5 Ways to Supercharge Your Field Enablement Platform: An IT Guide

Strategies that can help bridge the gap between your field enablement platform and other systems and processes within your organization.

January 4, 2022

In 2014, we set out to build the most effective communication and task management platform for retail stores. Eight years later, Zipline has grown into a full-blown field enablement platform that tens of thousands of teams trust to streamline their operations and improve their businesses. 

Along the way, we’ve learned a thing or two about what makes an operations platform truly powerful. Sure, Zipline provides critical information to a distributed network of teams – whether those teams are in stores, branches, warehouses, or construction sites. But getting information to teams is only the first step in driving better results. How you get that information to teams as efficiently as possible is just as important. And – beyond that – the ability to take information out of your platform and feed it back into your other systems and tools is essential if you’re going to make better decisions about your business.

Unlocking the potential of a large organization (like that of a retailer) starts with unlocking the potential of its technology. This is why we’re so passionate about partnering with IT teams – so we can ensure Zipline doesn’t just deliver on a company’s communication needs, but also becomes the platform that powers agility and transformation across the org. 

Ready to take your store communication to the next level? Below are five IT strategies that can help bridge the gap between your field enablement platform and other systems and processes within your organization. Think of them like technology “power-ups,” listed in order of increasing complexity. 

1. Automate bulk file updates using SFTP

Retail teams need access to a lot of information to do their jobs: marketing directives, planograms, audit trackers, pick lists, promotional guides… and more. And the more targeted and localized this information is, the more likely they are to see an increase in ROI across every single location. 

But managing hundreds of separate files and targeting them to hundreds of different locations becomes unwieldy – especially if the content of those files changes frequently. Take signage direction, for instance. A retailer with 500 locations may want promotional signage swapped out across the fleet several times a week. If that same retailer is pushing out localized promotions, that’s more than a thousand directives to upload.

At Zipline, we help customers solve for this exact use case (and many others) via our SFTP facility. Assuming files are named predictably, we can automatically publish and expire files on a given date, and target files to a specific distribution list, store or security level. All of this happens behind the scenes, without any need for publishers to manage on the front end.

This is also a great way to manage your store comms system hierarchy If your company doesn’t use SSO. Zipline can regularly take files from WFM systems via SFTP to create a hierarchy that’s updated as often as once a day – which is essential in a high-turnover business like retail.

2. Give antiquated systems new life with email integrations

Chances are good you’ve got more than a few legacy systems in your organization that send automatic email notifications. Maybe a system shoots off an email when a new shipping label is created, or when a candidate applies for a job, or when pricing updates are deployed. 

But more often than not, nobody knows where those emails go: to a distribution list with zero recipients? To somebody’s spam folder? To an individual who hasn’t worked at the company in five years? (All likely cases – we’ve seen it all).

With a simple email integration, other applications can talk to Zipline by sending an email to a special address. In a way, you can “revive” those old systems and get more utility out of them. Using an email integration, we can pull content from these legacy systems and publish it straight to any part of Zipline (the Dashboard, the Day Sheet, etc.), targeting content to whomever needs to see it. 

An email integration is a great option for IT teams that want to reap the benefits of integration but don’t have the resources/man hours to build something from scratch. This integration also allows orgs to target communications to individuals who may not have an email account, but do use Zipline, like hourly frontline associates.

3. Create a one-stop-shop with pre-built integrations

When it comes to supporting stores, we know that our IT partners are dealing with a multitude of mismatched systems and technical burdens. But one of the biggest pain points is dealing with a fleet that’s constantly complaining about needing to access too many different apps to do their job.

Communications and task management platforms like Zipline are designed to be the place your field teams start and end their day. It’s where they go to gather the information they need to succeed during their shift, and it’s where they check in to connect with leaders and colleagues across the company. Essentially, platforms like ZIpline are the perfect candidate for a “single pane of glass” – or single point of entry – into all systems your field teams need to access in order to get work done.

With the help of pre-built integrations, you can give your frontline teams a true one-stop-shop by connecting the systems they know and love directly into their communications platform. At Zipline, this might look like: a widget that displays a user’s current LMS course load, a module on the dashboard that shows a store’s current NPS scores, or a seamless way to clock in and out for a shift directly in the Zipline interface.

Frontline teams rely on dozens of separate systems for everything from human resources, to workforce management, to learning management and analytics, among others. Creating a one-stop-shop for every frontline worker using integrations is a great way to drive employee productivity and employee engagement.

4. Democratize your data using BI tools

Technology is transforming virtually every aspect of retail, from how brands acquire customers to how payments happen in stores. But with so many disparate technology silos within retailers’ IT ecosystems – standalone point-of-sale systems, fraud detection systems, and critical back-office systems like employee scheduling – making sense of these analytics can be daunting. 

One place to start is to correlate data in your communications platform – like readership and task execution rates – with data in other areas of your business – like marketing campaign success. At Zipline, we make it possible for customers to fetch Zipline data into an existing solution where other operational data already lives, like PowerBI, Looker, or Tableau.

Breaking down data silos in this way can do a number of things. It can shed light on why some campaigns are more effective than others, it can help you make more informed decisions about which business levers to pull and – most importantly, in our eyes – it can help build a strong business case for better communications and task management in the field.

5. Automate the creation of communications via APIs

Last but not least is the most complex of these strategies – creating your own workflows using an open API. At Zipline, we use GraphQL as our API for flexibility, speed, and ease of use. 

If you’ve got the resources to write a bit of code, APIs can customize your communications platform experience in a myriad of ways. One of the most popular use cases for APIs at Zipline is adding automated communications from inside a company’s own custom application (or middleware). These applications can trigger different behaviors within Zipline via APIs, whether that’s a new message that’s published to teams, or a notification that pops up within the Zipline interface. Publishers save time copy/pasting, and frontline employees don’t need to endure the hassle of checking multiple systems for updates. It’s a win-win.

Whether it’s a new POS rollout, Ship From Store policy changes, last-minute promo updates, or pivoting to overcome crucial technology outages, getting the word out is simple and streamlined with Zipline’s field enablement platform. Learn more today. 

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