Do you have thousands of dollars earmarked in your Q4 budget for printing costs? Do you have nightmares about shipments getting stranded at FedEx hubs? Are you on a first-name basis with your local UPS store manager?
You’re not alone. Every year, Retail Ops and Comms pros across the globe sit down together to try to solve that age-old question: How do we properly prepare our stores for Peak? And every year, the answer is the same: We send them a giant binder.
At Zipline, we know that printed binders are not an effective way to communicate important information. We know this because we’ve lived it, and we’ve seen store employees struggle with binders first-hand. What good is a stack of information that’s outdated the minute it’s printed? This is retail, after all. Stores deserve communication that keeps pace with their business. Also: papercuts.
A binder isn’t a limitless portal of knowledge, updated in real-time (but you already knew that.) At best, it provides a high level look at a brand and store’s important priorities for the biggest quarter of the year. On the one hand, culling down potentially overwhelming information can help teams feel focused. But because you’re limited to the number of pages you can slot between two sheets of plastic, there are going to be inevitable omissions.
Having a binder in hand might help store leaders feel in control, but it won’t prevent them from constantly toggling between different, disparate sources of communication. There are still emails to read, conference calls to take, intranets to browse, calendars to peruse, and tasks to check off. Eventually, that binder becomes yet another source of headache-inducing information that needs to be read.
You know the drill: No matter how much you plan, no matter how closely you align goals with your business partners, no matter how many deadline you enforce, that printed binder is out of date the minute you print it.
It’s not your fault. In retail, priorities shift constantly. Customer and market trends are fluid and fickle, and the best retailers have to keep back to stay ahead of the competition. Parking your stores’ most critical information in a static printed binder essentially handcuffs them to material that’s never going to be up-to-the-minute accurate. And that can be downright dangerous.
Last we checked, a binder weighs in at at least a couple of pounds. You can’t slip it in your back pocket, pull it up on a desktop or laptop or take it with you on-the-go. You can cart it around the sales floor, sure, but it’s not easy to thumb through pages to answer associate questions in real time. During Peak, every minute counts – and every minute a store leader wastes walking to the back office to pull binder down from the shelf amounts to dollars lost in labor, sales and conversion.
You can confirm a binder was received, but can you confirm it was read? It’s difficult to know if anything you worked so hard to get into that binder was seen. In the past, we’ve seen retailers tackle this issue in a variety of manual, time-sucking ways: They require their District Managers to painstakingly review every store’s task sheets during in-person store visits, or they ask teams to snap photos of completed worksheets to confirm completion. Instead of spending time coaching and developing their teams, DMs are reduced to box-checking auditors – not a good use of time.
Retail brands crave a consistent customer experience, but that doesn’t mean every store is still a little different. Localized promotions, community-focused events, different store formats, different product assortments – this is today’s retail reality. A printed binder has to assume a “one-size-fits-all” approach, essentially dumbing down strategic information so that everybody from the Flagship Store Director in Times Square to the Associate Manager overseeing a rural, small-format store can benefit. As a result, team members waste time reading though information that either a) doesn’t apply to them, or b) is too vague to really inspire any sort of deliberate, strategic action.
As you start planning for peak, consider Zipline as your one-stop Holiday shop; your vehicle to deliver the seasons’ top priorities and initiatives in real-time along with task and readership reporting to help keep everyone across the fleet on track. If you’d like to learn more about how Zipline can help during this time of year, reach out today.
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