When I was first made responsible for communicating to a global Retail team, I was told by a well-meaning colleague that ‘retail was like the Wild West’. Despite some initial panic, I quickly got stuck into the challenge – and soon found out that actually, he might have had a point.
Like the pioneers heading West, retail teams are looking for gold. Super salespeople are driven by targets, not so driven by your latest blog post. There’s a little bit of herding needed by your store and area managers. They are grappling with a host of different characters at various stages in their career (and various stages of commitment to you). And quite simply, they’re far from home, going it alone and doing whatever they can to make it.
If this is your first time working in retail, you’re likely wondering where to start. You’ve probably Googled it, which might be why you’re here (hello!). The good news is, it’s one of the most satisfying challenges you can tackle – and something we grab with both hands at Home.
Engaged employees offer the kind of customer service people shout about – and that’s worth big money. We’re big believers that it’s the first step towards designing a world-class customer experience. So, it’s not surprising that retailers with higher engagement achieve on average 2.5 times more revenue than those with lower engagement.
Put yourself in their shoes
Go and spend a day in store. See it from their eyes so you can come up with an approach that fits into their schedule, adding value rather than taking it away. When your team’s not desk bound, it’s even more important to get a great channel mix of both online and offline so that your colleagues don’t miss a thing.
And don’t forget, your colleagues see your external brand promise just as much as your customers. That means they have an expectation of who you are and what it’s like to work for you. Make sure that your methods reflect your brand. Exceed expectations!
Be clear about how you expect your team to interact with your communications. If the expectation is for them to spend time on the intranet every day, make sure there is a communal device. In a famous technology store, 30 minutes is scheduled into every colleague’s day to spend time on their intranet.
Reach the right people in the right way
Digital channels are on the up and it’s not hard to see why. With the idea of BYOD (bring your own device) becoming the norm, they’re a quick and easy way to get messages into your employees’ pockets in an instant.
But whilst digital channels are great – nothing beats a good 1:1. All your staff really want is the opportunity to speak to their manager, and that makes your people leaders the most important tool you’ve got. Make communications a priority part of their day, give them daily briefing notes. Train them and give them toolkits to manage change when the big projects come down the pipeline. If they’re on your team, your job will be significantly easier.
Retail communicators often get stuck with the tricky task of managing day-to-day task communications alongside employee engagement. Noisy. There’s no one size fits all answer, so I’ll keep this simple. Make sure your teams know where to find what – it doesn’t matter if you need multiple platforms to do the job, but it does matter if your team can’t find what they need.
Make sure they’ve got it
The only people who traditionally had access to emails or intranets were store and area managers. Communicators had to trust that messages cascaded as designed, with little to no direct interaction down the line. Of course, internal social media platforms have changed that for the better.
The ability to have a two-way conversations is so important, and can have real business benefits. Colleagues in a Starbucks noticed that customers were repeatedly ordering something that wasn’t on the menu. The Barista made the recommendation on Workplace by Facebook, and within 24 hours the item was added to the menu nationwide and started selling like hot cakes (or coffee?). Now THAT’S agile! And a big engagement win.
With remote teams, you don’t get the chance for conversational feedback, so you need to engineer it. Make learning cool with online quizzes and pulse surveys to check understanding. Incentivise it with a competition for the store whose team understand a new campaign the best. In my experience retailers are pretty competitive, play to their nature.
Less is more – be predictable
Three key things to remember here. Firstly, don’t say too much. Your team are busy, so reduce it down to the simplest format possible. Videos are the ideal, and don’t shy away from filming on your trusty smartphone – no one is expecting a feature film.
Next, think about how you can make it easy and habitual to check in. Try and post at the same time every day – and post regular content on the same day. If Monday is line list day, they’re much less likely to miss it. Be part of the noise reduction revolution!
Lastly, don’t speak when they don’t want to hear you. You know that during Peak, Sale or Black Friday, footfall will be through the roof. Your colleague’s time is better spent on the shop floor, so pledge a comms blackout for all non-urgent comms. Your people will feel listened to and understood.
Make it fun
Last of all, retail is such a vibrant area to work in, so don’t forget to have a little fun with it. The easiest way to do that is to allow your colleagues to have a voice and a platform – whether that’s by gathering content and pushing it out, or by using a platform where they can post themselves. Retailers are people people – they’ll love this.
A good example of this is IKEA who hand their customer radio station over to colleagues during 4am-10am when staff are setting up the shop floor. Colleagues can make song requests and dedications, which they turn into a weekly top ten. Top down comms are only allowed in very rare circumstances – this is peer-to-peer communication at its best.
So, all that’s left to say is get in the saddle, YEEHAWW! Good luck.