In today's fast-paced retail environment, it's essential to have a comprehensive internal communication strategy that ensures employees are informed, engaged, and motivated. No single channel of communication can achieve this—it takes a combination of tools and technologies, each with its strengths and weaknesses.
In this post, we’ll take a look at several methods of communication commonly used in retail, from the traditional to the modern, and help you build a communications strategy using the best of both modern and traditional retail communication methods.
The Importance of Traditional Communication Methods
If the COVID-19 pandemic taught us anything about communicating at work, it was the importance of traditional, in-person communication. Zoom conferences and phone calls, while convenient, are just no substitute for face-to-face interaction.
Retailers have known this for a long time, of course. In our business, personal relationships are indispensable. The rise of e-commerce in the 21st century stoked fears that the brick-and-mortar retail store would soon become obsolete—but here we are, two decades later, and in-person shopping is still around. In fact, in 2022, brick-and-mortar retail sales were forecast to be 85 percent of total retail sales in the United States.
In-person retail doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon, and neither do traditional retail communication strategies like meetings and bulletin boards. While newer technologies and platforms can have huge advantages, don’t forget about these traditional methods.
In-Person Team Meetings
Most retail teams rely on regular, daily meetings to keep everyone informed and engaged. Even with the growth of new technologies and digital tools, team meetings still play an important role. Human relationships are the heart of the retail business, and nothing can substitute for in-person interaction.
However, meetings are just one tool at the retail manager’s disposal. The days when all retail communications could be handled in a daily meeting are long gone. Your morning meeting is great for discussing the day’s goals and strategies for achieving them, building team spirit, and keeping everyone engaged. When goals change or unexpected challenges arise, though, you need to be able to communicate with your team quickly and effectively. Regular in-person meetings should be a core piece of your retail communications strategy, but you need a plan for how to deal with more urgent or time-sensitive communications.
Your key in-person meetings can be made more impactful with SimpliField, as field leaders are made aware of store data and recurring trends. Spending time in person coaching (proactive), instead of only solving problems (reactive), strengthens your in-person interactions and allows your action plan to stay organized when the meeting ends.
Bulletin Boards and Printed Materials
Along with in-person meetings, printed materials have been essential to retail operations and communications for decades. In today’s digital age, it may seem like printed materials are outdated. Like team meetings, however, they have benefits that can’t always be imitated with digital technology.
Printed materials are physical documents that employees can hold, read, and refer to whenever necessary. This is a big advantage in retail, where employees do not have regular access to computers. Physical documents can be displayed on bulletin boards where all employees will see them, making them ideal for critical communications—for example, emergency procedures.
Manuals, handbooks, and other physical documents are also commonly used for employee training and development. These materials provide a tangible resource that employees can refer to when learning new skills or processes. They also allow for consistency in training, as all employees are trained to the same materials.
Printed materials have an important place in retail communications, but they have drawbacks as well. They can be costly and wasteful to produce compared to digital documents that don’t need to be printed. They must be replaced when information or policies change, and if they are not, employees may be exposed to outdated or conflicting information. Like in-person meetings, printed communications should be used only where appropriate and complemented with digital sources.
SimpliField has a longtime customer that recently reported saving over $100,000 in printing costs by mitigating the need for printed documents that are now digital. This client used to print and send materials which were only valuable for a short timeframe and ended up in the trash. Book a demo with SimpliField to see how much you could save on printed material costs.
Digital Communication Technologies: Their Strengths and Weaknesses
While traditional methods are still an important part of any retail communications strategy, retailers have been using digital methods like email, intranet, and video conferencing for a long time now. None of these technologies are exactly on the cutting edge, and they each have pros and cons, but they have become the standard in many organizations.
Email and Text Messaging
Every business uses email and text communication, right? A quick and easy way to communicate with employees, email allows messages to be sent to multiple employees at once and provides a written record, making it useful for tracking progress, documenting agreements, and resolving conflicts. With smartphones, email and text can be accessed anywhere, making it convenient for retail workers who are on their feet most of the day, not at a desk.
However, the convenience of this message delivery is only an advantage if employees remember to regularly check their devices. If workers receive too many emails, they tend to overlook or ignore the ones they deem least important. While the ubiquity of smartphones makes email a more practical form of retail communication than it was in the past, other options make better use of this technology.
The other major drawback with email and text messaging? There is no easy way to consolidate the feedback and trends. Imagine being an ops or retail director and having to go through 100 stores' email threads and needing to put their answers in an excel sheet on a weekly or monthly basis.
SimpliField easily organizes the feedback and provides simple action plans that both the employee and employer can easily accommodate. Take a look at common use cases for the newsfeed and direct messaging features on the SimpliField platform.
Many larger retailers operate their own intranet where they share company news, policies, procedures, training materials, and other important information. An intranet provides a secure, centralized communication platform, and retailers can create forums and chat rooms where employees can collaborate and share ideas.
To run an intranet, though, the company needs to invest in hardware, software, and IT staff to set it up and maintain it. Often, much of the content is only accessible on a computer, requiring employees to leave the sales floor. These disadvantages limit the usefulness of company intranet for retail communications.
Video conferencing software like Zoom and Microsoft Teams exploded during the pandemic when many office workers went remote for the first time. These tools are becoming increasingly popular with retail teams as well for their ability to hold virtual meetings with workers at multiple locations.
While these tools have their place, their usefulness in retail is limited. Retail teams need flexibility and portability, and these are not video conferencing’s strengths. For a more comprehensive retail communications solution, retailers should look to technology that better fits the fast-paced, on-the-go style of retail work.
Moving toward More Modern Communication Methods
While email, intranet, and video conferencing are powerful digital technologies, they are starting to become dated. Young workers especially may see these platforms as outdated and be reluctant to use them.
To keep young teams engaged, it’s essential for retailers to keep up with modern communication technologies. Sticking with the same old methods that worked in the past doesn’t cut it—if your workers wouldn’t use the platform in their personal lives, they probably won’t be eager to use it at work either.
It’s no secret that the younger generation spends a lot of time on social media and other mobile apps. They have even become a significant part of the lives of older generations. Given how central smartphones, apps, and social media have become to our lives, it makes sense to consider how they can be leveraged for retail communications.
Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are becoming increasingly common in retail internal communications—which is no surprise, considering how nearly everyone, especially young people, uses at least one of them. Retailers can use these platforms to share company news, events, promotions, and other important information with employees. They can even create private groups for internal communication, where employees can collaborate, share ideas, and stay connected.
These platforms have some of the same downsides as intranet and email, but employees may be more likely to check social media pages for updates and messages. The younger workers who make up most retail teams are likely to already have social media apps on their phones, so there is a low barrier to incorporating them into a retail communications strategy.
Retail teams tend to be young—so it makes sense to communicate using technologies that the younger generation is used to. The “digital natives” that make up most retail staff are already very comfortable using mobile apps to communicate and engage with their communities. In many ways, these apps are ideal for retail communications. They allow easy communication on the go, from any device.
The social media apps mentioned previously are great examples—but existing social media platforms may not be the best channels for retail communications. Alternatively, retailers can implement custom apps that provide employees with access to company news, training materials, schedules, retail analytics, and other important information. A mobile app customized for a retail environment can offer the convenience of social media combined with the focus of a company intranet.
An All-in-One, Convenient, Customizable Mobile App to Complement Traditional Retail Communication Methods
Fortunately, you don’t have to build a retail communications app from the ground up. SimpliField offers a solution that takes all the benefits of social media, smartphone apps, and digital communication and combines them into one easy-to-use platform.
SimpliField’s platform is designed to work just like the social media apps your staff already uses. With just a smartphone and the SimpliField app, your staff can communicate in real time, chat one-on-one or in groups, collaborate across locations, and easily access company news and alerts. The best part? Your workers already carry a smartphone almost all the time. There’s no need to leave the sales floor to check email on a backroom computer—all your team’s important communications are available at any time, from any place.
In addition to facilitating retail communications, the SimpliField platform integrates operations and analytics to give your team everything they need in one place—scheduling, KPI tracking, training, activity tracking, and everything else you need to ensure your team can perform at its best.
SimpliField's business communications, analytics, and operations platform combines everything retailers need to drive flawless execution in every aspect of operations. Contact us for a live demo and see how SimpliField can improve your retail communications today.
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