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Retail Recovery: Implementing an agile communications strategy

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Implementing an agile communications strategy is the first part of our four-part Retail Recovery series.

Visit our blog next week for the next instalment.

Think back over the last few months and the fundamental changes that have happened in our home lives, social lives and at work. It was impossible to imagine only a few months ago, the full extent of what was to come. And even if we did have a crystal ball, the measures that were implemented and the resulting changes are certainly unprecedented in our lifetimes.

And because we’ve never experienced anything quite like this – there’s no rulebook. We are in uncharted waters, but the good news is we’re all in the same boat.

According to Retailing in a time of crisis by the World Retail Congress, re-opening stores effectively could mean the difference between profitability and bankruptcy. And to open stores effectively, it’s vital that you communicate clearly and efficiently with stores.

But you aren’t necessarily going to get your re-opening communication strategy right the first time. That’s why retailers need to adopt an agile communications strategy. And in the words of the WRC, retailers must be “nimble and be unafraid to test, iterate, and pivot as they learn from re-openings and when key data changes.”

So, what do we mean by an agile approach to communication?

The word agile began life in the technology sector, but in recent years we are beginning to see a wider variety of companies adopting the terminology. To put it simply, an agile approach is one that can respond, adapt, and change reactively while still working towards the same goal.

And the great thing about this approach is that it isn’t hard to implement. There are a few key areas that you need to focus on so that you can communicate clearly and effectively with your stores in an agile way.

A single source of truth

Each week, the UK government announces half a dozen new measures, and while some advice is easy to understand, other advice is more ambiguous and open to interpretation. This confusing situation, coupled with reporting from news outlets, blogs and social media, has led many store teams to be confused, anxious and unsure of what is required of them when they return to work.

That’s why it’s more important than ever to create a single source of truth for your store teams.

You need to be able to disseminate new ways of working quickly and easily to store teams – to provide clarity and to stop the spread of misinformation.

Receiving information from more than one channel is confusing and difficult to track. You need to champion one platform to send all your information, that way no matter the problem, your teams will know where to go to find their latest actions, updated company policies and Covid-19 advice.

For teams returning to work, there is a lot of new information to digest, and sometimes not all the information can be absorbed the first time around. Information needs to be stored in a way that it can easily be revisited by the whole team.

Engaging content

Store teams will be returning to the same job that they had three months ago but that job will look very different. There’s a lot of new ways of working to learn and there isn’t much margin for error.

Of course, you can send multiple emails with pages and pages of policy updates – but teams will soon grow weary and key information will be missed.

Engaging content can help combat information fatigue and improve the engagement and uptake of new policies.

You need be sharing content in multiple formats, whether that’s a video announcement from senior management, links to Ted Talks on motivation and wellbeing or the NHS video on how to wash your hands.

Two-way communications

As well as knowing the information you send to stores is easy to access, you also need to know whether your communications are actioned.

If you are sending a key communication to stores – for example training teams on a new health and safety policy – you need to send a message quickly and know that it’s been seen by everyone and actioned. You need access to compliance reporting that will flag any stores that are having issues so you can support them to fix the problem.

And with new procedures there are bound to be teething issues, so you need a structured way for stores to report problems that can be tracked by the team in Head Office.

An agile communications partner

The key to an agile communications strategy is the ability to adapt and innovate to whatever challenge is thrown your way. And the key challenge for your Retail Operations team is managing the information they’re sending out.

It’s important that it’s easy for them to amend and update existing information and to send instant, urgent messages directly to stores. They will be communicating a lot with stores, so whatever platform they are using, it needs to be easy to manage.

Are multiple departments bombarding stores with information? A gate keeper and an in-built approvals process can mean that stores aren’t drowning in conflicting information, but rather getting a steady stream of targeted and relevant communications. 

If you need help or advice implementing an agile communications strategy, then please get in touch – we’ll be happy to help!

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