Retail Communication: The complete guide to effective internal communication in retail

Retail Communication: The Complete Guide to Effective Internal Communication in Retail

05 August 2022

Employee experience | Retail | Communications

Retail communications are the sharing of information between all store associates and office employees working for one retailer.

Retail communications can function like a spider’s web: an invisible thread connecting the CEO to the delivery driver to the employee serving customers at the checkout. Strong, agile, and sensitive to the slightest turbulence. Effective internal communication translates HQ’s vision into a physical reality in-store. The vision may be perfect, but if it isn’t communicated correctly it’s impossible to bring it to life.

A sturdy yet dynamic web of effective communication is crucial in the unpredictable retail market and anything less can be fatal for a business. Retail communications include:

  • Company updates
  • Industry news
  • Success stories
  • New initiatives and campaigns
  • Social events

This guide will explore the importance of effective internal communication in retail, how to build a strong communication network, and provide examples of retailers who have done it successfully.

 

Table of Content

 

Why are effective retail internal communications critical for success?

Retail store communications should align with a brand’s values and ensure that all employees are empowered and working towards a brand’s mission every day. When communication works well, teams are engaged, reactive and provide a better, more consistent experience for customers. Effective internal communication allows:

  • HQ to quickly deliver instructions, training and feedback across all store locations.
  • Employees to confidently prioritize tasks, work autonomously, receive feedback and share their ideas.
  • Customers to experience better quality, consistent service in every store.
  • The whole company to be more agile in operations and faster to react to challenges.

A retail brand is only as strong as its worst-performing store, so ensuring that every employee is in the loop with updates and instructions is paramount. 

Read our article to discover 6 Ways to Support Employees with Effective Internal Communications

 

Where are retailers getting it wrong?

While on average COVID rapidly accelerated the digitization of businesses, many retail businesses are lagging behind when it comes to store communications by failing to prioritize investing in workers on the frontline and keeping stores in the loop. YOOBIC’s Frontline Employee Workplace Survey found that 34% of frontline employees feel disconnected from HQ. This means that they don’t feel invested in the company culture and values and are less likely to perform their best. 

Resources that are not instantly accessible, such as an intranet on a computer in the back office, leave some employees out of the loop. Frontline employees will discount online platforms as resources if they’re not easy to use. 

Companies are stalling employee communications because the tech provided to mobile workers isn’t user-friendly. Employees want to be able to communicate using tech that is intuitive and doesn’t require a lengthy signing-in process. Not only does this under-serve employees, but it also means that the time and money funneled into producing these online resources goes to waste. 

For more info, read our article about common retail communication problems and how to fix them.


The impact of poor communication in retail

The impact of weak retail communication systems is costly. 

Decreased productivity 

Productivity nosedives, as employees have to scramble to find the right information. If employees are spending copious amounts of time searching for the information they need to do their job, they won't be making the most of opportunities to spend time with customers.

Unengaged employees

Poor internal communication crushes engagement levels and disengaged employees have a 60% higher error rate than engaged employees, stalling productivity and tarnishing the customer experience. Explore further in this article explaining the Proof That Positive Work Cultures Are More Productive.

Poor collaboration

Many retail employees don’t get to meet the majority of their peers within the company, leaving them feeling isolated in their role. Feeling alienated from the rest of the company makes it more difficult for employees to work collaboratively as part of whole company campaigns and initiatives and see the impact of their work.

Lack of agility

A weak retail communication network also means that it takes longer for HQ to share updates, stores to implement instructions and be agile in response to problems. These delays make it more difficult to provide and monitor a consistent, high quality customer experience across all stores. In-store experience matters - it’s what keeps customers coming back. 

Poor workforce retention

The cost of bad communication continues to mount when it comes to employee retention. Retail is an industry with a notoriously high turnover of frontline workers, and employees who don’t feel connected to their company values are even less likely to be retained by employers. Without accessible communication promoting brand values to every employee, businesses are spending a fortune in hiring and training new frontline employees.

Security and privacy risks

Another result of businesses lacking a designated digital space for employee communications means employees are more likely to use personal Whatsapp and Facebook accounts to connect and share work-related information, which is a data privacy risk.

For more info, read our article about why Whatsapp is the wrong tool to use for retail communication

 

Best practices to improve store communications

So now that we’ve explored why retailers get it wrong, let’s unpack how to do it right.

  • Start from the bottom

A bottom-up approach creates empowered, autonomous employees. An effective communication system should include space for store associates to share their ideas, feedback, and opinions. The traditional top-down approach to store communication doesn’t resonate with employees as it’s easy for them to take a backseat when carrying out impersonal orders from a vague authority figure. Effective retail communication puts employees front and center. When both employers and employees are able to continuously feed back to each other, everyone is kept in the loop and is able to progress. 

  • Measure engagement

Good communication has measurable effects. Company HQs need to be able to assess their communication strategies by observing the percentage of employees who have read an announcement, watched an instructional video, or liked/commented on an update on the company newsfeed.

  • Make it mobile

If an employee needs to wait for the one ancient desktop computer in the stock room to be free in order to find out how to organize a window display, there’s a high chance of them winging it and hoping for the best. Employees need information now. 76% of frontline teams agree that they would feel more connected if they could use a mobile app for workplace communications. Companies are missing a trick by not taking advantage of this and investing in a communication platform that offers mobile communications so workers on the shop floor can grab the right information instantly. 

  • Cultivate a community

Frontline employees want to feel connected to their coworkers. Connecting the whole organization through mobile communications features like a Newsfeed strengthens the culture of the company. Mobile features such as forums and comments sections encourage social learning and a sense of community.

  • Find the right tool

Using multiple platforms for emails, announcements, instructions and workplace socialising can be frustrating and confusing for employees. Employees are more likely to use communication tools if they are engaging and fun. Investing in one, user-focused tool modelled after a social media platform makes communication frictionless, boosts engagement and keeps employees coming back for more.

  • Direct the flow of information

Keep all employees engaged and in the loop by sending them information that is most useful to them. This might mean coupling an announcement about a new product with a bite-size training for how to display the product on the shelves, video announcements about company updates, or weekly posts celebrating high performers or new team members. Keep things interesting by using a range of communication styles like memes, gifs, photos, and polls.

 

Where to start to improve your retail communication strategy

A good starting point is putting the right structure in place. This involves several steps:

  • Take stock of what platforms are already being used for retail communications - this could be email, intranet, fax etc.
  • Once you’ve taken stock of which platforms are being used, consolidate everything into one retail communication system that streamlines all communication.
  • Make the tool accessible for the whole company by implementing a BYOD policy or ensuring all retail employees are equipped with a mobile device. 
  • Centralize communications (so one team is responsible for everything). 
  • Make sure information is relevant - stores should be getting info that concerns them, if there’s too much they zone out. Get a platform that supports sending communications to relevant groups and tailors employees’ news feeds to show them the info most relevant to them first.
  • Put yourself in store teams’ shoes when creating comms. Nobody wants to read endless blocks of text. Change things up with emojis, polls, infographics and videos to keep things dynamic.

Want some inspiration? Here's 3 Examples of Outstanding Internal Communications for Frontline Employees

How other retailers did it

Previously online-only intimates retailer Adore Me knew that a strong communication network would be critical as they scaled up their brick and mortar presence. By using a dedicated store communications app to share updates, news and celebrate success across the entire store network, Adore Me keeps store teams engaged, motivated and working towards the same goal. 

“This really brings alignment and a feeling of oneness that helps boost sales.” - Paula Angelucci, District Manager @ Adore Me 

HubSpot Video

 

Key Takeaways

No retailer can afford to get it wrong when it comes to communication. It’s crucial to put a structure in place that:

  • Is accessible on the shop floor and mobile user focused
  • Is engaging and rewarding
  • Gives HQ clear insight into store activities
  • Empowers employees to feed back to HQ about how they’re are feeling
  • Keeps information secure but easy to find when needed
  • Builds a sense of community by connecting employees and teams that might not regularly meet in person 

 

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