One of the most essential, oft-overlooked, ingredients to maintaining a unified brand message is managing the tension between a distributed retail workforce and a centralized corporate one. There are two main barriers to balancing it—trust and distance—but it’s a worthwhile pursuit since retail and corporate leaders both have access to information that will significantly benefit the other.

The Retail Leader Mindset

You run your business as a stand-alone entity, playing the role of business “owner.” This siloed approach helps you drive operational results like controlling labor spend, managing inventory and striving to achieve your revenue targets. Of course you speak with fellow retail leaders to discuss best practices and learn from their successes and failures. But you want to break down the silo when it comes to matters of the brand ethos. After all, your team is on the front lines representing the brand to customers, often for the first time. While the need-to-know information comes from corporate, it can lack the feeling or reasoning that would give them the full brand personality.

The Corporate Mindset

You hear (and overhear) information that the retail teams don’t have access to. You also have direct access to many of the key decision-makers for the retail stores on a daily or weekly basis—something most retail leaders dream about. It’s easy for you to take a global perspective because you can see an entire decision process unfold, while the retail teams only receive the final decision. You also have the benefit of seeing how different departments come together to shape the brand, and while you know that retail plays a part in the big picture, the retail teams can’t see first-hand where they fit in and how they contribute.

Big, But Small

Much has been written about the virtues of businesses staying small, or at least operating as such, and for a good reason. Not only will customers feel the difference in the personal touch they receive, but employees will feel closer to the brand mission. Fortunately, there are ways to keep everyone connected and satisfied.

  • Go beyond “just the facts”. Whenever stores receive a new product or directive, retail leaders know they need to disseminate the information to employees as quickly as possible. Strive to go beyond the surface information and retrieve the details that employees and customers crave. If there’s a new product or collection launching, find out the story behind it. Why was the product created? What need does it fill for the brand and the customer? Customers often assume that the store employees know every aspect of the product development cycle—especially in newer businesses.
  • Offer a change of scenery. Retail teams, especially those far from the company headquarters, can’t pop over to the corporate office, but there is a way for the office to come to them. Check in with different departments to see if you can film a short video clip of “A Day in the Life” or “How it’s Made,” highlighting how individual departments make their decisions. For stores that are close to the corporate office, initiate a shadowing program where retail team members can sign up to follow a corporate employee for a couple of hours and learn about their work. This cross-pollination will offer retail leaders a different viewpoint on why certain practices exist and will help them better convey the brand to the customer.
  • Trust > Control. One concern with corporate communicating too much information to the retail teams is where it will end up. Of course, anything that would not be shared broadly with the corporate office should not be shared with the retail teams. However, you can trust retail teams just like you trust corporate employees; retail teams are excited to hear about any company news! When the office celebrates a milestone, be sure that the retail teams are also informed. When there’s an important hire at the corporate level, let the retail teams know. When you recognize a department, share that with the retail teams as well. A lack of information or over-sterilized information flowing to the retail teams is much worse than FOMO. They need to be on the same mission as the rest of the team, no matter how far away they are.

There’s always something you can do to increase your Double//Vision.