Sainsbury's: Transforming a Traditional Retail Role with Recruitment Marketing

Sainsbury’s: Transforming a Traditional Retail Role with Recruitment Marketing

As customer experience becomes the battleground for retail differentiation, Sainsbury’s turned to PeopleScout to help them hire the next generation of store managers.

19,000 Applications Received in First 12 Weeks, Beating our Target by 171%
4,500 Hires Made, Exceeding the Target of 2,400
1 M Candidate Engagements

Shopping habits have changed. And in the highly competitive UK retail sector, customer experience can make or break results for retailers. To capitalize on this, Sainsbury’s, one the UK’s big five supermarkets, decided to transform one of its traditional roles—and reimagine store management in the process.

Their goal? To create a simpler, more rewarding experience for staff and customers alike. Sainsbury’s wanted to replace the traditional role of retail store manager with a new role, Customer & Trading Manager.

This new role gave managers the freedom to get out of the weeds and really lead teams—creating a new era of retail management. This required new skills and a different mindset. Some of their retail professionals would be able to transition into these new roles but some wouldn’t have what it takes. So Sainsbury’s turned to PeopleScout to help them attract new talent from the outside.

Turning Negatives into Positives

From the start, we faced some significant challenges:

  • The role was entirely new to the market, so we had to explain the new, unfamiliar employment proposition clearly to audiences both inside and outside of retail.
  • The role of retail manager had an image problem. It was seen as a transactional role that often saw you stuck on the registers.
  • The media was confusing the issue. We needed to counteract several misleading, negative reports of large-scale retail redundancies.

Sainsbury’s considered this to be one of their biggest recruitment challenges. They asked us to challenge and overturn negative public perceptions of retail management, introduce an entirely new type of role and hire 2,400 managers, from 24,000 applicants—in just six months.

The Core Message

First, we took apart the job profile to challenge the requirements. It was clear that the single most motivating benefit of the role was the potential to be a leader and to get the very best from a team. This suggested that the best candidates for this new type of retail role didn’t necessarily need retail experience.

We wanted to reconnect people with the emotional core of what’s great about management. It meant presenting the role—and Sainsbury’s—in a new light. So, we stripped away the language associated with the day-to-day tasks and instead put the focus back on employees as people.

We developed an overarching campaign message, Leading Starts Here, to clearly state our employment offer.

And to bring it to life, we used the following concept as our organizing thought: We all need someone to inspire us.

This universal, relatable truth was what used to capture the moving stories of individuals who have overcome huge obstacles—everything from low self-esteem to disability—with the help of inspirational leaders.

Making it Authenitic

Video was our chosen vehicle. Our diverse cast reflected Sainsbury’s approach as an inclusive employer and included people from a variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds, people with common mental health issues and people with disabilities. While some of the responses were scripted, the strongest were spontaneous reactions to the simple prompt, tell me about someone who inspired you.

The campaign featured a blended approach of active and passive channels on- and offline:

  • Active channels included Indeed and a wide variety of other job boards as well as Google Search and Google Display Network.
  • Passive channels included billboards in key locations near major offices, newspapers, social media and other online destinations.
  • We used geo-location and behavioral targeting on search and social media to put our videos in front of audiences across the hospitality, travel, cabin crew, leisure and care industries.

We created 69 individual pieces of artwork, a campaign landing page with the hero video and an in-store toolkit, which included pull-up banners, poaching cards, posters, leaflets and stickers —everything a store needed to amplify the campaign.

The Results

  • Less than 10:1 application-to-hire ratio of high quality candidates.
  • Over 19,000 applications received in first 12 weeks (beating our target by 171%).
  • 4,500 hires made, exceeding the target of 2,400.
  • 69 content pieces produced.
  • £71 attraction-cost-per-hire achieved.
  • Close to 1 MILLION people engaged with the brand as part of the campaign.
  • After 12 weeks, the campaign had generated 376,986 clicks across online paid media. This has been achieved at an average cost per click of just £0.59.
  • The core film has been played 462,168 times and counting, receiving extremely positive feedback, praising its inclusive message.

At a Glance

  • COMPANY: Sainsbury’s
  • LOCATIONS: 600+ supermarkets across the UK
  • About Sainsbury’s: Sainsbury’s in the second largest supermarket chain in the UK. Their focus is to bring high quality food and household goods to consumers in-store and online, supported by their brands, Argos, Habitat, Tu, Nectar and Sainsbury’s Bank.