August 16, 2022
How can retailers best evaluate their store experience and invest in the right in-store changes to meet evolving customer needs quickly?
It all starts with listening to the people who are closest to those customers: store employees.
At best-in-class retailers, the executive team doesn’t just make decisions and delegate responsibilities to stores. They keep track of how their instructions are being carried out, they observe customer reaction on the frontlines, and they use those findings to tweak their strategy for the next go-around.
In short: they rely on store feedback.
Say you’re a CMO and you want to launch a new marketing campaign in your stores. You pull together direction, ship out new window posters, send down guidelines for the visual set-up and… then what? Hope for the best?
When all is said and done, maybe your comp sales increase, or maybe they don’t. But you won’t know with certainty if it was due to those window posters. You don’t even know how many stores put them up.
This is why every retailer needs a feedback loop.
All store feedback – even the most anecdotal – is useful. Consumer trends are changing faster than ever, and executive teams need to flex and respond accordingly. Feedback can tell them if their marketing campaigns are working. It can inform the next season’s ad buys or inventory investments. It can pinpoint where training is needed, and where teams are struggling.
According to our 2021 Labor of Love Report, a survey of 500 retail associates, 43 percent of respondents said they didn’t feel consistently heard when making suggestions to retail headquarters about in-store changes and improvements.
This statistic isn’t surprising. Collecting feedback from frontline employees is easier said than done because store leaders and associates are difficult to reach at scale.
A leader probably spends part of their shift in the back office, but an associate is usually there for mere seconds to clock in. After that, both are expected to be on the sales floor helping customers.
If these employees aren’t sitting in front of a desk, reading email, then how is HQ supposed to reach them to solicit their feedback in the first place?
Even if a retailer does collect feedback from their field, they may still struggle to determine how to effectively leverage that feedback to make forward-looking decisions about the business.
Retailers that want to harness the power of their frontline employees need to build capabilities that support two-way communication and knowledge sharing between stores and HQ. Not only will they glean valuable insights from the population of their team that’s closest to the customer, but they’ll benefit from a more engaged workforce, too. Employees who understand the role they play in the success of their company feel more connected to the brand they serve, and are less likely to leave.
There are many ways to collect feedback from stores. Conducting surveys is one of the most popular methods. Keeping an open channel for communication is another (usually via an app like Slack or GroupMe). Some companies use more traditional methods, like actually calling store teams to ask for feedback about a new product. Some delegate this responsibility through the ranks, requiring District Managers to collect information about their individual stores and send it up the chain.
But it’s not enough to settle on one feedback collection method and call it a day. Having multiple, purpose-based feedback loops is key.
There are plenty of tools out there – some of them free, even – that are built solely to satisfy the requirements of one of these types of feedback loops. Using a suite of tools isn’t always a bad thing. The key is: you have to use the right tool for the job.
So let’s break it down. Here are the four main types of feedback retailers need, along with the right (and wrong) ways to collect that feedback:
“Did you receive and put up the window posters?”
When you simply want to understand if tasks are being completed accurately and on time, you’re looking for directional feedback. In this case, you don’t necessarily need visibility into how a task was completed – you just want your field to acknowledge that it was received and done.
Directional feedback is helpful when you want to ensure your stores are:
Task management systems are best for collecting this type of feedback. Try using a chat-based app, and you’ll end up with too much noise and too many notifications. More often than not, your initial task will get lost. On the other side of the spectrum, survey-based tools are too heavy-hitting. Asking teams to complete a survey every time they complete a task is too time-consuming – you’ll risk that dreaded “pencil-whipping” behavior and your task data will be skewed.
“What are customers saying about the new window posters?”
When you want to tap into individuals’ experiences in the field to dig a little deeper into task execution or employee sentiment, or when you want to capture unfiltered in-the-moment thoughts, you’re looking for organic feedback.
Chat-based apps are ideal for gathering this type of feedback. Because teams can easily access them right from a mobile device, they don’t need to leave the sales floor to provide input. HQ can get a clear picture of what’s happening in stores without having to wait for emails and insights to work their way up the chain. Some retailers do try survey tools, and while they will give you a pulse on sentiment, a survey feedback loop can sometimes feel too formal (and somewhat intimidating). You’ll also sacrifice time – responses won’t be as “fresh.”
You might be looking for organic feedback if you want to:
“What size window posters did you receive?”
When you need to collect the same information from a large group of stores, or you want to ensure that information is tracked down to the individual, you’re looking for informational feedback. Common use cases include capturing insight on:
Traditional task management systems aren’t always the best for gathering this type of feedback: You’ll understand if something was done, but not necessarily how (or to what extent). And these systems can make it difficult to require all employees to submit precise feedback by a predetermined date.
Chat-based apps are also sometimes used for gathering this information at scale (it’s easy to snap a photo in GroupMe, after all.) But these apps are too noisy and make it nearly impossible to analyze data at scale, putting the burden on your DMs or HQ teams to compile and parse out individuals’ responses. The best course of action is to use a survey tool, of course.
“To what extent did you set the window posters correctly?”
When you want to tap into specific stores’ or employees’ areas of opportunity, and then take swift action, you want actionable feedback. Typically this is when HQ needs to validate that instructions are being executed to plan.
Many retailers still rely on survey tools to capture this type of information. And while you’ll be able to easily compile data at scale and see trends, a survey alone isn’t built to drive behavior change. Using an audit or store walk solution – especially one built specifically for retailers – is the only way you’ll be able to understand if the subsequent actions you’re taking to improve compliance are working over time. These tools are optimal for Store Operational Audits and Performance Evaluations because they allow you to drive an actionable feedback loop while still providing the visibility for HQ and Upper Field teams into what’s happening in stores.
Use an auditing tool to capture insight on things like:
Ultimately, the way you collect feedback matters. Store teams will naturally deviate towards systems and tools that make their jobs easier – so go with it! Take a look at your current suite of applications and measure them against the feedback you’re trying to gather. It may be time to introduce some new ways of working.
Zipline is built to facilitate all four different types of feedback loops that are important to retailers. Whether you simply want to get a pulse on execution or sentiment or want a more detailed breakdown of compliance with actionable insights, Zipline’s product suite has unique tools for every job.
When you simply want to understand if tasks are being completed accurately and on time, use Messages & Tasks.
Zipline’s core product, Messages & Tasks, is built to align the organization overall while driving maximum execution in the field with minimal effort from HQ. Store teams, upper field leaders, and HQ all have visibility into who’s reading messages and completing tasks. At a high level, HQ can track readership and execution over time. This directional feedback can be used to pinpoint bright spots, as well as areas of opportunity.
When you want to tap into individuals’ experiences in the field to dig a little deeper into task execution or employee sentiment, or when you want to capture unfiltered in-the-moment feedback, use Groups.
Zipline’s Groups is most useful as a fast forum for feedback, so HQ teams can quickly get a pulse from the field on what’s working and what’s not.
When you need to collect the same information from a large group of stores, or you want to ensure that information is tracked down to the individual, use Surveys.
Surveys make it easy to poll the field in a targeted and personalized way. This helps to improve the number and accuracy of responses.
When you want to tap into specific stores’ or employees’ areas of opportunity, and then take swift action, use Assessments.
Assessments simplify and speed up the process of performing manual checks in the field while also providing corrective action in the moment. This helps improve compliance and validate that instructions are being executed to plan. HQ, Upper Field, and Store Teams have real-time access to the results keeping everyone on the same page with easy access to past and present action plans. This enables stores to move faster and stay in alignment with brand standards.
Ready to unleash the full potential of an empowered, aligned, and agile frontline workforce? Zipline’s Store Enablement Assessment measures the effectiveness of your people strategies, communication process, and technology platforms. Take the 10-minute assessment and see how your stores score today.
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