Network management is key in the retail world and the success of a business network actually
depends in large part on the coordination of the activity of the local points of sale in that network
and the network headquarters. This is how brands can come to understand their customers’
expectations and learn to respond to them. Let’s take a look at how we can optimise network
management through local marketing and an online presence.
What is difficult about managing a point of sale network?
How do you coordinate a retail network? A seemingly simple question but one that stems from a very complex situation, as marketing managers can confirm!
Whether it is a network of franchises or branches, the issues remain the same:
- consistency of image and brand
- fluid collaboration
- process automation
Points of sale are often restricted yet they need to carry out local marketing on a daily basis while the network HQ must focus on what comes after, on the big picture, such as tomorrow’s marketing. However, mutual communication and support are essential to succeeding. Network management therefore involves analysing and understanding the difficulties both parties experience and finding collaborative, fluid and “middle ground” ways of working.
All this in a coherent and measurable way.
What are the benefits of building successful network management locally and nationally?
There are 3 main benefits
- A simple and documented organisation avoids micro-problems and other ways time can be wasted, such as endless email loops, which can lead to misunderstandings, confusion and frustration. For example, if your local points of sale need to print, produce and personalise their own media, such as flyers, kakemonos, leaflets and newsletters, a platform that centralises these services or provides for e-shop and web-to-print ordering will free up both parties.
- Comprehensive network management helps achieve objectives. Your marketing strategy probably includes drive-to-store or social media-related KPIs, and this is where local points come in. If we take the example of social networks, 72% of a brand’s engagement occurs through its local pages. So agility should be the key word! It can be beneficial to bring local managers into the digital strategy and train them in new processes or, more simply, establishing a governance framework that allows you to publish in their stead.
- Fluidity attracts talent and reduces risk. You might as well make the experience pleasant for everyone! The more structured your internal processes are, the more appealing you will be as a business. With fluid tools and processes, everyone is able to mobilise their own strengths. So good leadership means formalising and putting these synergies into practice so that the network can continue to grow.
As I’m sure you’re aware, managing a network is a strategic challenge that starts with harmonising your brand image, applying the right tools and ensuring a good customer experience at all points of sale.
What support can be provided to help local points of sale find their place in the network?
A distribution network is a living thing – facilitators or influencers in your sector can help you motivate your teams. The key is to pay attention to local points of sale: identify the motivational levers and reinvent the experience.
Here are some good practices for digitising a business:
- Offer a simple tool that serves the specific needs of your network. There’s no great secret, you’ll simply need a tool that can help you effectively manage your network as soon as it starts to grow and you have multiple points of sale. So, centralise, centralise, centralise! What one outlet needs, all the others will need, whether this be related to social media, the marketplace or to management in a broader sense, like proving information, resources or training.
- Provide ready-to-use and charted marketing resources If you provide a comprehensive and coherent media library, you will build a base of relatable content for your points of sale. As the network HQ, you have the technical skills and strategic experience, so take advantage of them. You don’t want “in-house” editing that contradicts the editorial line. Share a calendar of your highlights with a reusable content base for each of them.
- Highlight small victories and share experiences between local managers. Local businesses appreciate tangible and concrete results. Internal network management encourages discussion between managers about what works and what does not. Creating an internal space, like an intranet, allows shops to engage in the right way, sharing success stories and so on.
Simplify operations with a business-specific governance framework
You will probably know better than we do that each network is unique in terms of its positioning, operation, communication or commercial organisation, i.e. franchisees, branches, distributors, affiliates, members, resellers, etc.
If including local branches in your company’s strategy is beneficial, you can put other schemes in place that serve your specific situation.
Not all local shops have the same level of digital maturity. Limiting access to certain functionalities that could be detrimental to your branding (see social networks) is one alternative to a local social media strategy, whereby the network headquarters has full control over all social pages, from posting to responding to comments.
Clearly establishing the different roles within your network management tool’s administration will enable you to implement a hierarchy of user authorisations to help ensure the network’s smooth operation and to mobilise the strengths of the network headquarters and the local points of sale.
For example, the network headquarters should have exclusive permission to add to the company’s media library, while points of sale can only download or publish them. You can decide on the rights of each person and the different roles you want to create.
Is it a good idea to develop your own in-house network management platform?
You may assume that you’re better off launching your own project to suit you and your specific requirements, but…
Developing a network management platform in-house is not often the best solution, for several reasons:
- It’s a significant undertaking that requires manpower and needs to be scalable over time. It takes you away from your core business and risks causing internal frustration and conflict.
- It is difficult to compete with SaaS solutions operated by dedicated teams with advanced expertise. If you have a deep understanding of your processes, a technical platform like this can lead to growth, API plugging, UX, product development… Nothing is impossible, but perhaps you’d be better investing your resources where you can compete.
- The improvement gap. Once the system is deployed, you will quickly start receiving user feedback. Queries and opinions are not always easy to manage yet they are essential if you want to continue growing.
Although it’s commendable, taking on such a task is likely to distract you from what you do best, and because there are ever-improving tools already out there, there isn’t much potential value to be added. You’d be better investing in the long-term appointment of dedicated leaders who can manage service providers, galvanise the network and lead and coordinate collaborative work and the sharing of good practices.
The added value that the network headquarters brings, on the other hand, lies more in its ability to create attractive content for the network (e-reputation), the guidelines and leadership it puts into place, and the way it stimulates the point of sale network.
Create a link between franchisors and consultants to highlight the strength of connected commerce
The task of leadership stems from a strategic principle that applies to business in a more general sense, that of motivating the teams to outperform competing brands. But that’s not all. A company’s history, its values… they count for a lot. The points of sale are not just there to receive instruction; they are all members of the network in their own right. They joined the venture believing in a common potential… so the relationship you have is one of trust.
They are a sales force so it is essential to be able to rely on them, to bring them together, to cultivate
a sound relationship. As well as a business, they are first and foremost representatives of your brand.
What if the management of the network could help with your inbound marketing?
A digital inbound marketing BtoB communication strategy requires the creation of significant content. However, if everyone’s roles and your structure are clear, each local point of sale can draw on the existing content to help publicise your national campaigns.
However, because digital experts are not a natural constituent of the business unit ecosystem, such a platform will always be more beneficial with a facilitator to support the sales teams through the digital transition and help consolidate the franchisor-franchisee relationship.
Management should set objectives for the digital activity of professional networks, which can be easily monitored using dashboards and other tools. Then, and depending on the activity report, managers can support the initial training on the basis of an action plan or with the help of consultants. This step towards digital commerce will allow you to produce more digital media and will be beneficial to the network’s visibility on search engines, and therefore undoubtedly to direct sales and future branch openings.
Conclusion: to successfully manage your network, you need to understand and exploit your strengths
A tailor-made platform specific to your requirements will mean local managers can have the access they need to carry out local marketing activity simply and efficiently.
- There’ll be no more colourful (but unapproved) content uploaded
- Requests will be processed much more quickly
Everyone’s role will be clear to them, and everyone will be able to work in harmony to help the network to grow. This is the added value of good network management. Do you have any questions about the management of your retail network? Would you like to talk with one of our experts about things like community management, digital marketing, or digital performance in general?