5 Tips for Streamlining Internal Retail Communications
Think about how many apps are on your smartphone right now that help you communicate with the people in your life.
There’s the ability to make phone calls, but also services that allow you to send texts. Then there are messaging apps, like WhatsApp and Messenger, that help you communicate one-on-one with friends or groups, no matter where they are in the world. And, of course, old-fashioned email enables you to send messages (and attachments) between electronic devices.
The list goes on.
But while these forms of communication were designed to help people accomplish everyday tasks (like connecting with a parent or making dinner plans with friends), none of them were created with businesses, let alone the retail industry, in mind. And when retailers are required to communicate with hundreds of stores and employees every day, sending and receiving messages across multiple platforms can hinder productivity and create confusion.
With that in mind, here are a few ways retailers can streamline their internal communications and stay connected to their stores and field teams from a single platform — all without ever checking their inbox.
5 Tips for Streamlining Internal Retail Communications
1. Get Rid of Unnecessary Communication Channels
In all areas of the retail industry — from apparel, grocery, pharmacy, electronics, and beyond — timing is everything. But many retailers don’t have a direct channel of communication between HQ, stores and field teams and are forced to use a variety of services and devices to send and receive messages, reducing transparency into what’s happening in stores.
Retailers have a tough time verifying when tasks (such as seasonal changeovers, campaigns, or product recalls) get completed, and knowing which channel will be used for notifying them about completion of the tasks. And it’s hard to do anything on time when employees are using a combination of email, phone, and texting apps to confirm that messages are seen and plans are implemented correctly.
One of the first steps to close the communication gap is to reduce the number of communication channels teams use. By reducing the number of channels a team member needs to check for messages, and by funneling all of your correspondence through a single channel (like an internal communication tool), retailers not only save time communicating with stores but can help guarantee everything gets executed promptly.
2. Focus on Relevant Information
If you work on a visual merchandising team, chances are you don’t need to know about changes to daily cleaning checklists or product return procedures. And, similarly, if you work a checkout line, gaining insights into your store’s recent improvements when it comes to unloading goods and stocking inventory probably doesn’t mean much to you, either.
Still, many retailers use a one-size-fits-all communication approach when it comes to sharing information with stores or publishing content, some of which probably isn’t relevant to the average employee.
When streamlining internal retail communications, be direct. Only send team-wide announcements when everybody needs to know about updates or changes to daily store operations. And speak one-on-one with stores and employees through direct messages when things need to get done ASAP (or in a way that applies specifically to them). That way, retailers can reduce the number of messages each employee receives, boost employee engagement and store performance, and help ensure every piece of communication gets the full attention it deserves.
3. Close the Feedback Loop
Too often, retailers and brands use tools like intranets to broadcast announcements and send down tasks to their stores. But with no way of sending messages back up the chain, stores are forced to use other forms of communication technology to clarify directives and ask questions, creating a long feedback loop and unneeded stress that can slow your team down.
Retailers should centralize communication on a single platform that offers two-way communication to close the feedback loop and save time communicating with store teams. In doing so, retailers can ensure their messages get seen and responded to in real time — regardless of where work happens — and limit any uncertainty when it comes to carrying out tasks in stores.
4. Offer Consistent Training
The larger the organization, the harder it is for retailers and brands to ensure store associates and field teams are getting proper, brand-consistent training. And without a streamlined internal communications process or the right retail communication systems in place, onboarding and training processes can be different from one location to the next, making things confusing not only for new hires but for current employees, too.
To reduce ambiguity around tasks, procedures, and brand standards, retailers should be consistent with their training — not just with the lessons they teach to associates and team members, but how they are taught — by centralizing training and sharing best practices on the same platform or channel. That way, associates are always able to find up-to-date information and reference previous teachings and instructions, so they don’t waste time sorting through endless threads or folders looking for what they need.
5. Mobilize Your Workforce with Mobile Devices
Retailers are slowly realizing the benefits of enabling store-level employees with mobile devices. Not only do smartphones reduce the time it takes to receive and respond to messages, but they help ensure associates and managers are out of the back office and on the sales floor connecting with customers.
Still, despite being a solution that helps retailers streamline internal communications, mobile devices are still absent from many stores, with brands mostly relying on computers behind closed doors to communicate with headquarters.
But with employee expectations evolving over the past year and a half, there’s never been a better time to introduce smartphones and retail communication software into your employee engagement and communication strategy.
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