Category Archives: Retail

3 Employment Screening Trends to Know Before You Hire in 2019

Roy Maurer
By Roy Maurer, Online Manager/Editor, Talent Acquisition – SHRM Online
January 23, 2019

This is the first article in a two-part series. The next installment will examine how employers can ensure data security in the screening process and what to expect with forthcoming artificial intelligence technology.

Employers are ramping up their use of social media screening and real-time employee monitoring in 2019. And the demand for workers in a tight labor market will push more companies to consider applicants they may have once ignored: those with criminal records.

[SHRM resource page: Background Checks]

Social Media Checks

Employers have shown increasing interest in screening candidates’ online presence.

In 2019, more background-check providers will offer online and social media searches as part of their suite of products, but employers must ensure that these searches protect candidate privacy and don’t run afoul of the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) or standards set by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

“Social media screening presents opportunities for recruiters to find candidates and to reduce risk, but at the same time, these searches can create a legal minefield of potential liability,” said Les Rosen, founder and CEO of Employment Screening Resources, a background-screening firm in Novato, Calif.

Interest in social media screening has grown significantly over the last few years, said Bianca Lager, the president of Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Social Intelligence Corp., a leading provider of social media screening reports. “We now see almost daily news stories of someone getting into trouble with their employer over what they’ve written online,” she said. “Hiring companies know they can’t get away with ignoring social media as part of the background-screening process any longer, but the DIY approach is incredibly troubling for candidates in terms of privacy, accuracy and discrimination.”

If HR professionals are conducting their own online searches on job candidates, they need to stop, said Montserrat Miller, an attorney with Arnall Golden Gregory, based in Atlanta. “The potential for a discrimination claim far outweighs the cost of adding a social media screening option from a vendor.”

Rosen said that employers should be wary of discovering too much information—or “TMI”—on social media. ” ‘TMI’ means by looking at [an applicant’s] social media site or perhaps a photo or something that they have blogged about, you are going to learn all sorts of things as an employer you don’t want to know and [that] legally cannot be the basis of a decision,” he said. Job applicants can sue employers for discrimination if they believe they were not hired due to protected characteristics covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, including race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

“Even the appearance of a decision not to hire someone based on a negative impression related to race, gender, religion, or other protected classes could subject [employers] to a discrimination lawsuit,” said Christine Cunneen, CEO of Providence, R.I.-based background-check company Hire Image.

Experts agree that if employers decide to screen an applicant through social media, the best way to reduce legal risk is by having a third-party vendor perform the search instead of doing it in-house. Background-check providers that perform social media screening must comply with the FCRA and produce accurate reports scrubbed of protected characteristics.

“Social media reports won’t show whether or not someone is Muslim or gay or a military veteran, to protect the employer from a discrimination claim,” Miller said. “They will only provide instances of actionable, offensive information, for example relating to criminal activity, violent behavior or making racist comments.”

Cunneen added that employers need to be careful not to violate candidate privacy. Social media screens should be drawn only from user-generated, publicly available information and not from third-party content or password-protected sites. “If the applicant’s social media settings are set to public, that information is open for anyone, including potential future employers, to review,” she said. “However, if their profile is set to private, the employer cannot try to bypass those settings without risking exposure to potential liability down the road.”

Continuous Monitoring

New technology lets companies go beyond pre-employment checks and rescreens to real-time monitoring of current employees for warning signs of illegal or other concerning behavior.

“Employee monitoring is one of the biggest trends I’m seeing,” said Jason Morris, an employment screening consultant and industry expert with Morris Group Consulting in the Cleveland area.

“Justifiably, employers will always want to know who is working for them—not just [during] hiring but throughout their employment relationship,” Cunneen said. “A current employee can engage in illegal behavior as much now as he or she could have before they were an employee.”

Uber announced plans last year for ongoing monitoring of arrest and conviction data on their drivers. “These tools have been around for a while, but end users are finally seeing the benefits, and the data is getting better,” Morris said.

Uber teamed with San Francisco-based screening firm Checkr to get continuous updates about drivers’ records, including new criminal violations and license suspensions. The technology will notify Uber, for example, when a driver is charged with driving under the influence.

“It is a subscription that listens to a candidate’s data over time, looking for and identifying changes in their background to mitigate risk for companies,” said Tomas Barreto, vice president of product and engineering at Checkr. If new information triggers a full background check, the worker is also notified, he said.

“While there are some industries whose regulations have mandated continuous or some form of periodic screening, such as health care, we are seeing more industries embrace the idea,” said Melissa Sorenson, executive director of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners. “Like any background-screening program, it’s important for employers to ensure they follow both federal and state law related to background screening—including following disclosure and authorization requirements before conducting a background check, as well as adverse action processes in the event that the results of the background check lead the employer to consider not hiring, promoting or retaining the individual.”

Hiring People with Criminal Records

Research shows a majority of HR professionals find little difference in quality of hire between applicants with and without a criminal record.

“The fact that employers cannot find workers due to the current labor shortage has caused them to turn to an untapped and underutilized source of labor: ex-offenders and [former] inmates from the approximately 20 million Americans who have been convicted of a felony,” Rosen said.

The Prison Policy Initiative calculated the ex-offender unemployment rate to be 27 percent, higher than the total U.S. unemployment rate at any time, including during the Great Depression.

Alonzo Martinez, associate counsel for compliance at background-screening company HireRight, said that with the number of unfilled positions now exceeding the labor pool, employers are recognizing the potential in this previously untapped group of candidates.

“While a criminal record should never be an automatic deal breaker—especially for candidates who have misdemeanors on their records, have served their time or have been rehabilitated—in the current market, employers are increasingly considering candidates with criminal records and redefining policies and requirements to lower some of the barriers to employment that ex-offenders face,” he said.

“Companies recognize that hiring from this population is the right thing to do, but it’s also good business,” said Richard Bronson, the founder and CEO of 70MillionJobs, the first for-profit job board specifically for job seekers with criminal records.

“Companies are motivated by the bottom line, and they recognize that unfilled jobs are costly. Every single company I talk to says they are facing a staffing shortage or they have trouble retaining their workers, particularly at the lower end of the wage scale. Perhaps they would not have been eager to consider this population before, but I think they generally recognize that they can ill afford to ignore any large pool of talent out there, and this is arguably one of the largest. One in three adults have a record of some kind.”

The industries most hospitable to people with criminal records have been call centers, construction, health care, manufacturing, retail, and transportation and warehousing. “The technology sector has been woefully reticent to take action,” Bronson said. “They talk a good game but don’t deliver when it comes to actually hiring.”

Martinez said HR must be cognizant of the challenges involved with screening the ex-offender population, such as a longer turnaround time to ensure a complete assessment.

“Companies should continue to perform thorough background checks and conduct individualized assessments of candidates with criminal history, per EEOC guidance,” he said. “It would also benefit companies to review their hiring requirements to determine the types and depth of screening that is necessary for each job position. This can reduce the volume of acceptable hires that are unnecessarily flagged for additional review for reasons that are not related to the role’s responsibilities.”

Internet of things meets consumer packaged goods

By Josh Garrett, President, COO and Co-Founder of MOBI (at the time of his post on 06 Nov 2018)
[Josh is currently President – MMS at Tangoe]. Guest Contributor to TechTarget’s IoTAgenda.

While IoT is more popular than ever among enterprise technology teams, some industries have been slow to invest. Unlike MOBI’s consumer packaged goods (CPG) sector customers, companies without a mobility management partner are hesitant to sacrifice the large amount of time, money and labor required to deploy IoT. In fact, the CPG industry overall ranks second to last in terms of IoT spending versus total revenue. Less than three-tenths of one percent in revenue generated is invested into IoT, while globally the average industry invests more than four-tenths of one percent — or more than 25% in additional revenue than CPG.

Also, IoT endpoints have historically been used by retailers to better collect, analyze and interpret consumer behavior to improve the customer experience. Unlike retail, inexperienced CPG mobility programs are more likely to rely upon in-store audits and partner-shared insights to understand consumer behavior instead — making IoT feel more like a luxury than an absolute necessity where gaining market insight is concerned.

However, things are starting to change. CPG companies are uncovering new, valuable uses for today’s IoT technologies that weren’t possible a few years ago. Here are eight examples that show how IoT is benefitting businesses in this sector:

1. More personalization
IoT offers CPG companies tremendous advantages and new product personalization options. By creating new channels to collect and understand market data more deeply, industry players can use these technologies to increase customer interaction, satisfaction and loyalty with specially designed offerings.

Some organizations are even combining offline tactics with IoT to better enable customers and increase sales. Advanced systems can detect when someone is browsing an out-of-stock product online and automatically offer directions to a nearby store that has the item in stock along with a discount coupon to make up for any inconvenience.

2. Less delay
Sensors and other mobile endpoints can help CPG eliminate traditional manufacturing and supply chain gaps. Relevant stakeholders can now be alerted immediately if anything goes wrong with real-time data streams and statuses attached to individual product shipments.

Predictive maintenance tasks fueled by IoT systems also greatly reduce the likelihood of unplanned network errors and accelerate company response times should an issue arise.

3. Better collaboration
IoT fuels stronger, more meaningful CPG relationships with retailers by creating a chance to collaborate and co-invest in tech-driven initiatives. In doing so, both parties aim to eliminate out-of-stock scenarios and improve product availability, leading to long-term strategies and success.

4. Enhanced insights
An influx of new consumer data enables the CPG industry to identify behaviors, patterns and trends that companies couldn’t reveal otherwise. That means smarter spending and product development decisions that align with market demands.

Organizations with a digital sales presence will even be able to use IoT to suggest products, offer discounts and push notifications to online shoppers as they browse offerings, increasing the potential for add-on sales and enhancing the customer experience.

5. Real-time tracking
Moving and transporting goods also becomes more accurate and aware with IoT’s integration. Advanced sensors can help CPG enterprises monitor real-time fluctuations in temperature, product status and so forth to optimize operational processes and potentially create more effective, efficient workflows.

6. Smarter stocking
Smart shelves and inventory stocking systems use IoT to make continuous product updates that alert CPG organizations when item levels are low. This not only gives retailers the ability to avoid empty shelves and dissatisfied customers, but also helps CPG companies replenish products before a competitor has an opportunity to replace it.

7. AI-driven assistance
When combined with artificial intelligence, IoT systems give CPG enterprises the ability to scan products and streamline inventory management tasks. These enhanced technologies can even automatically recommend products to digital consumers in a way that maximizes sales and the impact of special promotions.

8. Global security
Through RFID and a GPS, IoT makes it possible to track products at more in-depth levels than ever before. CPG companies that use these systems ensure accurate and timely deliveries while simultaneously minimizing theft and loss incidents.

If these benefits sound too good to pass up, an IoT initiative may be in your organization’s not-too-distant future. If you’re considering an advanced device deployment for the first time, however, keep these three things in mind:

1. Employees
While there are impressive IoT technologies capable of vast functionality, ultimately the success of any enterprise deployment depends on the digital maturity of the people interacting with it. Even the most advanced systems fail if workers can’t figure out how to use them or aren’t willing to try.

Since IoT is expected to impact consumer behavior, employee productivity and HR management, CPG companies need to formulate strategies and carefully implement these new devices.

2. Alignment
Enterprise workflows will also be impacted by IoT’s workload. Some processes will need to be redesigned or combined with others to make these advanced technologies perform to a level that satisfies business needs.

Data that’s collected and processed by connected IoT endpoints empowers decision-makers and supply chain leaders with information to satisfy customers and strategically grow revenue.

3. Data
The speed and fluctuating types of data generated by IoT systems can be challenging for CPG organizations to manage and secure. Unless a business is willing to invest in internal data storage systems, be sure to research innovations like hype data technology, additional security layers and data storage facilities to have a plan in place before deployment starts.

As mobile technology grows more advanced and integrated within the CPG sector, IoT will help these companies drive innovation and productivity. While the business benefits can be tremendous, it takes careful planning and a strategic approach to make these initiatives impactful.

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.


Will We See a Renaissance of the Store in 2019?

Credit: Getty Images by Ariel Skelley

By Michael Colaneri, Vice President, Retail, Restaurant Hospitality – AT&T


Many traditional retailers feared the digital age would lead to shoppers abandoning brick-and-mortar stores for online shops. Consumers, however, are not saying “out with the old and in with the new.” Instead, they’re using brick-and-mortar stores as an extension of their digital shopping journey, making the physical store more relevant than ever. Therefore, while the traditional shopping experience is gone, a new era of retail has arrived, forcing businesses to look at digital solutions to enhance customer experiences.

And with consumer incomes and spending up in 2019, retail is bracing for another robust year fueled by this economy. AT&T and Incisiv teamed up to learn what top five strategic shifts retail executives are making to drive the renaissance of the store. Here’s what the survey found:

Related story: 2019 Retail Forecast: The Expansion of Brick-and-Mortar and Flexible Checkout Options

Product Availability

There’s still a large gap between customer expectations and what retailers offer in-store. For example, while nearly 80 percent of millennial and Gen Z consumers believe mobile inventory lookup has a positive impact on their shopper journey, only 34 percent of retailers have invested in this digital in-store technology. That’s why 68 percent of retailers are looking to improve the in-store experience through better merchandising and inventory control.

A retailer’s single view of inventory is the most common challenge. With so many touchpoints for product, omnichannel retailers are challenged to understand true demand. Furthermore, with investments in digital, moving cost-to-carry inventory back out to suppliers becomes increasingly relevant.

Shopper Convenience

Forty-five percent of retailers are planning to change store layout for better execution of omnichannel strategies. With time as their most valuable commodity, customers are looking for their experience to be driven by efficiency, convenience, lifestyle and service. That’s why it’s important for retailers to shift away from the traditional strategy of increasing a customer’s dwell time in-store to drive sales. Creating a layout that resonates with shopper preferences and allows for a trip in and out of the store is the biggest driver of repeat business. This paves the way for consumers to capture as many interests/products as possible in the shortest, most frictionless amount of time.

Likewise, multiple payment methods, self-checkout, mobile cash wrap all become more valuable. While any chain is typically remodeling 5 percent to 10 percent of their stores annually, the new “look” becomes a test to accommodate changing shopper expectations and habits. All solutions are digitally enabled so technology relevance is high.

Immersive Marketing

Fifty-three percent of retailers are looking to improve the store experience through better in-store marketing. To generate sales, digital signage, mobile payments and even loyalty apps need to create a unique user experience to generate a high return on investment. Consumer preference boundaries remain sensitive.  These experiences should always intersect with target demographics, resulting in a clear digital strategy to drive traffic and sales.

And emerging technology is taking center stage, with 70 percent of retailers investing or planning to invest in the Internet of Things (IoT) in 2019, and 40 percent of retailers investing or planning to invest in augmented reality/virtual reality. As the digital and physical worlds blend to create a “phygital” reality, retailers can take advantage of these tools to reach their customers in previously untapped ways.

Customer Insights

Retail without data is inefficient. Data helps retailers operate smarter and more strategically. That’s why 52 percent of retailers plan to enhance customer insights through data aggregation. Knowing what merchandise to carry and who your customers are is critical. Brands need data to fuel their buying and merchandising, as well as the customer experience they develop online and offline. Furthermore, simply getting data feeds can overwhelm the enterprise — the need for integrated data lakes that create true business intelligence is vital.

Operational Readiness

Fifty-one percent of retailers plan to refine store processes to gain better efficiency.

Sales associates are spending most of their time transacting directly with consumers. This makes it necessary to automate operations (e.g., restocking, inventory chasing, providing information on products, etc.). With cost of goods likely the largest expense, the second largest expense for most retailers is labor, and it’s on the rise. The value these associates provide to conversion is vital, however, replacing their hours with more labor to perform back-of-house activities is economically inefficient. Technology, including IoT and other connected capabilities like robotics, become more sound investments with shorter ROI.

The technology-focused solutions don’t stop there. Common investments to solve for these business problems also include Wi-Fi, kiosks and contactless payment. An example is our 5G trial at Magnolia in Waco, Texas, at the Silos. The 5G trial service is distributed through a number of Wi-Fi access points covering the entire grounds of the Silos, and we’ve observed faster wireless speeds not just for visitors, but for employees and vendors who use mobile point-of-sale devices and wireless devices to manage their back-office operations.

Retail vitality is high. Competition is intense. And retailers recognize this — 60 percent are increasing store-level investments by more than 5 percent in 2019. This is the greatest increase since 2007. Retailers have entered a new era. The need for digital experience and consumer preference accommodation is no longer a “nice to have,” but a must. Add to that consumer proficiency with and expectations for digital engagement, and the need to invest in-store and online/offline integration technology is poignant.

Michael Colaneri is vice president, retail, restaurant hospitality, at AT&T, a modern media company that brings together premium content, direct-to-consumer relationships, advertising technology and high-speed networks to deliver a unique customer experience.


The 2018-2019 Retail Technology Report: An Analysis of Trends, Buying Behaviors and Future Opportunities.
This valuable resource offers readers exclusive insights into the retail technology landscape, including current usage, the emerging technologies that retailers are most interested in and believe will have the biggest impact on their businesses, how retailers are purchasing technology, and much more.

Why customers make 108% more purchases in apps than on websites

Mobile commerce transactions are predicted to surpass e-commerce transactions this year worldwide, according to a Button report.


Mobile engagement will drive the marketplace through 2019, according to a Button report released on Monday. The report analyzed millions of transactions in the Button Marketplace during the 2018 holiday season to determine what mediums consumers are using to make purchases.

The report found a huge rise in the mobile economy—an increase so significant that mobile commerce transactions are expected to overwhelm e-commerce transactions by the end of this year.

Consumers are now shopping more on mobile applications than on the web, and are even willing to download new apps to make purchases, the report found. Over the 2018 holiday season, shoppers made 108% more purchases through apps than on the mobile web. This means marketers must focus their attention to apps, since more customers are likely to start and continue purchasing from them, the report added.

“When consumers find what they want, brands and retailers can connect with new customers, and publishers can benefit from providing the traffic,” Michael Jaconi, co-founder and CEO of Button, said in a press release. “Increasingly, brand spending is shifting to performance spending, empowering brands to acquire and engage customers and drive their business growth with mobile.”

Marketers can attract new customers to mobile transactions by providing offers and incentives, the report said. For example, marketers may want to provide deals on Thanksgiving day or designated days prior to Christmas, so early shoppers can benefit, the report added.

Check out this TechRepublic article to learn more about some of the most popular mobile payment applications.

The big takeaways for tech leaders:
  • Mobile application commerce will surpass e-commerce by the end of 2019. — Button, 2019
  • During the 2018 holiday season, mobile app purchases increased by 108%. — Button, 2019


NRF 2019: 3 Takeaways from Retail’s ‘Big Show’

Experts gathered to share successes and aspirations around data, intelligent automation, security and more.


Retail isn’t dead — far from it. But that doesn’t mean times aren’t changing for stores everywhere. Perhaps the most popular sentiment during The National Retail Federation’s Big Show this year was that customer demands are skyrocketing. With more choices than ever, shoppers expect retail stores to fire on all cylinders — online, in-store, mobile, across channels — and retailers are digging in to seek ways to deliver across all platforms.

“Twenty, even 10 years ago, retail interactions were so focused on the store. They still are today, but you then need to think about all the other places you need to meet your customer across every single touchpoint, whether that be on Instagram, on social media, whether that be on their mobile phone, whether that be in a marketing campaign,” Oracle’s Senior Director of Product Strategy Katrina Gosek tells BizTech.

Several retailers and experts at the conference shared stories that offer valuable insights into how they are tackling this new landscape. Here are three takeaways from the show:

1. Big Data and Analytics Take Retail to the Next Level

For retailers right now, no resource is more precious than data.

This is particularly true as brands seek to personalize customer experiences online. Gosek notes that collecting data across all touchpoints and bringing it together is key to crafting a personalized customer journey.

But in-store operations can also see a boost from data. Chick-fil-A and Home Depot are using the data visualization tool Tableau to obtain insights into operations and solve problems they previously didn’t even know existed.

Almost anything can become data. George Bentinck, product manager at Cisco Meraki, explained in a panel with CDW at the show how brands can tap data from surveillance footage to extrapolate insights about how to improve the in-store experience.

“Knowing where people are, where they go, and doing that in real time can be applied to a whole host of business problems,” said Bentinck.

2. The Big Data Boom Prompts the Need for Data Privacy

But with this data influx comes a number of concerns around how to use and secure it. For this reason, Sucharita Kodali, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, told attendees during a keynote presentation that data security is one of the most critical challenges facing retailers at the moment.

“Data security is hugely important, not just because of the compliance needs of retailers and brands, but also because of the legislation and the requirements of everything from the California Consumer Privacy Act to GDPR, and probably a lot more coming down the pike,” said Kodali.

She also points to a study in which 17 percent of consumers note they don’t want brands collecting or tracking any personal information.

“It’s important to recognize that and to make sure you’re not personalizing to those people,” said Kodali. “Often, as marketers, as retailers, we forget that consumers belong to different segments, and you have to adjust. That is the very heart of personalization.”

MORE FROM BIZTECH: How retailers can deal with the new reality of GDPR.

3. Artificial Intelligence Takes Hold in Retail

Artificial intelligence has begun infiltrating. In fact, 51 percent of retailers have already begun to use AI for customer intelligence, while 48 percent are using it for demand forecasting, and 38 percent are using the tech for pricing and promotion, according to a joint survey of 1,900 retail executives by NRF and IBM released at the show.

“We’re really at a transformation point where AI is fusing with machine learning capabilities so that people can really process all the data and information they have on customers, on their supply chain, and it’s really ready to sort of take off,” Katherine Cullen, director of retail and consumer insights for NRF tells BizTech.

Online retailer zulily has already started to tap intelligent automation in order to better craft personalized customer journeys and engage the customer “where she lives,” explained zulily Vice President of Engineering Bindu Thota at the show.

“Every place where we touch them, we personalize it for them. We are literally talking to them, and we leverage automation and machine learning to do that,” she said. “What you see when you come to the zulily site is very different from what I see, and that is part of our business model and in our DNA from day one.”

Keep this page bookmarked for articles from the event. Follow us on Twitter at @BizTechMagazine, or the official conference Twitter account, @NRFBigShow, and join the conversation using the hashtag #NRF2019.

MORE FROM BIZTECH: Check out all of our stories and video from NRF 2019.

PeopleImages/Getty Images

Virtual reality for retail, marketing could hit $1.8B in 2022

Contributing Editor for Retail Dive
Published Jan. 28, 2019


Dive Brief:
  • Revenue related to virtual reality technology initiatives is expected to jump by 3,000% over the next four years, and could generate as much as $1.8 billion for retail and marketing companies in 2022, according to a new report from called “Virtual Reality in Retail: 2019 and Beyond.”
  • The report suggests that use of VR and similar technologies by retailers could help consumers to do more research before they buy items, whether by trying out products through VR experiences before they visit stores, or by using in-store technologies to help them gauge fit of apparel or different makeup looks
  • While augmented reality features in mobile apps have become more common, VR features may not become prominent so quickly in mobile form. Smartphone-based VR features, however, could help supplement in-store VR services and shopping experiences, the report said.
Dive Insight:

The report calls out Macy’s as one retailer that has embraced virtual reality technology and similar innovations to reinvent store experiences. Macy’s has used smart mirrors in dozens of stores, and also late last year announced a major expansion of its use of VR in store for furniture shopping. That use case allowed shoppers to employ VR to see furniture items in different virtual room settings.

For Macy’s, using VR isn’t just about enhancing the store experience, but also part of how it is using various technologies in an attempt to change perceptions about the Macy’s name and department stores in general.

This report, like others in recent years, noted that retail shopping use cases and applications for retailers are still in their infancy, and perhaps years from a real growth spurt. Although the projected 3,000% growth is impressive, it needs to be placed in a context of little to no growth.

It’s starting to become clear, however, that users are understanding how the technology can help them for shopping, and that could benefit retailers in many different ways, including a greater likelihood of conversions, less likelihood of returns and potential lower fulfillment costs, according to another recent study referenced in the report.

As more retailers adopt VR for different uses, it will be interesting to see how that affects the use of mobile smartphones during in-store shopping. Right now, mobile devices are frequently and widely used for research during the shopping process, but that might lessen if more personalized research and planning could be accomplished via VR before shoppers ever leave their homes, the report noted. However, that’s not likely for a very long time, the report also said.