The grocery industry is seeing faster innovation than ever before, fueled, in part, by the pandemic. As grocers looked to meet customer expectations, many focused on contactless shopping, putting extra resources around online ordering, curbside pickup and delivery. In a Total Retail Podcast, Hy-Vee’s SVP and Chief Digital Officer, Jessica Ringena, said that the pandemic “accelerated e-commerce and online shopping by several years.”
Chief Executive recently reported that more than 460 employment, labor and consumer lawsuits involving coronavirus safety claims were filed by the end of July. Regardless of how mindful you are about safety, any company that exposes its people to others is at risk of being sued.
As retailers, you have the power to drive tremendous loyalty through store visits. When stores run smoothly and consumers have top notch experiences, online alternatives can’t compete. Here are three reasons why the best retail experiences occur in stores and not online:
At the end of July, one of the companies in our space, Reflexis, was acquired by a publicly traded tech behemoth, Zebra Technologies, for $575 million. Given the size of the deal and the fact that a sizable number of our customers were using Reflexis before switching to Retail Zipline, many people have asked us for our opinion on the deal.
Today, Total Retail Talks featured a podcast with Zipline’s first grocery customer, Hy-Vee. In the episode, Joe Keenan, Total Retail’s Editor, speaks with Jessica Ringena, Hy-Vee’s SVP and Chief Digital Officer, about how the midwest grocery retailer is faring in the midst of Covid-19 and how the company is keeping its 86,000 employees safe.
In her role as director of brand stores for Fjällräven North America, Sarah’s personal goal is to improve the experience for retail employees. In her first six months on the job, she visited every store and spent time with each of the 30 store managers to uncover what was working and where things could be improved. Not surprisingly, since it’s a problem for most retailers, she uncovered frustration around how communication flowed from headquarters to the fleet.
At Zipline, we have a strong philosophy around retail communication and want our customers to buy-in to that vision and trust in our method of driving store execution, compliance, and happier employees. But, we also know that stores, HQ and upper field are constantly coming up with ideas to solve today’s challenges. That’s why we lead with conviction but know we can only win by really listening to customers.
No retailer was prepared for Covid-19. But, some were able to navigate the uncharted waters better than others. A great example is maurices, an American women's clothing retail chain with more than 900 stores based in Duluth, Minnesota. Although the pandemic challenged the team operationally, they were able to flex muscles they didn’t know they had to come out stronger than before in terms of skills, culture and business results.
Retail is a tough business. (Understatement of the year, right?) Consumers are swimming in a sea of seemingly endless options, all competing for their limited attention and disposable income. What’s the secret to business success? Your existing customers. It’s five times more expensive to acquire a new customer than keep a current one. And, current customers spend 67% more than new ones.
When scheduling becomes all about efficiency, workers suffer. They wind up with unpredictable shifts, which means they can’t adequately plan for childcare or classes, which is why many of them take retail jobs in the first place. In addition, they can’t accurately plan for how much income they will make month to month, since their employers can’t guarantee them a fixed number of hours. For most retail workers, the situation is frustrating, depressing and completely avoidable.
If you have ever wondered how the best retailers in the world ensure that 100% of their fleet see and act on every HQ directive, you can stop wondering. It just doesn’t happen. The truth is that average store execution hovers at less than 30% and even the best retailers who focus on communication with the fleet don’t break 90%. And, that’s for retailers with simple organizational structures such as a single headquarters office and company-owned stores.
Assuming you've been in touch with your work team members, you may have an idea where their mind is at; or maybe you only think you know. According to a recent international study of more than 2,000 employees conducted in March-April 2020, furloughed workers are 37% more likely to report mental health declines during the pandemic. What are things that weigh heavily in their minds? Some of their concerns are not so obvious.
As CEO and Co-Founder of Retail Zipline, and formerly a Communications executive at a Fortune 500 retail company, Melissa has a unique perspective on how retailers across the country are dealing with perhaps the biggest change of all: COVID-19. We sat down with Melissa to talk about the shifts she’s seeing in communications best practices as retailers adjust to life amidst the pandemic.
Because Retail Zipline is a fully remote company, we watched our customers and prospects adapt to a new way of working and were pleasantly surprised to see how quickly it felt normal to ‘jump on a zoom’ instead of waiting a week or two for an in-person meeting.
Nick Coughlan, a sales director at Zipline, was in the middle of a deal with a large grocery chain when shelter in place orders were issued and non-essential workers began working from home. He explains his experience working with retailers during the pandemic in the following interview:
New sanitization standards, sticky floor mats, installation of temperature technology… all of that stuff requires instructions and guidelines be sent to stores, somehow. That 65-page operating manual, those training guidelines, that new print-in-store signage… all of that stuff has to live somewhere. And all of that stuff has to be sent and accessed in such a way so that all of a retailers’ locations - sometimes upwards of thousands - can give customers the same experience.
All of these changes - as well as the reasons behind them - will need to be communicated to stores.
Here are five reasons why your “Store of the Future” is going to need a communication platform upgrade:
Over the last week, we’ve been discussing and questioning how we have come to this point in history. In small groups and in all-company meetings, we have been educating ourselves and discussing how Zipline can help make a difference. Before speaking publicly, we wanted to ensure that definitive actions were underway so our words would be meaningful and not hollow. But we realize that the movement needs every voice and we don’t have the luxury of staying silent while developing an action plan.
In the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, communication glitches now comes with a higher price: mistakes will adversely impact employee trust, commitment and loyalty. How well a company’s employees perform in their roles will influence how customers evaluate that company’s level of safety measures and concern for their well-being. And those impressions will influence their decisions as to if or how soon they return to do business with that company.
Employees need to see consistency in a company’s direction and expectations so they can confidently follow the directives and perform their tasks. With this in mind, it’s imperative that companies, perhaps more than ever before, ensure messages are aligned from all departments.
Online returns suck. Very few people want to print a shipping label and wait in line at the post office (does anybody even have a printer anymore?). And even fewer want to pay for return shipping. The alternative? Head to your nearest brick and mortar store with those wrinkled poly bags full of last season’s fashions in tow.
So, what’s a retailer to do? Returns - especially online returns - are a huge source of friction of customers and associates alike. But companies that take the time now to prepare their field teams via clear and consistent communication will come out on top. Here are a few practical tips to help your stores weather the storm of returns.
For the first time in history, executives at the highest level are paying attention to the needs of the everyday retail worker. While many companies, like Starbucks, Wegmans and Publix have long championed their associates, others are just starting to acknowledge the needs of the hourly employee and link the success of their businesses to the success of this employee-group.
What do these retail employees, especially those new to the job, need to be successful? According to the experts, they need great onboarding, regular communication from HQ and the ability to be heard.
All 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.
But all feedback loops are not created equal.
Learn the four main types of feedback retailers need, along with the right (and wrong) ways to collect it.
intranets are not built for daily communication and task management. They were born out of a need for a work team document repository. And while they’re ubiquitous across every professional industry, an old school, document-based intranet isn’t where a busy store leader wants to spend valuable time, hunting for that one nugget of info to complete a task. Don’t believe us? Here are five reasons why settling for an intranet is hurting your store execution:
Covid-19 is driving gas stations and c-stores to undergo radical changes to ensure customer and staff health and safety . While operational changes are easy to list out on your website, driving in-store execution is a big challenge, especially if you have multiple stores with hourly employees. How do you get the message out to every single associate and ensure that it’s heard? If you’re like most c-stores, you’re using multiple channels to reach them, but somehow your messages aren’t making it all the way down to the stores and execution is still suffering.
To commemorate our partnership with Hy-Vee, Retail Zipline made a commitment to support Hy-Vee’s food bank campaign. For every new Hy-Vee platform user that signed up before May 31, Retail Zipline would donate $1, up to $25,000, to the campaign. Hy-Vee would also match Retail Zipline’s contribution dollar for dollar to help support food banks feeding those in need during this national pandemic.
In early February, more than a month before COVID-19 became a household name, Forbes published an article titled, How To Fight Change Fatigue With Better Internal Communications. The article was written by Elizabeth Baskin, CEO and Executive Creative Director at Tribe, Inc. The article is particularly pertinent to retail companies today that are dealing with Covid-19-related challenges, such as constantly changing policies and new health guidelines for retail stores.
In this article, we look at how eight leading essential retailers are helping those less fortunate in their communities during the pandemic. What stands out to us is that these companies rolled out these programs in the midst of what can only be described as the most chaotic few weeks of these businesses’ existence. To be able to innovate, move quickly and coordinate these efforts is a testament to the leadership and values of these brands.
With much of brick and mortar retail grinding to a halt during the pandemic, grocery stores are booming. Products are flying off the shelves more quickly than stores can re-stock. Many analysts believe that with the emergence of COVID-19, we are entering into a new age of grocery, one where the customer experience shifts to the convenience of online ordering and delivery, while still maintaining a safe and shoppable environment within stores’ four walls. To understand other trends, we looked to the experts to understand what good store execution will look like in the “new normal.”
We know that this period feels like holiday season X 1000 for essential retailers. The volume of communication, changes and updates are happening at a neck breaking pace. It’s chaotic and stressful for employees. But the stories that we hear of companies taking care of their essential workers during the pandemic give us hope that retail associates are finally being recognized and rewarded for the work they do to represent brands. Here are just a few examples of companies stepping up to do right by store associates.
Deemed essential businesses in 30 states, cannabis stores have been allowed to stay open during the COVID-19 shelter-in-place. Advice from cannabis leaders can help retailers from other industries prepare for store reopenings. Here are five tips we gleaned from a recent FlowerHire webinar and articles published over the last few weeks.
A Retail Dive brief reports that lululemon, despite impacts from the coronavirus outbreak across its markets is sticking to its Power of Three growth plan after closing a $1.4 billion fourth quarter. In sports terms, we call this ‘beast mode.’
Other retailers are showing similar winning attitudes despite the current situation. They know that investing now will allow them to emerge as better, more agile companies after Covid-19. L.L.Bean was ready to launch big technology initiatives just as the pandemic was closing stores around the globe. Rather than delay the projects, the company decided to move forward. We recently sat down with Corey Bouyea, Sr. Manager Store Operations, to learn more.
At the end of March, WWD ran a story titled, Tech Solutions, Strategies Help Brands and Retailers Manage Crisis. In the article, the author shares how Zipline is helping companies “inform teams with accurate and timely information about COVID-19, including in-store protocols to keep both customers and employees safe.”
To learn more about how companies used Zipline’s communication and task management platform to manage the COVID-19 crisis, we sat down with Dave So, Retail Operations Manager at AG LEGO® Certified Stores. Beginning in March, Dave used Zipline’s COVID-19 hub to help Australia and New Zealand’s largest group of custom-built LEGO retail experiences, Bricks Megastore, manage the crisis.
When Zipline co-founder, Melissa Wong was wooing her technical co-founder, Jeremy Baker, to join her in her mission to improve retail store communications, she had him read a research paper by Pareto’s Dr. Hugh Phillips, an expert on the cognitive psychology of shopping, what consumers perceive in store and how they process information in their decision making. The research paper revealed that over 90% of effectiveness of a retail marketing campaign is lost between concept (at HQ) to execution (in stores). Read more about why store execution suffers and what you can do about it.
As COVID-19 made its way from China to the rest of the world, the staggered path of the virus provided a silver lining - allowing health experts, governments, economists and others to look to China as an example of what the rest of the world can expect in the future. In this article, we share five lessons from China retailers that have reopened stores following COVID-19.
The international crisis that continues to unfold each day is shining a spotlight on the importance of retail store communication. If companies can easily and efficiently convey information to their employees, wherever they are, they can ensure everyone understands new safety policies and procedures and is able to communicate a single message to customers.
In these uncertain times, it can be hard to know how to ease fear, keep your employees safe, and communicate and share updates as the situation around coronavirus (COVID-10) continues to evolve. Our talented team, many of which are former retail professionals, have been putting our heads together and came up with a few best practices for communicating during a crisis that we wanted to share with you.
Loss prevention professionals are constantly updating policies to meet the newest threats, but it’s up to store teams to execute them.
Technology is the key to success for brick-and-mortar retailers, but it’s up to store teams to use it. Follow these steps to make your rollout a success.
Even the best category management can fall apart if stores don’t execute tasks like replenishment, setting promotional displays, completing recalls, etc.
Learn the key questions to ask when evaluating a SaaS retail communications platform.
Why brick-and-mortar retailers who deliver on customer experience are thriving.
Brick-and-mortar retailers can lure online shoppers by offering compelling in-store experiences.
Engaged employees lead to profitable companies. Try these 5 tips to help increase engagement among store employees.
How retailers can improve communications between HQ and stores, and make sure their messages stick.
Walmart learned the hard way how to solicit and interpret customer feedback.
What to expect from new twists on bluetooth and smart checkout.
What retailers can learn from Kohl’s right-size makeover.
How retailers can offer unique and memorable shopping experiences to holiday shoppers, both online and offline.