Employees, customers & competition: how an intranet can support retailers
It’s a tough time to be in the retail industry
With nearly 6,000 shops closing in the UK in 2017 and huge chains such as Sam’s Club and Bon Tons shutting their doors in the US in 2018, the industry is undergoing a significant shift.
Several factors are contributing to this decline of the High Street, most notably a decrease in footfall in town centres and the growing popularity of online shopping. These are all combining to drive changes in how consumers shop, meaning retailers have to adapt to survive.
As such, more and more retail businesses are turning to digital tools to help them stay competitive in a rapidly changing marketplace. An intranet is one of those tools, offering endless benefits to businesses. In retail specifically, there are three key areas in which an intranet has become an indispensable corporate tool.
It’s no secret that the retail sector as a whole suffers from low job satisfaction and high employee turnover rates, with retailers facing a continuous battle to attract and retain top talent. According to recent research, nearly a third (29 percent) of retailers said they’ve seen an increase in employee turnover over the last 12 months, with the turnover rate of part-time hourly store employees increasing from 76 percent in 2017 to 81 percent in 2018.
Clearly, bucking this trend should be a key priority for retailers, which is where an intranet can be invaluable. For most retailers, there is a divide between the back office and the shop floor, with employees often feeling disconnected and undervalued. And one way to overcome this to survey employees and monitor employee satisfaction changes. Without understanding satisfaction, there’s no way to know whether there is an impact on loyalty. But, investing in an intranet – particularly one that is mobile-minded – can help retailers unify a distributed workforce and foster greater employee engagement by breaking down these barriers.
For example, they can provide on demand access to sales performance data, such as sales figures, targets and projections, giving workers an idea of how both they and the wider business are performing. They can also give workers more opportunities to engage with the business and join in with discussions, polls and blogs. Creating a collective culture among staff helps to ensure that every employee feels part of the wider business, from a senior manager to the shop floor assistant in a retail store. This allows workers to feel recognised and valued, which translates into increased employee loyalty and a positive workforce
The customer experience is critical to any retail business, and an intranet can play an integral role. From supporting employees in solving customer issues to providing training, intranets should always be accessible for employees to consult whenever they need some extra guidance. Bookstore chain Waterstones have used their intranet, Watson, as a tool to not only save money, save time, and become more efficient and productive, but to also deliver a better customer experience, whether it’s by sharing customer service tips or learning more about the week’s bestseller.
Ultimately, intranets act as the crucial go-to area for employees, providing access to all the necessary information needed to help them appear knowledgeable and solve customer issues in a timely manner.
For example, they can be used for online training, enabling continuous employee development by providing courses in all aspects of an employee’s job. This allows them to add more value to the company and offer a better customer experience.
Intranets are also the perfect vehicle for delivering one version of the truth. This means that every employee has access to the right policies and process and the same information. Therefore, whether it’s customer complaints, return policies, pricing or sales items, employees can self-serve without having to rely on other personnel or departments, thereby speeding up issue resolution.
In such a competitive landscape, retailers have to find ways to get ahead of their rivals and intranet software can give them this edge. When it comes to resolving issues that affect more than one store, for example, intranets provide the perfect channel to communicate problems and solutions. Head office can communicate any resolutions to everyone company-wide quickly and easily.
Then there’s the ability to share best practice. One of the main advantages of having a single source of information is that retailers can even retain the ideas of staff who are no longer with them. This can be a massive advantage and creates an accessible and trusted source of information to help employees.
Finally, an intranet can capture valuable expertise that might otherwise go to waste. 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. An intranet helps shine the light on these people via forums, blogs, and posts. For example, when Mattress Firm launched their intranet, an active member of their online forum regularly posted answers to questions and provided valuable insights to other employees.
The company realised the power of having their own internal influencer and coached him on how he could further use his enthusiasm and expertise to further help colleagues in their other stores through the intranet. Randy became the catalyst across the organisation to building a reputation for transparency and authenticity in their online community allowing employee ideas, opinions and concerns to receive real attention.
These various benefits of intranets are invaluable to businesses in an industry as complex as retail. By creating a community and engaging employees, an intranet can empower staff to contribute to their organisation’s vision and give retailers an edge in a hugely competitive market.