Retail store teaches us that employees want choice in communication


I spend a lot of time thinking about shopping. Not for myself: I like shoes as much as the next gal, but I’m talking about the science of shopping, the study of what motivates shoppers to put that item into their cart and check out.

Why? Because shopping in a retail store and communicating in an organization are amazingly similar. Both are about getting someone’s attention, despite the noise in that person’s head and the distractions of the environment. Both require persuasion: Providing information is not enough, you have to influence their behavior as well. And both are getting increasingly more difficult to do well.

For example, a few years ago Wal-Mart decided to reduce the number of product it offered in stores. But soon the retailing giant realized the error of its ways. 

“When you reduce the assortment, which we did, and focus on the item, which we did, it is really hard to win—our competitors can match us on items,” said the CEO at the time. “Our promise needs to be around the entire basket. No one can beat us on breadth.”

In other words, shoppers visit Wal-Mart because they want to find everything they need—from motor oil to baby shampoo—in one visit. Here is how this relates to your internal communication “store”:

  • Do employees visit your communication channels for for a wide selection or specific content?
  • If your objective is to offer a full array of information employees might need, are you delivering? Or are employees left unsatisfied, because there’s too much information about initiatives and not enough about topics that matter to them?
  • If you seek is to be more like a specialty retailer like The Loft or Hollister, are you successfully carving out your niche?)

Pay attention to retailers, because you can always learn something. 

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