An Introduction to Store Communications

August 6, 2020

What is Store Communications?

Store Communications – sometimes referred to as Retail Communications or Field Communications – is the internal communication that happens between a retailer’s headquarters and store teams. In the broadest sense, it’s “how HQ tells stores what they need to do.”

Every day, there are dozens (or even hundreds) of decisions being made at a retailer’s corporate headquarters: Which product to buy, and how much. Which promotion to run, how to advertise it, how to measure its effectiveness. There are teams deciding whether or not it makes financial sense to switch to a different receipt paper vendor. There may even be teams working around the clock to figure out if pricing a pair of socks at $4.99 instead of $4.95 is actually worth the hassle.

Every single one of these decisions has a real-life, tangible impact in that retailer’s stores. It may impact how they merchandise product, how they schedule their employee shifts, how they set up their window displays, and what they say to customers when they’re greeted at the door. So when one of these decisions is made, stores need to know about it. 

In retail, innovation can’t just exist inside the minds of the folks in the C-suite. Big, revenue-driving ideas only matter if they’re correctly executed in the stores. The link between HQ’s ideas and in-store execution is Store Communication.

How do retailers typically communicate with employees?

Retailers’ methods for getting information from HQ to a (usually geographically dispersed) fleet of stores runs the gamut. Many smaller players will rely on conventional methods that any Internal Communications professional will find familiar – email alerts, a company intranet, or a shared document repository. 

It’s worth nothing that these methods tend to fall short because a store employee’s day-to-day reality doesn’t match up with that of a typical white-collar 9-to-5’er. Frontline retail workers don’t sit at a desk all day, watching their inboxes for new messages. They might now work a regular, predictable schedule. Sometimes, they don’t even have access to company email. As a result, sending clear communication down the chain from HQ to stores can be an arduous task.

To compensate for a lack of proper technology, retailers rely heavily on their chain of command in the field to relay pertinent information from HQ to stores. District and Regional Managers (leaders who oversee a group of stores) may have regular check-ins with partners at HQ via phone or videoconference, and then disseminate their learnings to their direct reports during weekly conference calls or meetings. 

What does a Store Communications Team do?

Store Communications teams are typically the “gatekeepers” of information between Headquarters and Stores. When stores need to take an action – say, pull a recalled item off the shelf – It’s up to the store communications team to get the word out to store managers and associates quickly. Good store communications teams employ internal communications best practices to ensure their store employees see that message at the exact right time, read it, fully understand its content, and then properly execute.

At larger retail organizations, a Store Communications team member likely won’t create every message for their stores from scratch. Instead, they’ll rely on partners in other departments – like Marketing, Merchandising, Loss Prevention, etc. – to provide content. From there, it’s up to the Store Communications leader to determine how to communicate: in addition to editing for voice/tone, they’ll decide what level of information is included, which communications vehicle will be used, when the message will be delivered, and who in the field will need to see it.

In addition to managing a daily cadence of communication from HQ to stores, Store Communications teams may also tackle special projects – like field trainings or large-scale Store Manager conferences – that require building the delivering content to an internal audience. They are also often tasked with exploring and deploying new processes and technology that facilitate a tighter, more efficient feedback loop between HQ and stores.

Whether you’re looking to build out a new Store Communications team at your organization or trying to grow your current one, check out our Store Communications Job Description templates for the perfect starting point:

No matter the size of your team, tools like Retail Zipline can help supercharge your store communications strategy, ensure everything is streamlined and everyone is in the loop. If you’d like to learn more, reach out to schedule a demo today.

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