Brick-and-mortar is forecast to be a major player in retail sales this holiday season, which makes store employees an important resource. Many companies will hire additional staff to meet consumer demand, but this influx of new hires means clear communication — from the back office to the front line — is imperative.
“There are a lot of promotions and mark downs on product during the seasonal period, which can change very frequently,” said Praveen Kanyadi, co-founder and VP of products at communication software platform Groupe.io. “Poor communication can lead to chaos on the floor and result in unhappy and frustrated shoppers, which directly impacts the brand’s reputation.”
A common reason for store communication problems comes from a lack of infrastructure. Modern communication has evolved into instant messaging and smartphone-supported channels, but most retailers are still reliant on email. Frequently, front-of-house employees will share a single account available on one desktop computer, making it difficult for them to stay up-to-date on the latest developments.
During the holiday season, the combination of inexperienced sales associates and faster-paced sales can exacerbate communication problems. Many consumers now expect sales associates to offer varied fulfillment options if an item is unavailable in-store; associates must be able to facilitate ship-to-home, ship-to-store or pickup from another location. Accurate inventory and logistics information is therefore crucial.
“Retail is typically a high-touch business, and your front-line workforce is your primary contact with your shoppers,” said Kanyadi. “Given the high churn, contingent workforce and lack of communication network, employee engagement and training is a huge challenge — and often ignored. The lack of training and motivation can translate into a poor shopping experience for your customers.”
Kanyadi recommends investing in a real-time messaging system that works on employees’ own devices, allowing all workers to be connected wherever they are in the store. Platforms like Groupe.io can be accessed by any employee device and provide channels to communicate instantaneously with all staff, groups of employees or individuals as needed. Additional features support employee engagement (through surveys and community feedback) and aid with task management (through checklists and forms).
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