Lessons from Shoptalk for Women: Empowering Retailers to Lead With Purpose

May 19, 2021

Since their groundbreaking announcement of an all-female speaker lineup for their 2020 conference, Shoptalk has been on a clear mission to empower women leaders throughout the retail industry. So when we got the opportunity to take part in their recent Virtual Meetup for Women, we jumped at the chance!

Over the span of three days, our Co-Founder & CEO, Melissa Wong, and VP of Sales Business Strategy, Carolyn Bender – both of whom have strong backgrounds in the retail industry – participated in conversations with other women retail leaders to recognize challenges, share ideas, and promote the work they’re doing. 

While the number of women in retail C-suite positions is slowly dwindling, there are encouraging signs: Shoptalk analysis found that women account for 32% of the retail industry’s board members and 24% of retail’s senior leadership roles. At Zipline, we believe participating in events like Shoptalk for Women can help to inspire future female leaders, mentor, and champion the next generation and promote them into senior roles.

Better yet? We realized that several of the best practices shared by fellow female retail leaders can easily be amplified by one thing we know something about: better employee communication. Here’s what we learned:

Purpose-led organizations need to start conversations with employees

In the wake of a year marked by social movements and political turmoil, consumers and employees alike are holding retailers to new standards. After all, people expect the brands they love to be drivers of change in the community, especially when it comes to equity, diversity and inclusion, environmental responsibility, and more.

The message that the retail leaders at Shoptalk for Women have is: change begins inside the company. In order to help drive purpose-driven changes out in the community, retailers must start from within. That means inviting employees into conversations about social responsibility isn’t optional anymore – it’s required. 

In order for fruitful conversations to happen within a retail organization – and for social initiatives to take then hold – the entire workforce must be aligned. It’s a challenge for most retail brands to align the entire company, from HQ all the way to frontline employees. That’s why companies need to prioritize communications methods that provide their entire team with the information they need to understand the mission and the role they play in driving change. 

Authentic, vulnerable communication is best

Many of the attendees we spoke with agreed that building a better, more diverse future for retail would require a greater amount of trust between individual contributors and members of the C-suite. In essence: employees from HQ to the field need to feel truly connected to their leadership. 

Authenticity and vulnerability are key parts of building that trust with employees, and this particularly resonates with us here at Zipline. Our brand was born out of an authentic experience – our CEO, Melissa’s, experience working in retail. Because we understand retail’s challenges, we’ve learned the importance of leading from a place of authenticity

Melissa also believes that vulnerability is a strength that engenders trust and productivity.  “Being more authentic, transparent, and vulnerable has differentiated me as a leader,” she says. “Vulnerability is about showing others that it is okay to take risks and make mistakes.”

What does vulnerable, authentic communication look like, exactly? At Zipline, we believe it reflects the true voice of your company, it looks and feels like your brand, and it’s personalized – so it’s relevant to every single recipient. Oh – and it’s never rigid, because vulnerable leaders aren’t afraid to evolve and innovate. That’s why we built a communications platform that makes it easy to customize content with pictures and video, tailor and target that content to the right audience, and … update that content, if needed.

Agility is essential

We’ve seen the world change quickly. Today’s retail brands must remain flexible, especially when it comes to social responsibility. 

With a communications strategy in place, your employees will be aligned, able to pivot quickly, and your brand values can be reflected at every level of your organization. 

Retailers that leverage Zipline are at a particular advantage when it comes to rolling our purpose-forward initiatives. With clear communication and a platform that ensures organizational alignment, brands can ensure messages are received, heard, and understood. 

We love learning about the challenges that brands like yours are facing and we’d love to have a conversation about how we can help you to streamline store communications and task management. Helping organizations mobilize for the future is what we do best at Zipline. We empower retailers to lead with purpose.

Inspired to learn more? If you need a better way to communicate changes to the fleet and keep everyone aligned, let’s chat.

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