Everything I Know About Digital Marketing I Learned From Working Retail

everything i need to know about digital marketing i learned from working retail offended millennial

I’ve been working since I was 9. First as a mother’s helper, then as a babysitter/nanny. My senior year of high school, I started working at Loehmann’s. From there, I moved to Macy’s where I worked throughout college. Oh, there was a chocolate shop in-between that as well. 

Once I entered “The Real World” I learned a ton of great, valuable lessons, don’t get me wrong.

But you know what? Everything I REALLY need to know to preform my daily job as a digital marketer, I learned from retail. Like…


Breaking down boxes, collecting empty hangers, cleaning up fitting rooms, working the register… if you’re good at it, you better BELIEVE you’ll be asked to do as much of it as possible! (No matter how many other coworkers are huddled in a corner, shit-talking their managers.)

Frankly, it’s way easier to just DO rather than COMPLAIN. So find your niche— then shine, baby, shine!

2. a customer is a customer, no matter how crazy

Once, a woman asked that I hand her a plastic shopping bag. Then she crouched down, put the bag over her head and the keypad, and proceeded to complete her transaction without anyone “looking over her shoulder.” Another day, 4 separate people alerted me that one of the (nipple-less, headless) mannequins was missing a top. All within the same hour. WHY?!

I’ve seen a man scream, shout, and threaten to call the police when we wouldn’t return an item (the day before the store went out of business…) Oh yeah, I’ve also had a woman asked me if there was an underground tunnel between the 2 Macy’s in our mall that she had accidentally passed through…?

I could go on and on. The point is, people are nuts. But you just have to roll with it. Because everyone’s money is equally green, and every person deserves to be treated with respect.

3. Customer Retention is priceless

Returning definitely worn, definitely smelly clothes for full discounts? Sure! Getting Macy’s store credit from a 20 -year-old Hecht’s gift card you found in the back of your wallet? Why not! Scream at your manager until they agree to let you use 5 coupons on top of one another, none of which actually apply to the product? OK!

Almost any rule is, and frankly, should be, breakable, all in the name of customer retention. Why? Because their long-term value is worth many, many minor inconveniences. It’s WAY easier to keep an existing customer than it is to find a new, lifelong customer.


Go ahead and apply that discount now, instead of waiting 30 minutes for your manager to swing by and approve it anyway. Go ahead and clean out the disgusting fitting rooms now, even though you haven’t met your daily sales quota yet. Go ahead and take your 15-minute break when the floor has been empty for hours.

Go ahead and Just Do You. At the end of the day, management will appreciate your “asking for forgiveness, not permission” attitude way more than they’ll appreciate your constant slew of questions.

5. it’s just a job

Summer of 2011 there was a bizarrely rare earthquake with a 7.0 magnitude. I was working the bra section in the basement of Macy’s when the ceilings and walls started shaking. I froze, watching the walls go back and forth, until my Bangladeshi co-worker (who knew an earthquake when she felt one) ran out to grab me.

She pulled me her way, and together, we huddled under the register until the shocks were over.  Then, the security man found us and we evacuated the building. Women were crying, trying to call their children. We all huddled out in the parking lot, panicked. Once we returned, the rest of the day, it’s all anyone could talk about. We were all in shock, together.

I’m sure a bunch of merch was stolen during the chaos. But you know what? None of that matters. What matters is that we were all OK. And that we had each other’s backs. Because at the end of the day, it’s just a job.