7 ways an intranet can support your retail business
Retail is facing a very difficult time right now. As major high street and established brands are closing their doors, it may feel quite a bleak time for stores — large and small — everywhere.
But retail isn’t dying, it’s evolving, and if you’re navigating your retail business through the present storm, you’ll need a very watertight plan to get through it.
Choosing the right tools for your business is key, and here we demonstrate how the most complex of issues can be solved with the help of social intranet software.
For over a decade, leading retailers have come to Interact to help solve in-house problems. ASOS, Lush Cosmetics, N Brown Group, Waterstones, Mattress Firm and Sheetz are just some of the many who have all overcome challenges with the various features and functionality of our retail intranet software.
We’ll look at some of these challenges that will be relatable to all retail businesses.
Adoption and Engagement
One of the toughest challenges when introducing any new software is the reception it receives from your organization. This is why the launch day is incredibly important to not only celebrate the release of your opus, but also to get colleagues onboard with the new software. The launch day is there to unveil the intranet and also show off its range of features which will aid and improve the way people work.
A well-planned launch will help users become informed about what is happening, understand the value of the new intranet and encourage its adoption from day one.
Turn your launch day into a unique event which will showcase the culture of your workplace and how your intranet will be the keystone to your organization.
Online clothes retailer ASOS faced a few challenges in the run-up to their launch day. Their legacy intranet was pilloried across the workplace, and its replacement was two long years in the making. The ASOS workforce is primarily digital natives, and with their high expectations, the product needed to live up to its hype.
Building anticipation for the product was the first step. This was done by placing little clues and hints about the launch day on email signatures and on the website. Nearer to the date, a video was released, a light-hearted chat between senior executives about the business and forthcoming intranet. Teams were formed to champion the software from within the organization, and these employees helped answer any questions or queries pre-launch.
On the day of the launch, every employee received branded goodies including a drink, bag of toffee popcorn and branded earphones to watch the CEO’s welcome video. The in-house café hosted a drop-in session for people to login and explore the site and the entire day created a great buzz around the three UK ASOS offices.
ASOS’s launch day was crucial for their intranet starting off on the right step. The new system was very well received by the workforce and helped employees associate it with clean slates and a new, progressive way of working.
Asha Constanza, Internal Communication & Engagement Advisor, comments:
“We’ve made ASOShome our mandatory homepage meaning 100% of ASOSers are looking at ASOShome on a daily basis. We have had 124,007 visits since launch and 76% of our users are ‘active’.
“Within the first two weeks after launch, 70% of ASOSerssaid they liked or loved ASOShome. One user said ‘ASOShome has revolutionised the way we work at ASOS. We’ve now got somewhere to see news and less emails, fab!’”
Businesses are realizing that in order to get the most out of their employees, as well as increase their value, job satisfaction and retention rates, developing them is crucial. Offering training, courses, and learning modules are key to an organization that is forward-looking.
An intranet is vital to creating and developing workers, allowing them to access training from the very beginning when they are onboarding, to beginning a new role within the company.
This type of software integrates with training programmes and allows workers to receive automate notifications as it manages sessions, sends out quick quizzes and keeps users up to date with courses and assessments.
It also helps monitor performance by offering mandatory reads and quizzes, and trainers can track completion and achievement rates.
And, of course, with Interact’s cloud-based software, this training can be done anywhere, allowing remote and traveling workers to access their training at home, whilst traveling or back in the office.
Interact client, Magic Memories who specializes in global tourism created a virtual learning college on their intranet. This serves their 2,500-plus staff and has proved to be highly productive and cost-efficient.
For employees going through the leadership program, the first module is done in-house, where a program can be custom-made for their needs. The remaining modules are completed through distance learning at the user’s pace. All modules are video episode learning and accessible from any location.
As Global Learning and Development Lead at Magic Memories, Nick Holmes, says:
“We have essentially saved 50% by switching to Interact… when you get a great learning management system, you’re looking at a cost of 50 grand plus, but we don’t need that because we can drive our learning through Interact.”
When it comes to boosting staff retention, improving communication and creating a happy workplace, a positive workplace culture goes a long way. However, workplace culture is somewhat intangible, and knowing where to begin can prove problematic.
An intranet can help nurture a positive culture through a number of ways:
Onboarding: An intranet is the backbone of a new recruit’s experience. This is the system that connects them to the whole of the organization, allowing them to read blogs, join in forums and tap into the culture of the business.
Updates: Your intranet is the first port of call when it comes to delivering workplace news. Whether it’s regarding kitchen use or a work social, a post on the intranet will reach across the organization and encourage comments, new ideas and opinion.
Peer-to-peer engagement: An intranet is a great silo-buster, and allows free and easy communication across departments, offices, and countries. Even the most informal chats on the intranet can spark insights, ideas and new ways of working.
Two-way communication: In a reaction to the stifling top-down communication, an intranet fosters two-way exchange which helps employees work harder and nurture a culture of open communication.
Celebrate and recognize success: Shining the light on your most valuable players in the organization allows staff to feel valued and encourages others to follow suit. Championed workers feel more engaged in the business and inspire others to do the same.
Creating a warm, friendly and lively culture has been key to AO.com’s success. The online retailer has a huge dispersed workforce spread across logistic centers, on the road, studios, call centers, and head offices. As such, there were struggles in workers connecting with each other in their disparate roles. Cue The Fridge, their intranet, which has helped the company remove the boundaries and distance between workers to create a fun, rewarding work culture.
Whether it’s chatting about Tuesday’s Retail News (where users can check out how the competition is faring, and the performance of AO) or Something for the Weekend, where people are invited to bring ideas forward of what to do at the weekend with friends and family, The Fridge helps the organization to reach out and connect with each other.
Connects geographically dispersed workforce
Many retail businesses suffer with having very siloed workforces — where some are in depots, some are on shop floors and others are office-based. This can cause a number of issues, including an impact on individual well-being, accountability, and visibility, security (both physical and digital) as well as time zone and communication difficulties.
Those workers who work remotely have fewer opportunities to connect and engage with peers. With this lack of visibility, there is a huge need to prove hard work away from the office, as well as prioritizing work and seeing the bigger picture when it comes to business priorities.
So how do you ensure the happiness, well-being, and welfare of employees you aren’t in your immediate vicinity? This is something that Travelex, with its thousands of bureaux de change outlets in airports and tourist locations across the globe, was trying to tackle when they took on Interact software.
Their intranet ‘The Lounge’ has allowed them to connect with their workers now more than ever. With a focus on video creation to broadcast news as well as global RPM league which pits countries against each other being hugely popular.
But one of the most powerful features of their intranet has been the ability to share stories. With an average of 11 blogs being published per day, the system has proved to be a powerful way for employees to engage with each other. These vary from exec monthly updates to colleagues across the world sharing aspects of their lives, from hardships to happy news. And now, thanks to the blog, and despite the company’s size and span across the globe, the Travelex community is now a tightknit community.
Window to the digital workplace
One of the developments in the 21st-century business is the digital workplace, which is the infrastructure of apps and digital services that are making working from anywhere possible. A digital workplace streamlines processes, allows a modern business to progress and break down the literal walls of office space, making it possible to work anywhere.
This has been a huge disruption to traditional working practices, whereby the workers take a long and wearying commute to clock into the office at a certain time and 8–9 hours in an office. Now, working takes on an agility never seen before. Working from home, flexible working hours and all the digital tools to support your work at your fingertips, the digital workplace can also offer the most unexpected solutions as UK book retailer Waterstones found out.
Waterstones were facing the same problems every multi-outlet retail business faces. The consistency of branding across the 300 stores was suffering as traditional methods of relying on third-party printers and distribution from a central location was causing delays and confusion — as well as costly bills.
However, with their Interact intranet, they built a collateral area which allowed them to print their own headers and signs in-house saving time and money.
With this support, Waterstones, reduced its carbon footprint, reduces its paper wastage, improved response and lead times, empowered staff and saved the company hundreds of thousands of pounds annually.
“We use pages on Watson to host PDFs of marketing materials for important titles,” explains Suzie Robinson, Intranet Manager. “Users in stores can browse, select and print the materials they need, saving on printing and delivery costs, reducing waste, and ensuring that all in-store marketing can be deployed in a timely way.”
Search is just another feature of an intranet, right? WRONG! Having a fast, relevant search is one of the keystones of an intranet that is adopted, engaged with and used daily across the organization. Poor search function renders an intranet as unwieldy and uncomplicated, so making sure this feature is performing to its best abilities is one of the most important jobs when it comes to building an intranet.
Achieving great search helps your retail business:
- Find the right results
- Save time
- Save money
- Boost productivity
- Reduce admin demand and frustration
- Reduce workload on other departments
Interact understands this, which is why we introduced the Best Bets feature. This allows you to override the normal weighting in the intelligent search and bring a specific page to the top of a listing for a particular term. This can help a business’s intranet search perform better than just simply using keywords and metadata.
This was, not least, demonstrated in the Sheetz story. The chain of US convenience stores had experienced major problems with its legacy intranet prior to working alongside Interact. Prior to shifting to a new system, 36% of staff were spending over an hour a day on their intranet trying to find information to help them with their jobs. A frustrating and fruitless search often led to calls to Store Support for answers leading to an overburdened phone support system. Estimated costs on this problem alone was calculated at $19,000,000 a year in wasted time.
Interact and Sheetz built a new system, nicknamed Bob, which was quickly embraced by staff as the place to go to for quality issues, questions and to share experiences. Providing a place to problem-solve, offer support and share knowledge has allowed Sheetz to save time, money, reduce workloads and increase productivity among staff.
One of the problems of a large, busy retail organization is that it’s often difficult to recognize talent, particularly if your workplace is very siloed. Connecting staff as well as engaging the workforce can throw up many problems if your business has departments in different locations. The problem is not just down to creating communication, but maintaining it in a way that is sustainable, engaging and productive.
We have many retail clients who countered this problem by using their intranet and finding out which members of staff were noticeable. This could be down to being the biggest content creators, coming up with new insights or being able to answer questions from colleagues.
US bedding company, Mattress Firm, used this technique to massive success when they spotted Randy, a member of staff who was providing great answers to queries as well as coming up with new ways of working. While many of the answers already lay in areas of the intranet, his answers were creating a lot of engagement precisely because of his “non-corporate” speak — as ‘one of the people’, Randy was able to be a lot more relatable than a faceless FAQ section. His real-life experience doing the same job as those posing the questions on forums had made him an accidental influence on Mattress Firm’s intranet. What Randy said, people seemed to do.
With this sway, management made Randy a power user, coaching him and providing stock answers to questions he needed help with.
How to spot your internal influencer:
- Use your intranet to find your star employee
- Provide them with the recognition they deserve and the training they need
- Connect them with the right people who can support them in areas outside of their remit
- Use them to encourage other internal influencers who will be of massive benefit to other users.
As we’ve demonstrated, an intranet can connect your workforce and maximize growth through powerful internal communications. As a result, your workforce becomes engaged with your organization. And when you have engaged employees, great things can happen.
This blog originally appeared on the Interact blog on 9th January 2019.