How to Engage the Front Line

Successful retailers use communication strategies and internal technologies to combat turnover on the front lines.

May 13, 2022

Zipline App on iPhone and iPad

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—NACS Magazine recently interviewed Melissa Wong, Zipline CEO and co-founder on how to streamline store operations and critical employee communicationsZipline_Logo_Pink-220.jpg

Retaining and engaging employees is a top retailer concern. How can something as simple as better communication enhance team member retention and loyalty?

In an industry that’s clamoring for workers, retaining great talent matters more than ever. Today’s most successful retailers use communication strategies and internal technologies to combat turnover on the front lines. By setting clear plans and ensuring accountability, while also creating space for good ideas to bubble up organically, best-in-class retailers ensure their associates feel like they’re a key part of the business—not just cogs in the proverbial machine.

Zipline connects what stores need to know with what stores need to do in a way that enables front-line workers and makes clear what’s expected. Store teams know how their work supports the larger picture, and they have context that allows them to make better decisions in the moment. As a result, store teams feel connected to their job and to the brand and are more engaged—and engaged employees are more likely to stay with their employer longer. We know it works because field teams that use Zipline experience far less churn than companies that don’t use a field enablement platform.

May22-220.jpgWhy can communication in a retail organization be so difficult to get right?

Tactics and tools companies use to engage and retain employees often don’t work for store teams. Store teams don’t sit at their desks all day reading and responding to emails; they work odd hours, and they may even go days without an in-person meeting with their boss.

Nowadays, most complex organizations have tools at their disposal to mitigate misinterpretation from level to level: email, intranet, conference calls and even fax machines. But throwing all of these tools at a distributed workforce in the hopes that they can piece together priorities is a losing proposition.

On top of this, the physical experience of shopping is becoming more complicated. Retailers are now using stores as pickup locations, distribution centers and examples of their best brand experience. Store teams are being asked to provide a top-notch customer experience while also running product out to the curbside pickup. Managing a store was already hard, but the pace of retail change today has made it unbearably complex.

How does Zipline solve these challenges?

When I founded Zipline, I wanted to create a platform to make things simpler and more streamlined for field employees. Because Zipline targets information by role and location, employees don’t see information that doesn’t pertain to them. It also makes information readily available, so teams spend less time searching and reading and more time getting stuff done. We consistently see +90% adoption among our customers, and real-time reporting shows engagement levels so HQ can see what stores may need some extra help and which are knocking it out of the park.

How do c-store customers benefit?

The Zipline platform is designed for brick-and-mortar retailers and is the only tool on the market that seamlessly combines store communications and task management in a simple user interface.

When Speedway implemented Zipline, their employees got a single source of store information and communication from the Store Support Center, targeted to their specific roles and customized by store type and size.

Now that they don’t have to root around for accurate information or distill which information is pertinent, they’re saving a significant amount of time and getting more done, which is clear from Zipline’s execution reporting.

Speedway’s new agility didn’t go unnoticed. After its acquisition of Speedway, 7-Eleven witnessed Zipline’s power to improve store execution. The retailer quickly implemented Zipline in corporate-owned stores to publish information to its new employees, noting the ease of the publishing, store team love and high level of readership.

How are day-to-day operations enhanced?

We know store employees are constantly pulled in different directions—there are always tasks to complete, but they also have to put customers first. Zipline was built to give team members more agility: In this way, the benefits to a store’s day-to-day operations are limitless.

If you’re in the middle of a restock but a customer interrupts you, Zipline makes it easy to hand off a task midstream. If you’re new in your role and need critical information on COVID sanitization guidelines, you can pull it from the Resource Library with a few clicks. And making store employees’ jobs easier matters even more when there’s more at stake—for instance, when implementing a fleet-wide POS rollout. Zipline organizes that work, gives teams the proper context and tracks the execution. Field leaders can see what their store teams are being asked to do so they can plan their visits and support accordingly. Roll-up reporting ensures that district managers and senior leaders have real-time visibility into what’s getting done.

Today, only 29% of direction sent from HQ to stores is executed correctly—that’s across all industries, not just convenience stores. In a study done with NAPCO Media around execution in the area of health and safety readiness, Zipline customers were ahead of the pack, averaging 90% in overall execution. This is exactly what Zipline is all about: providing greater agility and productivity in stores, while keeping employees and customers safe.

This Q&A, “Front Line Engagement,” first appeared in the May 2022 issue of NACS Magazine.