The face of retail is changing at a faster rate than some stores can manage. Large retail corporations, like Walmart, with complex online stores and in-store pick-up networks have shown that today’s customers are more connected than ever before. Omni-channel strategies like these have reinvigorated the retail industry as corporations look to technology to merge sales channels and improve their customer’s experience.

As retailers and customers gravitate toward online stores, retail stores are left playing catch up to the advancing technology. Sometimes retail corporations focus too much of their attention on developing their online stores without building up their retail stores. This leads to inconsistent customer experiences between channels, negatively impacting the bottom line.

To seamlessly merge a retail corporation’s online and retail stores, there must be strong communication between corporate and store managers.

Customer Experiences Start with Corporate Communication

Smart change for better communication starts with the store manager. They’re responsible for hosting the same promotional deals, product lines, and marketing that is offered on the online stores. Yet, store managers struggle to keep up with the fast pace of the internet, due to decentralized operations and complex organizational structures that make collaboration and communication difficult.

In our Store Manager Survey, we studied the roles of over 1,000 store managers and how retailers enable their success. In our survey, we asked store managers if they felt that the company’s brand experience was consistent with their online brand experience. Of the store managers interviewed:

  • Less than 50% felt like the customer’s experience was seamless.
  • Only 35% of store managers felt they had efficient systems of communication between corporate and stores.
  • Only 56% of store managers thought they’re using the right tool for corporate communications.

A majority of store managers believe their store and online customer experience are disconnected. When asked about potential contributing factors, some reported a lack of communication with corporate headquarters made brand consistency overly difficult.

Without the means to exchange ideas and concerns, store managers can’t make heads or tails of omni-channel strategies.

Communication Challenges Grow with Scope

A truly interconnected web of communication throughout an enterprise doesn’t stop at store managers-to-corporate.  There must also be store-to-store communication to ensure customer experience consistency at all locations. In fact, many of the challenges in creating a consistent customer experience are amplified without store-to-store communication.

When we surveyed store managers about collaborating with other stores, we found a greater level of disconnect and inconsistencies in customer experiences:

  • Only half of store managers felt their company provides a consistent brand experience across all stores.
  • Just over 50% of stores shared their best practices with other stores.
  • Only 56% of store managers had access to information across all stores (including online to fulfill in-store requests).

The survey also found that retailers who sold apparel and electronics—where product lines, promotions, and customer demographics are more diverse—have even less access to communication across all stores:

  • 46% of apparel stores felt they have a consistent experience across all stores.
  • 50% of electronic stores felt they have a consistent experience across all stores.
  • Only 50% of both, apparel and electronic stores, had access to information across all stores.

As retail stores grow more connected with their online stores, supplementing product availability fluctuations, competitive pricing, honoring local promotions, and other complex challenges become more difficult. To take on these challenges, store managers need a dedicated means of communication that enables faster responses from the other stores.

The Need for Communication Technology

So what can retail corporations do to make omni-channel strategies successful? They should invest internally on smart, easy-to-use tools that enable communications with store managers. When we surveyed store managers about their reporting and communication tools, we found:

  • 52% of store managers believed their store performance analysis and reporting methods are at least somewhat challenging.
  • Nearly 30% of store managers didn’t feel equipped to make decisions and act quickly.
  • Only 35% of store managers believed they had the tools needed to successfully operate their store.

Immediate access to the internet and the growth of ecommerce has meant a necessary change for corporate strategies. We should embrace these technological advances and look for ways to improve the customer’s experience by ensuring that all channels deliver what stores need to satisfy each and every customer.

When store managers have access to modern communication technology, they are enabled to act faster and make better informed decisions. Download our Store Manager Survey white paper to learn more about the disconnect between store managers and corporate.

Image credit: Online Shopping cc by Robbert Noordzij