In the cut-throat world of retail, a business needs to have access to the best tools available to ensure its survival. An intranet should take center-stage in improving job satisfaction, the customer experience and increasing the efficiencies and productivity of the organization as a whole – but how?

how an intranet can help retail

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An intranet can offer endless benefits to a business. From streamlining processes to contributing to a healthy company culture, an intranet is an indispensable part of corporate life. This is not least in the retail sector where an intranet’s uses can increase employee happiness, improve the customer experience and boost profits by driving efficiencies and productivity across the board.

Retail businesses need to be competitive and adaptable to stay ahead in a fast-changing industry. With nearly 6000 shops closing in 2017 in the UK alone, and huge big box stores like Sam’s Club and Bon Tons shuttering across the US in 2018, the industry is undergoing a significant shift. The decrease in footfall in town centers, the popularity in online shopping alongside increased inflation and fears over Brexit has seen the disappearance of major High Street brands and changes to how consumers shop.

Like the survival of the fittest, in order to survive the shake-up, businesses need to use tools that have that help them keep their edge. A retail intranet is one of those tools, and its practicalities extend to many areas of a business.

When it comes to retail, there are three main pain points: employees, customers, and competition. Here’s how an intranet can help those three areas.

#1: Employees

Retail intranet by Interact intranet

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Job satisfaction and longevity are notoriously low in retail. People stay with companies that exhibit value and care for employees. But it’s clear that in the race to keep their competitive edge in the market, employees are the forgotten customers in retail.

According to a report, around a quarter of employees in the retail sector are considering changing jobs or have changed jobs in the past year. Eighteen percent of employees left as there was no growth in the role, and twelve percent left their job for salary reasons.

According to a report from CAP, the typical cost of turnover for positions earning less than $30,000 (around £23,000) a year is 16 percent of an employee’s annual salary.

Staff turnover rates in the US stand at around 59%, which demonstrates that this lack of nurturing talent and staff retention costs the retail sector massively.

For most companies, there is a vast divide between the office and the shop floor, with customer-facing workers not in the loop within the office developments, news and updates. In-store workers spend little time on the computer, so departments suffer from siloing, with little cross-communication. As a result, employees feel disconnected, knowledge isn’t shared, and workloads are overburdened with problem-solving. Investing in a mobile intranet can allow you to unify your entire workforce and allow them to benefit from the many advantages of a retail intranet.

At-a-glance sales performances – Many store workers have no idea of how they are performing. An intranet can allow your workers to see sales figures, targets, and projections for the company. This encourages more of a focus on productivity and the overall health of the business.

Break down barriers – while intranets are perceived as desk-based, the new generation of intranets have adapted for remote and customer-facing workers, so that whatever your role – you have access to the intranet via desktop, laptop or mobile. This gives workers much more of an opportunity to join in with the discussions, polls, questions, and blogs posted on their company intranet.

Increase employee loyalty – A disengaged employee is less likely to deliver excellent customer service which no business can afford to risk. An intranet improves the internal experience. From onboarding to showcasing exceptional work from a chosen employee, the company retail intranet can help an organization create a company culture, improved engagement and make workers feel valued.

The online electrical store, AO.com, has utilized their intranet ‘The Fridge’ to be used in a social way and focus on the fun aspects of work. The team has created features like ‘Something for the Weekend’, where people are invited to share ideas of things to do on the weekend with friends and family. This is an excellent way of creating personalized content and is a direct way to catch the attention of your employees, form connections between them, and continually keep them engaged in their roles.

We have regular features on The Fridge every day to engage people and to promote social interactions between colleagues and teams. These include everything from fun GIFs to competitions to win tickets to Britain’s Got Talent, which we proudly sponsor.

Laura Talbot – Internal Communications Manager, AO.com

#2: Customers

retail intranet by interact intranet

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The customer experience is critical to a retail business. Engaged and happy employees are far more likely to deliver great customer service, and an intranet can be integral to providing the workforce with the right level of support.

From delivering the right information to resolve an issue, to providing onboarding training, intranets should be on hand throughout the day for staff to consult whenever they need extra guidance, advice, and help.

Customer service relies on helpful and knowledgeable staff, correct information and a quick resolution. An intranet can play a crucial role in this by being the go-to area where employees can access all the necessary information to help them with customer queries.

Whether you’re working in a call center, in-store or on the road, an intranet can be the perfect tool to help you give customers the best experience with your brand.

Online training – Provide your workers with continued training, even when their onboarding period is up. Providing courses in all aspects of an employee’s job allows them to add more value to the company and offer a better customer experience.

One version of the truth – Intranets are the perfect vehicle for delivering the one version of the truth. This means that when it comes to giving customers advice, dealing with returns or complaints, every employee has access to the right policies and processes.

Increase employee and information efficiencies – While it has developed into a significant part of the digital workplace structure, the intranet is still the ideal place for housing documents detailing policies and procedures. Whether it’s customer complaints, return policies, pricing or sales items, creating one version of the truth for employees to access when they need assistance allows them to self-serve without relying on other departments for advice.

Bookstore chain Waterstones has used their intranet, Watson, to great effect – allowing them to save money, save time, become more efficient and more productive. All this will enable them to deliver a better customer experience. Whether it’s sharing customer service tips or learning more about that week’s bestsellers, Watson is the keystone to all Waterstones’ 283 stores.

Watson is incredibly social. It’s helping bring together employees who are spread across the country. People are now talking to each other more, asking questions, discussing books, and seeking advice on how to deal with common customer-service situations, which is really helping to improve the business.

Suzie Robinson – Intranet Manager at Waterstones

#3: Competition

retail intranet by interact intranet

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Our customers include leaders in the retail sector who have harnessed our intranet software to create organizations that work closer, share knowledge, are more efficient, productive and informed. This gives them the edge and has allowed them to stay ahead in a very tough, competitive industry. They have used their intranet a number of ways including:

Resolving issues – Similarly, if an issue arises that affects more than one store, an intranet is the perfect channel to communicate problems and solutions. Head office can communicate any resolutions to everyone company-wide quickly and easily.

Share knowledge and best practice – One of the advantages of having a single source of information is that you can even retain the ideas and expertise of staff who are no longer with you. This can be a massive advantage to your team and creates an accessible and trusted source of information in which to help in their role.

Captures expertise – Every business has its experts, whether it’s those employees who have been there a long time, or those who have developed a particular skill in a field. However, they can quickly become lost in a business. An intranet helps shine the light on these people who can offer help and ideas to their colleagues via forums, blogs, and posts.

When Mattress Firm launched their intranet with Interact, their attention was caught by an active member of their online forum, Randy. He regularly posted answers to questions and gave valuable insights into ideas and processes.

The firm realized they had their own internal influencer and coached Randy on how he could further use his enthusiasm and expertise to help out colleagues in other stores via the intranet.

He became a power user, conversing with associates across the organization via the intranet and building a reputation for transparency and authenticity in their online community. Because his views aren’t seen as “corporate speak”, his colleagues can relate to and value his perspective, express their opinions, feel free to voice questions and be sure that their ideas are receiving the proper attention from the organization.

The various ways of communicating and collaborating through an intranet are invaluable to a business in an industry as complex as retail. By creating a community on your intranet, you empower your employees to contribute fully to the organization’s vision, build deeper connections with colleagues and add more value to the business as a whole.