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The success of any retail initiative depends on people


Interesting white paper Zipline discusses how retailers rely on their store employees to implement new technologies, launch initiatives, engage with customers, and operate efficiently. And so the success of these initiatives depends on their frontline employees. The paper goes so far as to say, “The most difficult part of managing retail stores is not technology, supply chain, product, or pricing. These are the people.” This couldn’t be more true.

“As we know from our own customer experience, the service you receive from in-store staff or online interactions shapes your opinion of a brand and your likelihood of returning as a repeat customer. In essence, customer service is the holy grail that can set brands selling similar products apart. This means that creating an environment where employees feel supported and empowered to serve their customers is the only way for retailers to successfully roll out new initiatives,” says Hilary Cullum, Founder HSC advisorsretail advisory trade.

Let’s see how engaging and empowering employees can lead to unprecedented results.

Engaging employees

“From a giant corporation to a small startup team, employee engagement is the number one driver of organizational change and transformational ideas. Employees must feel that there is transparency in understanding the full picture of the company’s status, and also feel that they have a separate agency, that their ideas will be heard by management. When you have both, your company will be able to correct flaws, act on customer feedback, and ultimately thrive. Simply asking your employees on a regular basis how much they feel they have agency and improving that metric can produce extraordinary results,” says Annelisa Hillman, CEO and Co-Founder of the company Frontmanan acne care brand for men.

When employees are not aware of the inner workings of the company they work for and support on a daily basis, it becomes increasingly difficult to stay engaged and motivated. What’s more, it’s an oversight on the part of the company, because these front-line employees have a lot of valuable knowledge about how the company operates on a daily basis, as well as what consumers love, miss, and frustrate. These ideas are a goldmine for companies. These ideas should become a catalyst for initiating change and, in turn, for business development. However, we hear time and time again about disgruntled employees who don’t feel heard by their corporate peers, or who can’t get promoted to a management position even after years of service.

As the White Paper says, “the more active a brand’s lineup becomes, the faster that brand can turn around.”

And this underscores the point very eloquently: “Truly engaged employees understand how their own interests and the interests of their company intersect. They have the necessary skills and knowledge to complete their tasks, and because they understand how those tasks contribute to the greater good of their organization, they are intrinsically motivated. So these employees don’t really need constant supervision.”

Key directions

Zipline identified four key areas that retailers should focus on to properly engage their front-line employees: employee communication, store fulfillment, real-time feedback, and actionable information.

Clear and positive communication directly correlates to employee retention. The retail industry is notorious for having exceptionally high turnover rates, a problem the industry has faced for decades. in fact, 49% of retailers say one of their biggest challenges is hiring and retaining staff. Meanwhile, the average retail worker turnover rate in the United States is currently about 60%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Store execution is an area that can be greatly improved. While less than a third of instructions sent to stores from headquarters are executed correctly and on time, about 70% of all initiatives are not executed. All the time and effort that corporate offices put into strategically planning new initiatives, promotions, visual cues and sales strategies is wasted. And it’s not always because of a lack of work ethic or desire on the part of the store’s employees – for all that is being asked of front workers today, there are very few of them. Not only are they tasked with providing excellent service to every customer, but at the same time they have to handle all corporate communications, deliver takeout, deliver products to fulfill online orders, and the list goes on and on.

Understanding and easing the workload on frontline employees while opening the door to two-way communication can go a long way in reducing employee turnover rates and consequently impacting the bottom line.

By collecting anonymous and honest feedback from store employees, investing in technology to streamline processes to help employees do their jobs more effectively, and giving employees a clear path to advancement, companies can ensure that their employees are not only engaged, but also growing with the company .

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