Internal communications is a growing pain for many companies. As new team members join, and new teams emerge, maintaining the appropriate amount of communication requires a very fine balance. We spend more than a quarter of the work week managing email, and one-fifth of our time trying to track down information or colleagues to help with specific tasks. But many of those interactions are crucial to running a connected company.
Retailers are familiar with such scenarios. As the business expands into new channels, internal teams grow, too.
Two essential but very different departments are the operations and marketing teams. Their plates are already full, but their communication is imperative. Miscommunications between these two teams can quickly lead to out-of-stocks and other issues that can tarnish your brand’s reputation.
How do you keep the operations and marketing teams on the same page to ensure retail success? It mostly boils down to some processes and tools you can use to stress the importance and foster constructive communication among your employees.
The success of every multi-department business hinges upon effective communication. However, not every company’s infrastructure is set up in a way that encourages cross-department interaction. That’s why it’s essential to implement tools, processes, and a workplace that not only encourages communication, but fosters an omnichannel-minded company culture.
Get the Right Communication Tools
Communication channels should be set up to keep interactions organized by project, team, campaign, and business function. The company intranet is close to being obsolete: Only one in five employees view it as a valuable resource. There should be a combination of tools, such as email, chat, workflow, and project management. Your team may already be using tools that can create cross-department interaction, so it could just be a tweak to existing processes. Nearly three-quarters of companies are integrating social technology as well — a move that could improve employee productivity by as much as 25 percent.
Don’t go overboard, though. Introducing too many new tools can make it difficult for employees to understand where and how to communicate which messages. And if the tools aren’t user-friendly, employees may forgo using them at all.
With the goal of getting the operations and marketing teams on the same page, it’s helpful to note which events should trigger a communication between the two teams. This way, you can work to avoid over- and under-communication. Freda Salvador’s operations team alerted the marketing team that a shoe was selling quickly, so their marketers stopped promoting that specific product and removed it from the marketing creative.
Here are some triggers you might want to consider:
- New marketing campaign launches — influencer, social, advertising, partnerships, events, promotions, etc.
- Low-stock alerts
- Product launches
- Changes in marketing and advertising budgets
- Upticks in traffic to a specific product page
- Updates to the company website and/or product pages
- Products are nearing expiration
Establishing processes gives your teams documented guidelines to abide by. This also helps to ensure that everyone is communicating when they need and conveying the right information. Without processes, it’s also difficult to hold teams accountable.
These processes could dictate the cadence of meetings and email updates, which tools to use for different types of communications, and when an event happens that should trigger an update to the other team.
At Freda Salvador, teams were often thrown into chaos because of lack of communication. After instituting weekly meetings, those fire drills became far less frequent.
Make Sure Inventory Information Is Accessible
Whether you’re using old-school spreadsheets or a more robust inventory management software, some of that information should be accessible to the marketing team. Though they don’t need to be bogged down with everything, they should be able to see information without assistance from an individual on the operations team.
Be mindful of remote team members — remote work is a growing trend, with 37 percent of working employees being remote some or all of the time. An inventory management system that is accessible via the cloud is one of the best ways to make sure multiple individuals can access, whether they’re in the office, warehouse, at home, or on the road.
Limiting the marketing team’s access can also help avoid any unintended discrepancies or messing with the data. The last thing you need is an extra 0 somewhere. If possible, find an inventory management solution that allows you to add users with different permissions. With Stitch Labs, for example, you can create several users with varying levels of access.
The information sharing should go both ways, too. When marketing teams plan out their campaigns and calendars, they should be able to share which products they plan to use. This way, the operations team can not only let the marketing team know that it’s feasible, but they can also prepare accordingly by restocking, reorganizing the warehouse, and preparing the fulfillment employees.
Analyze Your Efforts
60 percent of companies do not measure internal communication. But it’s crucial to track and measure the effectiveness of your efforts. This should be approached from both a qualitative and a quantitative perspective.
Ask your employees directly for their input on how things have been progressing, and if they have any other ideas for improvement. A simple survey with a few open-ended questions can get the job done, especially for companies with large internal teams.
Quantitatively speaking, you can look at specific metrics that are related to marketing and/or inventory management for a data-driven perspective. Consider analytics related to stock-outs, fulfillment processes, conversion rates, and other marketing and inventory numbers. Combining those qualitative and quantitative insights will give you a more holistic look into the effectiveness of your internal processes.
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