Store employees and their interactions are becoming more important for brands, with consumers becoming more discerning and competition for their dollars at a high. To ensure the right representatives are in place, brands’ hiring processes are becoming more rigorous. That’s especially true when the associates are also appearing on the brand’s social media channels.
“A lot of our customers and staff are influencers in their own right,” said Connie Nam, founder of 11-year-old British jewelry brand Astrid & Miyu. “We’ve found that, rather than huge influencers with millions of followers, working with an aggregate of small influencers [that we know has proven] better for the brand. Their audiences are so much more engaged. It’s a lot more work for us, but it also pays off a lot more.”
The brand has a rigorous vetting process for hiring people for its stores, which includes interviews with both managers and the founder. Some employees are established micro-influencers who help promote the brand on its social channels, as well as in-store. Astrid & Miyu recruits talent through traditional job sites and LinkedIn, with an eye on applicants with their own business or a significant social following. Both offer the opportunity to create awareness of the brand among a new audience.
“We do a very in-depth interview that’s quite personal,” said Nam. “If people are not comfortable opening up and being vulnerable, they’re probably not for us. We are looking for self-awareness and vulnerability, because we want them to bring that out in our customers, as well, to help build our community. The first question our recruitment manager asks is: ‘What makes you who you are? Tell me the story.”
When staff members come on board, there’s training that includes how to greet customers and create the right “vibe.” There’s also technical training about the products, including on how and where they’re made, as the brand prioritizes using recycled metals in its jewelry. There is an exceptional focus on getting to know the customer while they’re in-store, Nam said.
“There’s natural seasonal turnover, but there are very few permanent staff members that leave,” said Nam. On average, permanent store employees stay for a minimum of three years. The employee retention rate has stayed at over 90% since the brand’s founding.
Store employees include Darylle Sargeant, who was a contestant on season 4 of the TV show “Love Island.” On her Instagram, where she has 135,000 followers, Sergeant posts about Astrid & Miyu and her work as a piercing artist at the store.
While the brand’s store employees are not paid to be influencers who leverage their own followings, they regularly take to Astrid & Miyu’s Instagram, TikTok and YouTube accounts while in-store to make recommendations or offer explainers on how to wear the brand’s products and use its services. The brand has 501,000 followers on Instagram and 83,000 on TikTok.
Nam said that influential people make for great salespeople. “[Darylle] is an influencer and was on TV, but she also is a piercer and runs a vintage store [on the side],” she said. “We have a couple of influencers and reality TV stars who work at our stores, and they all end up making content. They love being on camera, and they’re so good at it.”
The brand projects $38 million in sales this year. It has 210 store employees across 20 stores in the U.K., Ireland and the U.S. It recently opened its second store in the U.S., in NYC’s West Village. By 2027, it plans to have 122 stores globally.
Brands like Brilliant Earth, Kate Spade and Everlane have also engaged in growing their internal team’s presence on their social media. For its part, Macy’s launched a “Style Crew” program for its in-store employees in 2018. Now, thanks to newer platforms like TikTok and popular video formats like “Day in the Life,” there’s a new brand opportunity in associate-created content.