If you’re a retailer, you’re likely determining what role brick-and-mortar stores play in your omnichannel strategy. It may seem like digital heavyweights like Amazon (and even Walmart’s online store) are dominating customer shopping preferences, but shopping in the store is still valued by consumers.

According to research by the International Council of Shopping Centers, 78% of consumers prefer to shop in-store, and they spend six times more than when they shop online. When asked why this is the case, most shoppers will give you the same answer: it’s because of the service they receive.

And that last point begs the question: What are you doing to ensure your associates are delivering the best customer experience possible?

The Link Between Employee Engagement and Customer Satisfaction

According to research on employee engagement, employee job attitudes are shown to influence business performance. When associates feel more invested in their company and role, they’re more likely to make the extra effort to delight customers. It’s also been shown that frequent recognition is key to engaging employees.

In order to provide the shopping experience your customers crave, you need to engage associates by explaining what your service level looks like and train them on how to deliver it.

And while it’s clear that employee engagement is a key to growing your bottom line – through increased productivity and happier customers – acting on this insight is often easier said than done. Store-level training and top-down communications can be fraught with challenges because you need to work with store managers (yes, all of them) to make sure training and communication reach frontline workers.

Some managers will follow through as you had hoped. Some may deliver a message to workers that isn’t quite what you had intended. Others still may be too busy to deliver the training or message at all. What results is a disjointed and disconnected communication strategy that fails to engage and train your employees to deliver the brand experience your customers expect.

We believe there’s a better way.

Leverage Employee Mobility Technology to Engage Associates

To engage associates in stores, Axsium recommends investing in an employee mobility solution.

Today’s workers are accustomed to using mobile devices to communicate. They are therefore more likely to connect with their employer, manager, and team if they’re able to use their mobile device. (In the absence of a company-sanctioned tool, employees will use other mobile-based channels like social media groups, which can lead to significant risk to your confidential company information.)

Hourly workers have widely embraced mobile-first solutions (like Shyft), which help employees trade shifts, manage their schedule, and communicate as a team. These benefits, from the Shyft mobile app, are being used by hundreds of thousands of hourly employees at retail, food service, and distribution center locations across North America and Europe.

Here are several ways a mobile-first solution can be used to engage and benefit employees:

1. Engage the Frontline from Company Headquarters

Deploying a mobile solution to associates paves the way for efficient communication between the corporate office and frontline staff. Company announcements are more likely to be read if they’re sent to an app that associates access on their mobile device, as compared to a back-office flyer.

It also becomes possible to send more frequent, tactical communications like in-store product updates, adjustments to the employee dress code, and other policy changes. We recommend companies periodically distribute messages that reinforce the significant role associates fill in the company.

2. Foster a Culture of Top-Down Appreciation

When empowered with a mobile app, managers can communicate with their team more frequently. They can seize opportunities to recognize hard work or celebrate an accomplished goal when it occurs, whether they and the employee are in the store at that moment or not.

What’s more, team leaders can use group messaging features to elevate these moments from a private pat on the back to a public commendation by posting encouraging words to their full team. This boosts an associate’s sense of achievement and importance to the team and company – and may well inspire other team members to strive for that same level of excellence.

3. Facilitate Effective Team Communication

Mobile communication tools are also ideally suited for posting team updates, promotion specifics, and event details for the team to review. Shyft, for example, recommends that managers ask team members to “like” the post to indicate they’ve received the information, a practice akin to acknowledging a new HR policy.

Associates also report feeling more comfortable with reaching out if they can use a mobile app rather than using a personal cell number, WhatsApp, or Facebook Messenger. This paves the way for more frequent communication between associates and their managers or team members.

4. Give Associates Mobile Access to WFM

It’s important to remember that mobile solutions like Shyft are about more than just communication. They also give your associates a quick and effective way to engage with your WFM systems while they’re on the go. Whether it’s to check their schedule, swap shifts with a colleague, or pick up hours from a shift marketplace, accessing these systems can be a real driver of engagement.

Imagine an associate that can update their availability during school finals to ensure they don’t get scheduled on days when they are studying and taking tests, and then imagine them being able to open the availability back up afterward when they can work more hours than before. Not only is this a driver of engagement for the associate, but it reduces the administrative burden on your manager, giving the manager time back to engage in customer activities.

Axsium has seen that organizations where employees don’t have this kind of flexible access to WFM are starting to experience more and more turnover. Remember, unemployment is at a 50-year low and your associates have the luxury of choosing where they work. It’s important for today’s retailers to provide a work environment with a competitive advantage to retain the best talent.

How to Start Engaging Associates on Mobile

You probably recognize the opportunity of deploying a mobile-first solution, but it would be understandable if you had some lingering questions: How do I build a business case that captures the upside potential of employee mobility? What areas of mobility do my associates need to be engaged and more productive? How do I manage the associates bringing their devices or providing them with devices? Who is going to train end users?

Fortunately, it’s easier to get started with mobile than you may realize.

Axsium has helped many forward-thinking retailers adopt tools like Shyft. We can help you decipher the mobile needs of your managers and end users, select the tool that is right for your organization, and build a comprehensive business case and project roadmap for its implementation.

And don’t be dissuaded by the word implementation – applications like Shyft are cloud-based, scalable, and are designed to be turnkey, with significantly less up-front configuration required than some of the WFM solutions you’re more familiar with.

Axsium will partner with you, the vendor, and your Legal, HR, Store Operations, and IT teams to mold the application to fit your company’s requirements. From there, employees simply download the app to their personal device or access a web-based version on mobile, desktop, or tablet devices.

As you think about your WFM goals and roadmap, one thing is certain: employee engagement is a priority that’s here to stay. Reach out to us today and we’ll help you develop an employee engagement strategy that delights your associates and delivers the brand experience that your customers deserve.