Why It’s Time to Rethink Real-time Store Communication

November 10, 2021

In retail, the need for real-time communication is obvious. But it’s not enough to stand up an intranet and call it a day. With real-time communication comes real responsibility. A company can only reap the strategic benefits of communicating in real time if they’ve put the necessary structures in place for stores to react effectively. 

When you put a deliberate system in place for real time communication, event notifications can be sent in the general stream without overwhelming people. Retailers can send communications as they are necessary, and stores are in a better position to respond to competitive needs without causing confusion. 

We built Zipline in a way that encourages retailers to employ specific systems of real-time communication, resulting in better store execution. These are:

  • A daily communication cadence
  • Grouping messages into “bundles”
  • Driving effective, repeatable behaviors

The power of a daily communication cadence

Many retailers create cadences of communication to manage the volume of information they need to transmit. These typically include communication bundles which are sent in (usually) weekly cadences. And although the plan is always to send information periodically, this rarely ends up being the case. The biggest problem with weekly communication is that it is never actually weekly—it somehow always turns into daily! That’s because a weekly cadence won’t allow companies to effectively respond to a sudden competitive sale that threatens their business. So instead they end up sending information on the normal weekly cadence, followed by daily change updates, clarifications, and reminders.

On the other hand, there is a tendency to want to communicate information as soon as it’s known. But pummeling stores with real-time updates throughout the day creates confusion, chaos and distracts from customer focus. It also takes store teams off of the store floor (which defeats the purpose and is expensive labor spend!)

At Zlpline, we’ve found that a daily communication cadence is the most effective way to transmit timely information from headquarters to stores.

From a best practices standpoint, our system is built to (subtly) encourage publishers to delay launching communication if something is supposed to go out late in the afternoon. Our advice would be to delay sending that information until the next morning and instead publish it “in tomorrow’s bundle.” Why? Because we’ve found that this approach will deliver a dramatically higher level of readership and execution. When employees receive communication at a time that they can properly consume it, they’re more likely to take action on and plan around it.

The concept of bundles

So what are bundles, anyway? Many retailers we talk to are new to this term – it’s not really an industry-wide concept but one that’s core to Zipline’s philosophy and functionality.

We believe that if a retailer batches information into “bundles,” they will achieve higher readership and higher execution because they’re not sending information to their field teams at arbitrary times throughout the day. Employees can know with certainty that there’s a bundle of information waiting for them in Zipline in the morning when they come into the store (or maybe in the evening before they clock out). This means they’re able to check Zipline once – usually at the beginning of their shift – and see all of the information they need for the day.

This is an entirely different experience from “I got an email at 7:30am, 8:30am, 9:15am, 2:00pm, 3:00pm…” If a store employee has to constantly worry about checking their email (or another system) for new information, they’re unable to fully focus on the customer and/or their prescribed duties.

But bundling messages into a daily cadence isn’t just about giving teams a feeling of clarity and relief (“I don’t have to stress about checking my email a million times a day”). It naturally enforces a behavior in stores that is proven to drive a higher rate of readership and execution: the ritual of checking Zipline every day at the start (or end) of a shift.

Building effective habits through communication

Retailers can use communication strategies to teach their employees good habits. If a company has their Zipline bundles set for midnight, for example, the 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. It becomes instinctual, just like brushing your teeth in the morning.

The Day Sheet is a great example of this. Because the Day Sheet makes it easy to understand exactly what needs to get done in stores, we’ve seen it fundamentally change the way field teams operate for the better. Here’s why:

Before Zipline, it was common practice for retailers to communicate the same thing to stores several times. For instance, let’s say you’re sending direction out about a product launch that’s happening in two weeks. You’ll need to send a note about the launch to stores two weeks ahead of time so that they can plan for it and make sure they have the proper team scheduled for it. And then you’ll send another reminder note a week later, (maybe ask upper field leaders to conduct a conference call with their teams to follow up, for good measure), followed by yet another reminder note the day before, and – you guessed it – probably a message the day of to double-check that the double-check happened. All of this repeat messaging creates a ton of noise. 

But what we see with stores who use Zipline is that they get in the habit of following the Day Sheet. Assigning tasks on the Day Sheet after clocking in, and then checking off tasks before clocking out, is an easy repeatable behavior, so it becomes second nature. This means that if headquarters puts something on the Day Sheet there’s a really good chance it’s going to get done. 

With Zipline, headquarters can put a task on the Day Sheet the night before – maybe an urgent task to pull something off the sales floor – and it will actually get done. One major fortune 500 retailer said that this behavior, driven by the Day Sheet, caused their “same day and next day execution” to go higher than they had ever experienced before – above 90%. 

Going from the idea that you need a minimum of two-weeks’ lead time to get something done in stores, to a state of “I can get it done today with 90% certainty” is transformational to a business. This is how Zipline helps businesses become truly agile.

As you start planning for peak, consider Zipline as your one-stop Holiday shop; your vehicle to deliver the seasons’ top priorities and initiatives in real-time along with task and readership reporting to help keep everyone across the fleet on track. If you’d like to learn more about how Zipline can help during this time of year, reach out today.

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