In a relatively short time, social media has become a core pillar for any brand marketing strategy. A full 88 percent of brands said that they were planning to use social media for marketing in 2014, but according to Towers Watson, just over half of retailers use it as a part of their internal communications strategy. How is it that strategies so vastly important to how a brand presents itself externally are so widely overlooked when it comes to how they are represented internally?
Let’s not just think about specific technologies here. Rather, let’s inspect the underlying mentality and identify steps that brands can take to ensure they are utilizing everything in their digital toolkit to empower and motivate employees.
1. Understand your target audience – your employees
The same rules that you implement on any social media campaign also apply to internal communications: understand your audience. What your employees look for on LinkedIn differs from what they might read or like on Facebook. If you haven’t already, take the time to get to know who your employees are. What social media channels do they spend most of their time on? Do they want internal company news, or insight from top management? Do they prefer email communications, or text message? Identifying the needs of your employees can be achieved through internally-organized surveys, focus groups or meetings between senior management and sales employees.
2. Equip your employees with the right tools
In today’s BYOD environment, it’s not hard to find a multitude of different types of devices within any professional setting. Mobile technology serves as a valuable asset that can equip sales employees by giving them the ability to retrieve product and pricing information, log complaints or queries, check stock, update timesheets and swap shifts from the shop floor.
When mobile devices are used to foster teamwork and collaboration on the go, it works particularly well in retail stores, where employees are in constant communications with those managing the stock room, registers and customers. Apple is an example of such a company who has transitioned from traditional cash registers to iPads equipped with mobile payment offerings. Investing in well-equipped employees pays off when each individual’s organization and product knowledge better serves customers.
3. Go beyond the traditional showroom
To facilitate the in-store experience for employees, employers should not only provide them with mobile devices, but also personalized apps or programs that cater to their needs. For example, Neiman Marcus launched a new shopping app called the NM app for shoppers to not only shop and purchase items, but also to text, email, call or FaceTime with sales associates.
New digital services are also helping customers virtually test products, making it easier for retail employees to be available in other ways. Macy’s and Sephora have experimented with “magic mirror” technologies, which allow shoppers to select items on a tablet, try them on virtually and share photos of themselves on social media.
4. Implement smarter scheduling technologies
Work-life balance has become one of the key factors by which employees measure satisfaction at work. For Millennial employees, an ideal work-life balance means choosing where they work, but also having the freedom to choose when they work. However, to retailers who depend on in-store employees to drive sales, it may seem difficult to offer this type of flexibility.
One solution is to incorporate technology that offers digital crowdsourced shift scheduling. These new tools allow employees to access their schedules online, bid for shifts that suit them best, and swap shifts with colleagues via their mobile devices. For example, DW Sports, a UK-based sports specialty store with nearly 50 retail and fitness locations, has reduced the time it takes to create weekly schedules from 3 hours to 10 minutes by transitioning to Workplace’s smart scheduling technology, thus freeing up managers’ time from focusing on tedious tasks such as this.
Needless to say, technology is rapidly changing the way we live, work and communicate. Employers can no longer afford to think only about how the latest technologies benefit the customer, but also how they keep the organization. By leveraging more traditional, customer-facing social and mobile technologies along with next-generation scheduling systems, retailers designate employees as stakeholders and boost organizational efficiency while driving a better in-store experience.
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