Online retailers stress location and career growth when recruiting

March 31, 2016 02:40 PM

Retaining good employees is important for online retailers, because recruiting can be costly.

Online fashion e-retailer Touch of Modern Inc., No. 473 in the Internet Retailer 2015 Top 500 Guide, says it continually works to expand its professional network and talk up the company, hoping that, when the time is right, the contacts it’s made will help it nab a well-matched senior-level hire. Filling senior-level jobs can be costly. For instance, e-commerce recruiter Harry Joiner says his fee is 20% of a candidate’s first-year base salary, and, given that the candidates he places tend to earn a pay range of $100,000-250,000 per year, that means an employers may pay $20,000 to 50,000 to recruit a senior executive.

Caliopie Walsh, vice president of human resources for marketing services company Experian Marketing Services, says her acquisition cost averages less than $5,000 per position filled companywide, but that the price tag is much more for senior-level technical positions. And that cost, she says, does not factor in the loss of productivity to the business while the position remains open.

David Redlich, president and co-founder of online-only restaurant and office supplies retailer, No. 586 in the 2015 Internet Retailer Second 500 Guide, relies on current employees to find new ones, offering bonuses for successful new employee referrals in the “thousands of dollars.”

“If my director of ops is amazing, her friends are amazing too,” he explains. “If you’re paying somebody to recruit someone, they end up bringing in other people and they’re doing the recruiting for you just by telling them how great their actual job is and how great the culture is at the company. The subtle part is, they’re not recruiting. They’re just speaking emotionally about what they like.”

When trying to lure new talent,Austin, Texas-based multichannel golf equipment retailer Golfsmith International Inc., isn’t shy about using its location to its advantage, and with good reason. U.S. News & World Report ranked Austin No. 2 on its list of Best Places to Live in 2016, citing its “music, outdoor spaces, and cultural institutions” as being key reasons why the city is growing.

Of course, with just a few other major e-retailers based in town—eyewear e-retailer and home appliance e-retailer Living Direct Inc. also are Austin-based—the relative lack of direct competitors for e-retail employees also helps the company. Kim Lewis, vice president of omnichannel marketing at Golfsmith, says being in Austin and not in Silicon Valley where the competition for tech talent is stiffer has proven to be a boon to her team.

“We absolutely sell the city and it’s one of our greatest assets,” Lewis says. And while it has a driving range at its headquarters—the e-retailer naturally seeks to hire those passionate about the game—it doesn’t layer on perks that some other tech-oriented companies offer. “We’re not going up against places like Google that have nap rooms,” she says. “We get people who come in and who care about golf and who care about wanting to build a successful retailer. They’re coming in, they want to grow, and they want to advance.”

At, Redlich says he focuses on creating a bond with each employee and making the office an enjoyable place for them to come to work.

“We want to find a balance of the person’s life,” he says. “We want them to work hard but we want them to have fun at work. If they work too hard they’re going to wake up and not have fun at work.” Redlich says he does this by taking the time to get to know each of his employees on a personal level to find out what is important to them and occasionally having meetings off site in less-traditional locations, such as a basketball court.

San Francisco-based Touch of Modern takes a similar tack.

Wu says the four-year-old retailer eschews a lot of the perks commonly offered by young companies in San Francisco and nearby Silicon Valley. While it does offer competitive salaries, with Touch of Modern co-founder and chief operating officer Jonathan Wu saying there’s been an increase of around 2-5% in pay for higher-level positions over a three year span, and it offers some minor frills such as some food and drinks, the executive team focuses more on promoting career development.

“What we’ve found is that our team really appreciates that mentorship and that growth and that guidance,” he says. “If they’re learning a lot and taking on a lot of new responsibility, their career development can get rapidly accelerated. I think that’s a very core reason how we’ve been able to retain talent,” although he decline to provide employee retention rates.

Wu offers an example of an employee who it hired as a middle-level buyer. She enrolled in an accelerated promotion program Touch of Modern offered and within six months was promoted to a senior buyer. After that she transferred to the marketing department to manage the e-retailer’s affiliate program. All the promotions and moves took place in the employee’s first two years with the merchant.

For more on the battle for e-commerce talent, pick up a copy of the April edition of Internet Retailer magazine.




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