Look, I get it. Recruitment isn’t the same as selling a widget.

People and our shifting expectations and emotions make recruitment delivery infinitely more complex and challenging to navigate.

However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a ton of value that recruiters can achieve by taking the learnings of one industry and applying it to our own.

Over time I’ve worked in recruitment, technology, sales, marketing, and eCommerce.

In recent months I’ve been working on an online retail store and I can see some huge opportunities for smart recruiters to create a point of difference for themselves by applying the learnings of best practice online retail and applying it to our own industry.

Some of these best practices can be implemented in minutes. Others might take longer to execute – which probably means they are a huge opportunity for the right someone(s) that are into building solutions.

Here are my 9 observed best practices in online retail that should really be swiped and adopted by the recruitment industry:-

1. Split Test Your Website

Split Tests, A/B tests, etc, are just standard practice in online retail.

An online store leveraging Google AdWords will write 5 different versions of the same ad to the same audience, then measure which receives the best response rate, testing variations around wording, structure, etc. and then over time come up with the perfect formula for increasing conversions in their industry.

Online retailers also split test design variations on their websites. Testing how specific actions can impact conversion rates can create a huge difference in profit. The difference between the positioning of a button, a specific call to action, the design of a product page, can create huge differences in results.

A UK digital marketing agency worked closely with a large recruitment agency and undertook split testing on variations of the “Apply Now” button on jobs on their website, testing various colours, wording, the positioning of the button, and size of the button. The result? A 36% improvement in their view-to-apply ratio for people on their website.

Have you ever split tested to optimise your website and job adverts, in particular, the “Apply” button on your website?

2. Live Chat

Smart online retailers are leveraging a live chat option within their site.

Want to check if a product is still in stock? Clarify on shipping? Just pop a message in and someone with the answer responds in moments.

Right now with one of my eCommerce stores, I have integrated Facebook Messenger and people can opt to use it to stay in touch after purchasing.

Anyone that purchases through the store receives information about shipping and delivery times directly through Facebook Messenger. The technology is so amazing that people can now actively search and purchase within Messenger. Check it out – https://apps.shopify.com/messenger

Variations on this create a massive opportunity for a recruitment agency to completely revamp their candidate experience and transparency.

Would you get more applications from your website if people could leverage Live Chat to quickly confirm their relevance for a role before applying?

Can Facebook Messenger be used to confirm job interviews with candidates in moments?

3. Dynamic Retargeting

Ever check out a product on a website, only to see that product everywhere you go across the internet for the next month?

This is retargeting. A Google or Facebook pixel (think of it as a tracker) notices you visit the site and pays attention to your behaviour. Once you have expressed interest an in a business or service, then you can be actively retargeted across various platforms.

Retargeting can receive a conversion rate 5 – 10x higher that cold traffic to your website, making it very valuable and worth investing in.

How can a recruitment agency leverage this?

There would be a big opportunity in retargeting people that have visited different pages in your website with various campaigns.

A small cost-per-click marketing campaign to people that have specifically visited your “Clients” tab over the last 2 weeks might create huge ROI in prompting clients to get in touch.

There is also a HUGE opportunity for the business that cracks “Dynamic Product Retargeting” in recruitment. Either LinkedIn or a more traditional job board would have the capacity to offer dynamic job advert retargeting eg. If a candidate views a specific job advert on your website, can you then show that same candidate the same position across the web over the next few weeks as they consider their options?

4. Email Marketing

In online sales, it’s all about the list.

Across multiple studies, email marketing scores the highest conversion rate and ROI out of any channel in online. Providing regular valuable information combined with the occasional offer is an exceptional way to maintain a relationship with your customers over time.

Email marketing doesn’t need to be shady and spammy – it should be all about offering value and building trust.

I have yet to meet a recruitment agency that genuinely has an advanced email marketing strategy that includes lead scoring etc. As a simple and immediate option, could people visiting the “Client” section of your website be offered a free guide on the best behavioural interview questions to ask in your industry, and what to look out for in the responses?

Could you generate significant brand and goodwill by automatically sending every applicant to your jobs a free 3 part video series on crushing your next job interview that is delivered by an automated email sequence?

That leads on to…

5. Video Content

Video is fast making its way across social platforms, and online retail is no exception.

Product videos can replace the showroom, and YouTube unboxing videos are a massive trend that I personally had never even heard of until recently.

Could you record a quick 2-minute video of yourself speaking to camera discussing how a particular role might transform the trajectory of a person’s career and include it in ads?

Is it an option to even interview your client for 2-3 minutes about the appeal of a particular role and it’s responsibilities, and then include this either in adverts or as part of the interview preparation info you send to a candidate?

Could the agency founder do a 5 minute “About Us” video, talking about their own passion and purpose in launching a recruitment agency?

7. Real Time Inventory

I know people don’t like to be called inventory, but please reserve judgment while I make the analogy work 🙂

Amazon, eBay, and many other large eCommerce sites have mastered the way to show what’s in stock. when it will become available, and even gives us the opportunity to pre-order it.

I can imagine functionality like this being of particular interest in high-end IT consulting and technical contracting. Can clients visit your website and browse and search through available talent? Can clients see that your top SAP Functional Consultant is due to be finishing a contract in 3 weeks and can they snag a “pre-order” by asking to meet that SAP Consultant right now, before they get snapped up on the open market?

There are some smart opportunities that can be created by giving clients greater insight and visibility into your talent communities.

8. Customer Reviews

Prominent user feedback on a website or on a product page encourages people to buy, and requesting customer feedback creates a valuable opportunity to hear customer opinion on their products. Reviews are an absolute must in online retail, and over time this may come true for the recruitment industry also.

Have you automated the process of asking for feedback and reviews for people that have interviewed at your agency to see what their experience is with your Consultants? Have you thought about automating the tracking of candidate satisfaction at the 4-week mark after they have interviewed with your agency to get a real sense of their experience with your agency?

Are you regularly requesting and publishing reviews from both your clients and candidates once they have started in their new roles?

9. Being Unique Helps You Stand Out

In online retail, there are some huge dominant industry players such as Amazon or eBay.

Fledgeling stores struggle to compete on price and logistics against the large players and they are unable to leverage the same purchasing power or operate at the same low margins.

So how do small online retailers compete? They get really really specific about an industry niche and then seek to serve that niche incredibly well through a combination of expert advice and exceptional customer service.

I see this of recruitment also. There can be a desire to become a generalist agency that works across multiple disciplines. This can be tempting, either to offer security against a particular industry having a downturn or alternatively to be able to fill a wider variety of job opportunities for a particular client.

However, being a small generalist is incredibly difficult. Selecting a very small niche, becoming the leading expert in that niche, and then expanding service from there seems to be incredibly challenging as you down have the credibility or a niche expert, and you don’t have the economies of scale afforded a large global agency.

Over my time working recruitment agencies, so often is has the been those that work in a very specific and targeted niche that have the greatest opportunities for growth and profitability.

Bonus Step 10. “But wait, there’s more!”

I know I said 9 steps in the title, but we online retailers always know how to take advantage of our desire for a good deal and to get a little something extra, like a good upsell, cross-promotion, or “But wait, there’s more!”

During a recruitment briefing definitely is not the right time to be “up-selling” your client, but there absolutely is plenty of opportunities to create additional value and goodwill for your clients that will pay dividends over the long term.

Several years back in recruitment I introduced a simple initiative of gifting to our senior placements a copy of a book called “The First 90 Days”, with a small note of thanks from their Consultant written inside the front cover. It was a small, inexpensive gift to our placements that actually helped them in their new role, was thoughtful and directly related to their new role.

So what gifts and additional value can a recruitment agency offer their clients, candidates, and placements?

There are a ton of great options. Could you make a short video series with your own advice on succeeding in your new role, and share it with your successful candidates on an email sequence that starts on their first day?

Could you ask a few high profile people in your industry to perhaps share their own tips on succeeding in their roles, and then share their advice as an article or checklist for your new starters? (It would make a great piece of content marketing too!)

Are you doing one of these already? I’d love to hear about your results in the comments section below!

About The Author: Sean Withford has worked in recruitment, technology, sales, marketing, and media for over 15 years. He has worked with 500+ recruitment agencies on developing and implementing strategies that help them become the respected authority in their industry.