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Why Internal Communication in Retail Is Hard but Oh-So Important

Internal communication is important no matter what business you're in, but it's especially so in retail, where the way you communicate with your employees is likely to be reflected in how they interact with your customers. Of course, internal communication in retail is difficult, but it's oh-so important. Here are a few common reasons why, and what you can do about it—starting today.

 

Marie works at a retail store nearby. She's a part-timer and mainly works evenings and weekends. She's busy with her family life and doesn’t think really about her job in her free time. One Friday afternoon she comes into work to start her shift and a customer asks her if the Christmas campaign had begun, and if so, where she can find the products included. Marie has no idea.

 

This is not an uncommon problem in retail. Maybe you've even experienced it yourself. And it results in two reactions that are both highly unwanted. First, Marie will be annoyed with management or her coworkers for not communicating the information she needs to do her job. And, second, the customer will be unhappy and likely to come away with the impression that the staff is untrained and unprofessional. In the worst case scenario, you lose both of them.


My people are out on the floor talking to customers…

How do I keep them in the loop?

 

 

1. Retail Communication Directly Impacts Your Customers

 

Internal communication is important no matter what business you're in, but it's especially so in retail, where the way you communicate with your employees is directly reflected on your customers.

 

Communication in big chains typically travels top-down. Management, the design team, or the head of marketing will decide on things like new sales campaigns, when new dress-codes will be implemented, or that from now on the company will only sell fair-trade goods. This information is then shared with each individual country, region, and store—mostly via email—landing on a store manager’s desktop computer. But since it's rare that every store employee is present at the same time, and because they're not sitting at a desk, the manager has no effective way to get information to his team directly. Instead it gets distributed via blackboard, between shifts, or through the grapevine. This causes delays and incorrect or incomplete information spreading like wildfire, or leaving people like Maria out of the loop completely.

 

In retail, ill-trained and ill-informed staff, not to mention unengaged employees, are nonetheless in direct contact with your customers. These people have a direct effect on the customer experience. In today's competitive market, one bad experience is all a customer needs to decide to go somewhere else.

 

Bad internal communication has a butterfly effect in retail. All it takes is for one detail to be miscommunicated and consequently stores around the world lose clients. This effect is even more harmful in large companies with great diversity and a global presence. Different languages, time-zones, and hierarchies make spreading information even more difficult and complicated. And with frontline employees spending most of their time on the sales floor, opportunities for training and briefings are rare, if not completely neglected. 

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2. Broken Brand Promises Result in Lost Customers

 

Brand promises can be a powerful thing. We all know slogans like “Think different” (apple), or “Save money. Live better” (Walmart). But because of the growth of online business, as well as growing skepticism towards brands in general, meaningful customer relationships are more important than ever. In today's competitive landscape, companies need to keep their promise to ensure they retain trust. 

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Tim Kaye, founder of internal communications consultancy PR+ International Communications, also believes it's important to deliver on promises. “When it comes to the crunch, effective communication between head office and staff on the front line is critical because they have to deliver the brand promise that the retailer may communicate externally via its marketing communications.”

 

A loyal and happy customer base is key to any retailer’s success, and it relies heavily on keeping the brand promise.

 

3. Engaged Employees Prevent Communication Voids

 

Communication is the basis of the relationship your customers have with your brand, as well as the relationship you have with your employees. New developments like employee apps offer solutions that allow you to reach your people no matter where they are by communicating with them on a mobile channel that's widely accepted and used: the smartphone.

 

70% of employees today don’t work at a desk. In order to reach everybody, especially in such a dispersed business as retail, communication has to go digital. These days, digital means mobile, and mobile means app. Putting news on the smartphones of your employees means having a wider reach than ever before, with the ability to communicate immediately with every one of your employees. This simply isn't possible on any other device.

 

In addition, apps enable push notifications, a real game changer in internal communication. An app allows you to be directly connected with all of your locations while simultaneously enabling you to share specific details like shift plans or location specific news.

 

How One Danish Kitchen Retailer Solved Their Communication Problems With Staffbase

 

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Nettoline manufactures kitchens, bathrooms, and closets. The company sells through independent retailers and shops in Denmark and the Nordic region and is known for the high quality of their products. Nettoline was founded in the 1970s and is headquartered in Aulum.

Like many other big retailers, Nettoline faced an internal communication problem because their locations are spread out over several different countries and markets. Their distributed workforce no longer felt connected. The need for a good internal communications system arose in order to spread information on products, as well as sharing marketing, teaching, and training information. So they implemented their own branded employee app. 

 

Mads L. Jakobsen from Nettoline told us about their experience: 

 

Which kinds of problems lead Nettoline to Staffbase?

 

Having retailers in several countries in different markets created a need for greater internal communication about our products, marketing, teaching, training, etc. Having an intranet that was “growing old” made the need for a new system obvious. At the same time, only a few people at our headquarters were able to post news on the old system, due to the complicated interface. Furthermore, the old system was only available through a browser and not mobile friendly at all.

 

Why did you choose Staffbase?

 

Staffbase was the obvious choice to provide a new system that could facilitate a new infrastructure: It is very user-friendly; no programming and HTML skills are needed; there was the possibility to set up several communication channels; there was the advanced possibility to set up admin access levels; and it would be our own branded app that we could use on all platforms: desktop, tablets, and smartphones!

 

We launched the system to our retailers in October 2016. It's easy to create new users and once they click on the email invitation and chose a password they're connected to the system. After the signup process is done it seems like everyone can use the system without difficulties. It has also been a great advantage that several of our administrators are able to post information and news themselves on any device!

 

Which use cases did you start with?

 

We started with the static information/pages to give the users access to important news about our company and our products. After that we started posting news.

 

What is your most used/loved feature?

 

The news feed—and the possibility to make as many channels as you want. And the ability to control when and how the users will be notified, how they can respond, and how long the information will be published.

 

What role do you think your app will play in the future?

 

It will play a central role in our internal communication to our retailers and their staff!

 

Would you recommend the app?

 

Absolutely. I highly recommend Staffbase as a great tool for internal communication for any business!

 

Stay up to date with all our other case studies, contact us, or read more here:

 

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Written by Sina Kaye Lockley

Sina is a communication specialist at Staffbase. She wants to help companies engage their employees and find ways to make work more fun. She writes about internal communication, mobile employee engagement and how to use an app in today's evolving workforce. In her free time she fights for gender neutral toilets and LGBTQ rights.