

The sharper minds in corporate America are already in sync with the country’s age and cultural trends:

  • Pamela El, VP of marketing at State Farm told Ad Age back in 2009, “I think industry-wide, as America becomes more multicultural, you will see more ethnic insights across the board. I think we’re seeing it already, but I think we’ll see it two-, three-, four-, five-fold going forward.”
  • McDonald’s USA Chief Marketing Officer Neil Golden stated at the 2010 ANA Masters of Marketing Conference, “It’s very clear that African-American, Hispanic and Asian-American consumers set the trends and McDonald’s has found it more valuable to apply these segments’ preferences to the overall marketplace than to apply overall preferences to these segments.”
  • Coca Cola’s CMO, Bea Perez, kicking off this year’s Nielsen Consumer 360 conference, noted, “We know that 86 percent of the growth through 2020 for Coca-Cola’s youth-target market will come from multicultural consumers, especially Hispanic, and focusing on this segment is critical to the company’s future growth.”

These are the exceptions, however. The gap is wide between the multiculturally influenced Gen X, Y and Z markets and the bulk of U.S. corporate retailers who can’t “see” the relevance in educating their game to new consumer market trends.

In mid-June at the Consumer 360 Conference in Miami, Nielsen’s CEO David Calhoun exhorted attendees to spend 65 percent of their time figuring out their Hispanic opportunity.

“The story here is that within the next five years, multicultural clients will drive 86 percent of the total growth on spending at retail and, if you look at growth without these groups, you are only addressing 10 percent of the growth,” added Nielsen’s SVP, Claudia Pardo at the same conference.

Discussion questions:  Do you agree that “innovation is more difficult when leaders are much older than the target market?” To what extent do generational and cultural disconnects exist within retail organizations and brands today?

My post:

Innovation is difficult for most senior leaders, but not simply due to age or ethnicity.  The problem is a general lack of curiosity.  The tendency for most is to lean on what has worked for them in the past.  One cannot approach today’s consumer trends, which are clearly multi-cultural, with yesterday’s thinking.  And yet most do just that.  To remain relevant and effective, senior leaders must stay curious and immerse themselves in all the rich cultural happenings available on social media and other sources, including their own employees who hopefully mirror their consumer base.  If you do this, you can stay current, interested, and passionate about your consumers.

Further, the cultural diversity of today’s trendsetters varies by region and must be addressed as well as the macro trends.

Remain curious, utilize research, and listen intently to the readily available voices out there and senior leaders can remain effective no matter age or ethnicity.

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious! ™ strategist

www.OsorioGroup.com

What do you think?  Please add your comments and add to the discussion!

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Go to the full article at Retailwire.com:  Youth and Age in Corporate America.

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Yes, Customers are whole humans – and so are sales associates

July 21, 2011

DISCUSSION TOPIC

A Holistic View of Customers 07-20-2011

TOPIC SUMMARY:

One theme emerging from the Shopper Insights in Action 2011 event in Chicago last week was the necessity for viewing shoppers and consumers from a holistic perspective. Grant McCracken, author of Chief Customer Officer, suggested that we “dolly back” when researching the consumer or shopper.

“Dolly back” is a film term meaning that the camera pulls back to get a broader shot. Rather than just view the transaction, understanding the whole consumer would allow us to get to a cultural perspective from which we could predict trends. One speaker offered a quotation from A. G. Lafley, former CEO of P&G, “We have to consider the consumer as a whole person, not just the piece of them related to our product — e.g., not just the mouth for oral care.”

Some companies have been learning about their shoppers and consumers as people with some surprising insights.

For example, Brian Lannan, Target’s group manager of guest insights, shared one surprise. Fashion forward 20-30 year-olds were asked to identify their primary fashion influence — they said their moms!

Mike Hogan, senior vice president and chief culture officer of Game Stop, found that a broad consumer group of 30+ men and women are an important segment for them, not just the younger men and boys.

Todd Hale, senior vice president, consumer & shopper insights, Nielsen, reported that, in addition to increased food sales at Target and Walmart, cookbook sales are a growth category. Rajeev Sharma, CEO of Videomining, reported that store path research revealed that Hispanics not only buy different products, but that they shop differently.

Jonah Lehrer, author of How We Decide: The New Science of Decision-Making, presented neuroscience research indicating that an understanding of how the brain works reveals opportunities for learning what a consumer feels.

The overall conclusion: developing strategy based only upon transaction attitude or attitudinal research is not sufficient for understanding how consumers shop and buy.

Discussion questions:  What are the advantages as well as the challenges of taking a holistic view of consumers and shoppers? What research methodologies are appropriate for generating a holistic view of consumers?

My post:

Kudos to Bob Phipps for mentioning the importance to ‘dolly back’ and see both the customer and the sales associate as whole humans.  It is in the individual customer experience that the magic of retail occurs, and that requires both the customer and the associate.  It should be obvious that we must understand the holistic nature of the customer, and also the holistic nature of the associate experience – and finally how those two spheres intersect.  The challenge is retail leaders seeing the value in both the cost of the primary research and subsequent analysis, as well as the monetary and time cost in planning and implementing the subsequent strategies. Given the short term decision making nature of most retailers, most will not do this.  That leaves the spoils to the few who take the time and make the investment to truly understand the holistic nature of the very human behaviors and interactions of customers and sales associates.

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious! ™ strategist

www.OsorioGroup.com

What do you think?  Please add your comments and add to the discussion!

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Go to the full article at Retailwire.com:  A Holistic View of Cunsumers.

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e-Reader & Tablet evolution

July 16, 2011

DISCUSSION TOPIC

Target to Sell Google e-Reader, Amazon to Launch Tablet 07-14-2011

TOPIC SUMMARY:

The e-reader and tablet computer categories are in the process of getting more competitive based on recent announcements and reporting.

Earlier this week, Target announced it would be the exclusive retailer of the iriver Story HD, the first e-reader fully integrated with Google’s eBooks. The device, priced at $139.99 (five percent less for guests purchasing with their REDcards), provides access to Google’s library of more than three million free e-books as well as its catalog of titles for purchase. Consumers may also trade-in electronic devices for further credit toward the purchase price.

“Target strives to provide guests with exclusive access to the most innovative new products, and the iriver Story HD is no exception,” said Nik Nayar, vice president of merchandising, Target, in a press release. “With the rapid advancements of e-readers and tablets, the iriver Story HD’s superior features and integration with Google eBooks sets it apart.”

Target’s announcement comes on the heels of a report by IDC that said Barnes & Noble’s Color Nook had taken the top spot in the e-reader category during the first quarter.

“Amazon’s Kindle was second, but the lack of a color offering has clearly impacted the company’s previous dominance in the eReader market,” wrote IDC as quoted by Reuters.

Target also sells the Kindle along with other e-readers from Sony, Kobo, Pandigital and Aluratek. The chain also sells Apple’s iPad tablet device.

On the tablet front, The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Amazon.com will launch a rival device to the iPad in October.

Citing unnamed sources “familiar with the matter,” the Amazon device will have a screen around nine inches and run on Google’s Android platform.

Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst with Forrester Research, believes Amazon is best positioned to compete with Apple and is likely to develop a device that will sacrifice features to offer a lower-priced alternative to the popular iPad. The new unit, unlike Apple’s product, is said to come without a camera.

Discussion questions:  What is your current take on the e-reader and tablet device markets? Will Kindle continue to lose share in the e-reader category? Will lower priced alternatives pose the biggest threat to Apple’s iPad going forward?

My post:

Like the iPhone, Apple’s design edge and first-to-market consistency has held the iPad iPad2 ahead of the pack, at least for those with fewer budget limitations. However, there is a clearly building market for lower cost alternatives of both pure readers and fuller functioning tablets. I’m betting on Apple remaining ahead in the more lucrative premium market and for several others to fight it out in the less profitable low cost arena. I’ll continue to enjoy my iPad2–with the Kindle App loaded on for my e-book reading pleasure.

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious! ™ strategist

www.OsorioGroup.com

What do you think?  Please add your comments and add to the discussion!

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Go to the full article at Retailwire.com:  Target to sell Google e-Reader

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Aha moments – a new twist on luxury shopping

July 12, 2011

DISCUSSION TOPIC

Luxury Site Sees Opportunities in Aha Moments 07-11-2011

TOPIC SUMMARY:

Austerity, recession, belt-tightening and bargains have become watchwords for retailers and consumers over the past few years. But have they destroyed the joy of shopping? The flash sale website Ahalife.com doesn’t think so and has opened its doors to shoppers who shop for the love of it, unconcerned about bargains or price, but looking for sheer, unadulterated, luxurious pleasure.

Ahalife’s signature sales point is “curation,” recommendations from trusted advisers for wonderful products customers might otherwise struggle to find. Entrepreneur and founder, Shauna Mei, explained to New York Times reporter, Pamela Rickman, that she “offers niche products suggested by a variety of ‘trendsetters and tastemakers.'”

“Tastemakers” are said to include Diane von Furstenberg, Wendi Murdoch, Tina Brown, Tim Gunn and Lauren Bush.

Explaining why Aha differs from women’s magazines, she added, “I haven’t read print for three years and neither have my friends. … There’s a ton of content online, but it’s not curated. We can’t separate the good from the bad.” Ms. Mei’s “aha!” moment has reportedly attracted investors from banks, management consultancies and luxury retailers.

Determined to avoid targeting anyone who might resemble a “frumpy” housewife, Aha’s products are largely imported, targeting big spenders aiming to be trendsetters. Excitement and inspiration to be tempted and spend are part of the deal, along with the actual products.

Like other flash sale sites, Aha features one offer a day from categories such as fashion, food, beauty, accessories, home décor, tech and travel. Aha’s business model is based on consignment buys rather than stockholding, with potential profits coming from a traditional wholesale/retail relationship.

Discussion questions:  Is the joy of shopping enough incentive for a luxury website without any discounts or special offers? Does the value of ‘curated’ selections work as well online as in high-end retail?

My post:

One more interesting paragraph from the nextweb article:

Mei believes AHAlife has the potential to be ‘the future trusted media company with a buy button.’

“If you think about the various publications and magazines out there, most of them have not really explored e-commerce,” she says. “We believe in content + commerce + curation and I think this trend will continue to last in the next five years. I see AHAlife as the go-to destination for brands to launch the coolest lifestyle products from around the world and where the most discerning consumers go to discover the best the world has to offer.”

I think Ms. Mei has truly hit on something special – combining the joy of the hunt, ‘belonging’ to the cool crowd, and desire to be noticed into one very hot shopping social site.  I do think the way she is handling curated selections is unique and exciting and will allow the site to be a key product launch platform and a place “to see and be seen.”  Kudos to Ms. Mei for coming up with something new to excite fashionistas and retailers to expand the boundaries of shopping.

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious! ™ strategist

www.OsorioGroup.com

What do you think?  Please add your comments and add to the discussion!

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Go to the full article at Retailwire.com:  Opportunities in Aha Moments

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