The Four Communications Metrics You Need To Track

Want better business agility? It's all in the numbers.

November 2, 2021

In the online world, customer data can be collected, analyzed, and reported out in the blink of an eye. But among brick-and-mortar stores there’s still a massive delta between “HQ telling stores to do the thing” and “HQ checking if the thing actually happened.” Too many retailers still rely on constant in-person visits, foot traffic counters, and sales numbers to understand if the initiatives they spent months developing actually worked. They rely on anecdotal feedback and act on assumptions. 

From our experience working with retailers and studying human behavior, we know the only results a business can drive are the ones you track and measure consistently. 

If a company can’t measure execution, it has no way to strategically improve it. That’s why retailers need the ability to track the relationship between their communications to stores and the execution rate at each store. This is how they can confidently measure how they might improve their execution, and this is exactly the value that Zipline provides.

Measuring execution is possible within the Zipline platform because we surface actionable insights on what stores need to know (communication) and do (tasks) to every level of the organization. When working with new customers, here are the top four metrics we recommend they begin tracking in order to continually improve their communications strategy.

Metric #1: Task Execution

Let’s face it: Getting store teams to take timely, precise action is hard. Which is why so many retailers aren’t great at it.

Store leaders (and specifically, Store Managers) are ultimately responsible for the financial performance, customer service metrics, and HR management of their given store. Balancing the needs of their individual location with direction from Corporate is, at best, exhausting. Most store leaders spend their days planning labor schedules, checking displays, helping customers, and coaching their direct reports – which can sometimes be in the dozens. Executing direction from headquarters is simply another task on this unending list. 

Back at headquarters, leaders will put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into decisions that directly impact the bottom line: the creative execution of a marketing campaign, for instance, or the placement of a particular product on the shelf. But without a proper communications strategy in place 90% of that effort is wasted in the long run because nobody’s going to execute it in stores properly anyway. 

This is why we believe the number-one metric all retail organizations should track is store execution. In Zipline, this looks like the percentage of tasks your teams complete on time.

The goal for this metric will vary from organization to organization, but we recommend our clients start aiming for around 70-80% after implementing Zipline. From there, our customers should see continual improvement month-over-month as communication becomes more streamlined and the fleet becomes more aligned.

Additionally, we often recommend that retailers track the percentage of tasks completed in general (which includes tasks completed on time and tasks completed late). This can be a helpful metric when looking at how to improve your communications strategy. Sometimes publishers can underestimate the time a task takes to complete, or haven’t yet established a good synchronous relationship with their labor planning teams. Keeping the “% of tasks completed in general” metric in mind can help chart a path towards a more effective and efficient communications cadence.

Metric #2: Readership

There’s a delicate balance retailers look to strike in terms of letting store managers run their stores like they own them, while ensuring there are guardrails and systems in place that clearly explain what’s expected of them. It’s a bit like having your cake and eating it too: Retailers want their managers to have a “shopkeeper” mentality, but also want to know that the brand and the shopper experience stays consistent across thousands of stores. How do you do that?

The only way to achieve that shopkeeper mentality is by educating your workforce about where the brand is going and setting clear expectations on how to get there through consistent communication. Those two elements need to be tightly coupled for retail leaders to have a shopkeeper mentality where they can run their business in a meaningful way that resonates with the community, but also represents the entire brand as a united fleet of force.

For this reason, we believe it’s important to always track readership in conjunction with task execution. If tasks are completed on time but your broader message isn’t getting through, your employees simply can’t be effective brand advocates in the field. On the other hand, a store associate that fully understands the reason behind a task will make better decisions when carrying out and interpreting that directive in their location and have confidence that their actions will have a positive impact on the business.

For many of our customers, it makes sense to start with the broadest version of this metric: the percentage of communications read by at least a single team member of a store within 24 hours of the communication being published.

Why the 24-hour timeframe? Because we believe retailers can use communication strategies to teach their employees good habits. Time and time again, we see that a daily cadence of communication is the most effective at driving high readership and execution rates. If messages are published in daily bundles, employees will walk into the store in the morning, check Zipline to make sure they are on top of their daily tasks and general business information, and start their work for the day. This “once a day” check becomes instinctual, just like brushing your teeth in the morning. Tracking readership in this way is a great way to get a pulse on whether or not your communication is driving the right behaviors.

As some of our clients continue in their communications journey, we often recommend they start tracking another type of readership metric: the percentage of communications read by all active members of a store within 24 hours of the communication being published. This is a bit more nuanced, because it wouldn’t make sense to track this stat for every type of communication – especially those that might only be intended for a select group of employees in the store, or for routine messages and tasks that only require 1-2 employees to carry out. But for larger initiatives, promotions, and urgent messages related to policy changes, it’s often beneficial to understand if these messages are reaching all employees in the store as intended.

Metric #3: Reach

A retail team is kind of like a crew on a boat. In order for the boat to move forward, every different person – from the Store Associate on up to the Regional Manager – needs to focus on the same goal. Misalignment happens when a store or individual receives conflicting communication, which creates competing priorities. If everyone is pulling in a different direction, they’re pulling the organization apart and not moving the business (or in this case, the boat) toward its desired destination. 

This is why we believe in getting “everybody on the same page.” In short, our goal is to get every crew member on that retail boat to follow the same set of instructions so everyone knows their part, everyone knows the timing, and expectations are clear. When an organization is aligned like this, everything works more efficiently and it’s smooth sailing ahead. 

Task execution and readership metrics will help you understand if directives are being understood and carried out in stores, but they won’t necessarily tell you what portion of your employee population is “on the same page” – actively engaged in the “reading” and the “doing.” For that, we recommend looking at unique logins by level on a weekly or monthly basis, depending on your organization.

This is also a terrific metric to use in order to understand, at a glance, which tiers of your field hierarchy are engaging with your communication (and which might need more nudging). As a starting point, it can be helpful to establish separate percentage goals for your Store Managers, Store Leaders (below manager level), and Upper Field Leaders. 

Metric #4: Adoption

Zipline has been around since 2014. Since then, we’ve talked to a lot of top-tier retail brands. If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s this: No matter how much money you spend on a communication or task management platform, it’s not going to matter one bit if your store teams don’t use it.

We’re proud to say we’ve built a platform that leads the industry in adoption rates, thanks to thoughtfully-designed features and an intuitive user interface. But there’s always room for improvement, which is why we urge our customers to also keep tabs on adoption rates throughout their fleet.

When rolling out new features, in particular, our Account Managers will often work one-on-one with customers to determine the percentage of new users who fully adopt the new tools within one month of launch. We find that high adoption rates are also a surefire sign of an engaged employee population. And if for some reason adoption is lower than we’d like (usually anything sub-80%), we’ll work closely with customers to craft change management strategies that position new features in the best possible light.

You can’t improve what you can’t measure

Fortunately, Zipline puts meaningful data into the hands of our users, so they have real-time information to drive their respective areas of the business forward:

  • Upper Field Leaders can easily view which stores are on track with assignments and which ones are falling behind so follow-ups are targeted and specific. 
  • Store leadership can better hold their teams and each other accountable using assignments on the Day Sheet’s shared to-do list because they can see who’s tackling what and when it’s been completed. 
  • Publishers can see at a glance the reach a message has across the fleet and for any subsequent updates, tracking if readership trends change with new information over time. 
  • For more in-depth analysis, Zipline offers a suite of reports to help HQ teams understand different aspects of their communication and execution processes.

If you’d like to learn more about how Zipline puts powerful metrics in the palm of your hand, reach out to learn more today.

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