The majority of big-name brands operate out of small, bricks-and-mortar businesses that report back to their larger, corporate counterparts. However, because this communication is typically infrequent, or because the district manager of such businesses usually manages multiple local stores, important communication between a single branch and corporate may get muddled, or may become irregular.
Retail store communication is crucial for continued business success, and is best defined as regular and transparent correspondence between each store division and its headquarters, or store managers and district managers. Correspondence is then taken even a step further, from district managers to the corporate level. Such communication among these levels may involve business reports, store or brand strategies, or may simply be a monthly check-in.
It’s recommended that all significant changes, improvements, or losses to the business should be regularly reported and communicated among branches of the company to reduce future confusion and ambiguity, and to involve multiple divisions of the business in standard operations and growth of the brand at all levels, which will be beneficial for the entire company in the long run
When effective communication between a store and its executive headquarters wanes, problems may ensue, where store employees may become confused about executing merchandising promotions, complying with operational directives, etc., while the head office may be left in the dark when it comes to particular store concerns, questions, and problems. Such conditions are breeding grounds for detrimental — and costly — business mistakes. In fact, research shows that poor communication directly impacts execution, which in turn impacts bottom line business.
Fortunately, strengthening the in-store communication process isn’t difficult. All it requires is a bit of additional effort, and some increased organization to ensure that the local business is on the same page as corporate, and vice versa.
Below is a helpful list of seven effective measures to improve retail store communications, so that your business — and the brand as a whole — can thrive.
Streamlining communication is one of the most important aspects of strengthening in-store communication, and all you’ll really need to accomplish this is one centralized means of regular communication, through which everyone can stay in touch and benefit from clear messaging.
Think of it this way: communication may not be nearly as much of an issue for corporate employees, due to the fact that many of their messages are relayed or received with only the touch of the button through email, or via instant message. But for retail employees — or, more specifically, for deskless employees — checking emails on the job isn’t an efficient or realistic option. Thus, phone communication is typically the most efficient and effective option, particularly through communication apps that make regular correspondence a simplified process.
Nothing thwarts effective communication more than a scattered mess of emails, texts, phone conversations, etc. all dealing with the same topic, but scattered throughout a variety of correspondence mediums. To simplify matters, settle on one convenient communication medium for everyone, and send updates and important information regularly to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
Grouping relevant employees and associates into specific chats will help tremendously with effective communication. Rather than sending out each message to every single employee (including those who aren’t involved in the issue being discussed), create chats for store managers and district managers, store managers and employees, etc. This will further help streamline the communication process, and ensure that all relevant personnel are kept in the loop on matters pertaining to their work.
Generic communication (mass communication) to all workers at all levels may actually cause added confusion, as this may encourage more responses from employees who have questions about issues that don’t affect their work/job, and makes it more likely for important messages to be buried by a slew of unnecessary responses.
While meetings aren’t everyone’s favorite way to communicate, nothing offers a more efficient opportunity for communication than a meeting — even if it’s a virtual one.
Pick a time — once a month, perhaps — that’s most convenient for all managers at the retail, district, and corporate levels (if possible) to dial in, or meet over lunch, and discuss business operations, marketing strategies, in-store issues and growth, etc. For retail managers, it’s also a good idea to set up a monthly meeting for all in-store employees, because they offer the unique perspective of working most closely with customers. They’ll likely have ideas for improvement that can then be discussed among associates at higher company levels.
Some messages or communications may require more direction than simply hitting “send” and carrying on with the day, but when possible, do try to focus only on important information when sending internal messages. Enough detail should always be provided that the workers receiving the message can respond to requests with as few questions as possible, but don’t drown the main point of the communication in “clutter” (i.e. irrelevant text or information).
For communication between retail managers and in-store employees, send or post requests to the agreed-upon centralized medium, stating requests directly and succinctly, providing a deadline, and framing the request with why it’s important to the company, if necessary.
One of the most important aspects of strong communication is dialogue. You can’t communicate effectively without it.
You can encourage regular dialogue at all levels of the business by taking employees out for a monthly lunch, holding brief meetings on a regular basis, and generally by simply establishing a strong sense of rapport with staff. They are more likely to trust their manager with insights, issues, and their suggestions if they feel like they can talk to you!
On a district/corporate level, dialogue can take place in similar settings, with an increased camaraderie between associates and managers, to increase comfort and trust in bringing up potential issues that occur within the business.
We mentioned earlier that group chats are an effective way to “group” specific communications to certain employees, but issues and communications ranging from moderate to significant should be communicated, in some form, to everyone they affect.
How this inclusive communication is carried out is more subjective, but group messaging may still be an effective tool here, as well. It’s likely that corporate and district workers will raise different questions and concerns than retail managers and employees, so relaying the information might be most effective by tailoring the messaging to people in these categories. This way, questions and comments pertaining to corporate operations won’t interfere with or bother the retail manager if they don’t pertain to him or her, and vice versa.
When store policies change, or new guidelines are enforced within a corporation, very little dialogue should take place as the initial information is dispersed. Instead, the information should be passed directly from corporate headquarters to district managers, who then relay it to store managers and staff. This type of orderly communication keeps the process streamlined, to maintain clarity.
One-way communication is essential for keeping the initial stages of policy changes and requests organized. It keeps all information clear and concise, and relays it efficiently (with minimal or no interruption).
If two-way communication is used to distribute important information, the process becomes much more messy and noisy. However, because some staff members will inevitably have questions when policy changes occur, it’s crucial that they feel they can talk to their store managers one-on-one. In this case, independent conversations with managers are far more effective than several employees asking questions simultaneously in response to a corporate communication.