Grocers’ investments in IT continue to grow. According to a report by the National Retail Federation, grocery retailers will spend an estimated $12.7 billion on in-store technology in 2023, up from $11.4 billion in 2022.
And for good reason, too. The list of challenges that keep grocers awake at night is long. According to RIS’ recent “Grocery Tech Trends Study,” grocers are most concerned about “inflation and the rising costs for operation and inventory,” as well as “a long list of labor concerns, including talent acquisition, training, turnover and workforce management.”
All of these concerns influence a grocer’s tech decisions, and to keep pace with the competition, they’ll need to take a hard look at their technology stack. Many grocery IT leaders are star-struck by the latest technology: self-checkout kiosks, RFID tags, and even augmented reality apps that show proper merchandising directions in real time. We don’t blame them, but we also don’t believe driving efficiency in stores has to be so complex.
In fact, the one place grocers will get the most bang for their buck might surprise you: upleveling their employee engagement by investing in a best-in-class store communications and operations platform.
Turning Strategic Communications into Operational Gains
Creating an intentional communication strategy is something a grocer can do regardless of its tech stack by helping its store teams understand what they need to know, what they need to do and what they need to plan for every single day.
But this strategy only goes so far. Front-line teams also need a single place to go to access this information and everything they need to get their job done, from communications to tasks to store audits.
Bringing these things together saves time. And on the scale of a full-service grocery store, that time savings has a significant impact on the bottom line. According to the “Zipline Benefits Study,” conducted between June and October of 2022, store managers who used Zipline’s Operational Excellence platform saved, on average, 5.6 hours per week. Multiplied by several hundred store managers, that adds up to sizable payroll savings.
But a centralized platform doesn’t just save teams time, it also helps them execute more effectively. Publishers can easily personalize communications to stores and quickly understand which communications are resonating with their teams. District and department managers can receive digitized audits and task reports to know what’s on track and areas of opportunity to make improvements. And associates can open their mobile devices at the beginning of their shift and in minutes know exactly what needs to be done that day to contribute in the most meaningful way. When their business is aligned in this way, grocers create a competitive advantage inside each of their stores that’s hard to replicate.
Driving Operational Efficiency
On any given day, your store managers are likely drowning in directives from HQ. There’s a lot to get done out in stores, and all of those directives arrive in a million different ways. Some come in emails. Others are delivered with the new displays. Others are on a calendar that rarely gets checked. A few urgent ones always come in via text.
There’s a solution. After rolling out Zipline — a store operations and communications platform — The Fresh Market dramatically improved its store execution, citing “standardized communications” as a major reason. Before, loose notes, bulletin board notices and buried emails would cause many field associates to miss important information. As a completely digital solution, Zipline improved communication for thousands of associates.
Wisconsin-based Festival Foods also realized that the way its teams were communicating was introducing unnecessary obstacles and barriers for their store associates, getting in the way of efficient execution.
Director of Operations Support Seth Plaza explained how the company’s communication style shifted in favor of operational efficiency after implementing Zipline: “Now when we send a message out, we are looking for the message sender to answer three questions for their audience: What does the store department need to know, what do they need to do, and what do they need to plan for. By following that formula, we have been able to remove the communication and execution obstacles that existed before. It’s inspecting what you expect, it’s done through Zipline, and all of those results filter straight to the bottom line.”
Reducing Employee Churn
A communications platform makes employees more efficient at their jobs, but it also helps create a culture of transparency, brand advocacy and career development, all key to reducing employee turnover (which is also a cost savings, as hiring and training new talent is expensive).
For Iowa-based regional grocer Hy-Vee, connecting stores through the Zipline platform began as a critical channel by which Chairman Randy Edeker, could directly communicate with the front line throughout the pandemic. But the company quickly realized that opening up lines of communication between stores created a culture of engagement and transparency.
“I love just being able to jump into our group chat,” said one Hy-Vee store director. “If I'm at a store, I can pull up the app, take a picture of something that I like, share it quickly [with the rest of the team] and say, ‘Hey, look at this.’ It’s amazing.”
Giving store employees the power to easily connect to their peers and to headquarters teams drives feelings of autonomy and appreciation. For BevMo!, a California-based specialty beverage retailer, implementing Zipline wasn’t just a way to drive operational efficiency, but also a way to help associates “feel taken care of.”
Said Jessica Siwy, BevMo’s director of operations: “We use the platform to help [associates] do their job better and alert them when there’s an important update, product recall or task. But we also use it to let them know how things are going, how we’re providing them with new benefits or special discounts … so it’s tactical, but it’s also emotional. It’s another way we show them we care.”
Streamlining communication helps front-line teams prioritize their time, resulting in more efficient execution. But those same employees also need to feel engaged and part of a broader community, which reduces churn and turns jobs into careers. A centralized store communications and operations platform can achieve both, and just might be your secret weapon to ensure the success of all of your grocery initiatives in 2023 and beyond.
Zipline is how best-in-class grocers bring brand strategies to life in stores. A unified platform for operational excellence, Zipline brings together front-line communications, task management, resources, insights and more — so everyone feels connected to the brand and inspired by their work. Today, nearly 80 brands, including Festival Foods, The Fresh Market and Rite Aid, depend on Zipline to align and empower their store teams worldwide. Reach out to learn how Zipline can help you drive profitability today.