Retail organizations often struggle with internal communications. The standard channels that work for other industries, like company email, aren’t always compatible with retail teams that spend most of their time on their feet rather than at a desk.
To effectively communicate information, goals, and expectations between employees, retailers can’t rely solely on traditional channels like team meetings and email. While important, these channels must be integrated with more modern methods to form a seamless, unified retail communications strategy.
A well-executed retail communications strategy keeps operations running smoothly, builds employee engagement, and ultimately drives sales and growth. Here, we provide a comprehensive guide on how to build a strategy for communication in retail that will help your team work together at their absolute best.
What Are the Obstacles to Effective Communication in Retail?
Clear, timely, and effective internal communications are essential to the success of any business. In retail, though, this is sometimes more easily said than done.
Compared to other businesses, retail organizations tend to be spread out with a wide variety of roles. They need to communicate information between different store locations, between stores and corporate offices, between regional and local management, and between the decision-makers and the boots on the ground. That makes it hard to find a one-size-fits-all solution.
Some of the specific challenges to communication in retail are:
As mentioned, retail teams are built differently than other business teams. At the store level, retail employees have a lot of responsibilities, including assisting customers, keeping the shelves stocked, cleaning and organizing—and, of course, selling products.
The one thing all those activities have in common? They take place on the sales floor, not in an office.
While there are countless enterprise communications platforms out there (Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp, an Excel doc), most of them assume users are spending at least some of their time at a desk, on a computer—but that's just not how retail works. Retail workers typically have little access, if any, to computers during their shifts to check for important communications. Often, only managers even have company email accounts, and checking them means taking time away from the floor to use a back office computer, then sharing the information with the rest of the team.
Which leads us to our next challenge:
Because communication in retail often has to trickle down from corporate to management to the rest of the team, it takes a lot of time. The duplication of effort is non-value-added time that store managers need for their many other responsibilities. When there is a never-ending list of tasks to complete on the floor, the last thing a busy manager wants to do is retire to a back office to check their messages.
This kind of communication in retail cuts into the rest of the team’s time, too. Getting information from an email or online message board to the rest of the team usually means bringing everyone together for a daily team meeting—often more than one to cover multiple shifts. While in-person huddles have an important place in any retail communications strategy, they compete for time with the many other activities the team needs to complete.
Because of the variety of roles in a retail organization, different groups often have their own separate communication channels. While store teams rely on in-person meetings, field teams may only use phone or email communications, and corporate management might primarily use a cloud-based application like SharePoint.
This lack of a unified system can lead to miscommunication, noise, and loss of accountability. Messages coming from multiple sources can conflict, and they may be missed entirely if someone isn’t keeping up with every source. Without a single, “official” communication channel, it’s easy for important information to fall through the cracks without clear accountability.
Elements of an Effective Retail Communications Strategy
Just because effective communication in retail environments is challenging doesn’t mean retailers must resign themselves to the consequences of poor communication. A well-planned, well-executed retail communications strategy can overcome these challenges and turn even the most unwieldy organization into a well-oiled retail machine.
So, what makes an effective retail communications strategy? While the specifics will depend on your organization’s unique needs and challenges, there are some universal principles. Any good retail communications strategy should be:
Miscommunications happen when channels are inconsistent and especially when information has to be re-communicated multiple times. Ideally, a strategy should allow seamless communication between everyone in the organization, including corporate, management, field specialists, and workers on the sales floor.
Seamless communication in retail requires modern technology. Any platform the organization uses should be accessible in real time by everyone—whether they’re in the store, in the office, or on the road. In today’s connected world, mobile access to company communications is almost a prerequisite for communication in retail.
When communicating critical, time-sensitive information in a retail organization, it’s essential for the messaging to be unambiguous. If written instructions from a merchandising specialist conflict with an email from the marketing team, which information should be followed?
To avoid these situations and ensure clarity and accountability, retailers need to have a unified communication platform. That doesn’t mean you should just throw out email and team huddles—but it’s important to have a single, dependable source of truth. Whatever platform is used should be modern, reliable, and easy to use to ensure engagement with everyone. Additionally, a unified communication channel helps to establish and reinforce company culture by providing consistent, focused messaging.
Finally, it’s important to remember that communication goes both ways. A retail communications strategy is most effective when everyone has a voice.
Corporate decision-makers need to be sure stores have the latest information, but store managers need a voice in the process as well to avoid confusion and ensure alignment on company goals. Likewise, sales floor and warehouse teams need two-way communication with store managers to provide feedback when things don’t go as planned. The same goes for the many other roles in a retail organization.
A retail communications strategy should engage all employees by giving them a voice that they know will be heard. And when employees are engaged, they are empowered—everyone does their job better when they have confidence in team communications and know that help is at their fingertips whenever they need it.
Benefits of a Retail Communications App
Using a retail mobile app is a proven strategy for providing unified, versatile, engaging communications in retail. Mobile phone technology is portable, accessible, and easy to use, making it the ideal platform for retail communications. A single, easy-to-use app saves time, empowers teams, reinforces company culture and provides a better brand experience through focused messaging, and ultimately improves employee performance and satisfaction.
In the past, companies needed to provide most equipment to their employees—but everyone has a smartphone these days. There’s no need to invest in computers and radios when company communications are integrated into an app employees can simply install on their phones.
The flexibility of an all-in-one mobile platform means all retail communications flow through a single channel. That means a more focused message, less noise, and a single source of truth that everyone can have confidence in. A retail communications app is also ideal for sending real-time feedback, giving team members a voice while improving accountability and avoiding miscommunications.
Not only does an app allow convenient two-way communication—a mobile platform allows teams to take and send photos and other data. Sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand words—especially in retail, where visual merchandising is a key element of brand strategy.
There’s a reason more and more retailers are turning to mobile platforms to improve their internal communications. Smartphones have made our lives easier and more productive in almost every aspect—why not harness this power to optimize your retail communications?
SimpliField's retail communications platform combines task management and communications to drive flawless execution in any retail environment. Contact us for a live demo and see how SimpliField can transform your retail communications today.
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