Blog 7/10/2019

Retailers: Three Barriers to a Successful Benefits Strategy and How to Overcome Them

When it comes to retail, the rule of three seems to apply. First, retail employees tend to fall into one of three categories: corporate/HQ, distribution centers and retail sales locations. Second, there are three major barriers to successful communications to a retail workforce:

  • Limited (or no) computer access during the workday
  • Geographically dispersed work locations
  • Differing work schedules

The solution? Combining three key communications tools—paper, personal and phone—to reach your employees where they are on a timely basis.

Read on to learn more.

Common Barriers

1.Limited/no computer access.

While corporate-based employees (and certain management level employees in the field) will likely be using computers as part of their day to day jobs, sales and distribution center employees spend their day on the floor, stocking shelves, helping customers, and preparing and delivering shipments to store locations and customers. As a result, email messaging, online portals and websites won’t reach large percentages of your workforce.

2. Geographically dispersed store locations

Whether you have just a few stores spread across a small area, or hundreds or thousands of stores spread across the entire United States, it can be a challenge to ensure that all of your benefits-eligible employees are receiving the same information about their benefits, delivered in the same way.

3. Different working hours

While corporate office staff may work a Monday-Friday, 9 AM – 5 PM schedule, chances are your distribution centers are operating 24/7. Additionally, store employees may run the gamut, with some working mornings and early afternoons, while others may work evenings or on the weekends.


To reach such a diverse workforce, you’ll need to employ both traditional and more modern communications tools and channels. For example:

  • Paper: Use in-store signage in employee areas to remind employees about upcoming benefits events and deadlines. Posters, table tents, and yes, even flyers in bathroom stalls can be used for quick educational messages or to drive employees to websites or mobile apps for more information.

You can also mail benefits materials to your employees’ homes. Other family members may be interested and may even be the real benefits decision maker in the family.

  • Personal: Choosing and using a benefits package can be incredibly personal. To reach your employees, create opportunities for interaction with, well, a person. Where possible, schedule in-store benefits meetings and discussions before or after shifts. In addition, add Benefits Educators to the mix. Educators can meet with employees one-on-one, either in-person or via telephone, to answer benefit questions and help with enrollment. Since educators are trained on your company’s benefits, employees will receive consistent messaging regardless of location or work schedule.Also, make sure site management gets a heads up about any upcoming communications and enlist them in encouraging employees to pay attention.
  • Phone: The average person is on their smartphone four hours a day. A growing share of Americans use smartphones as their primary way to access the internet at home. In fact, studies forecast that in just over five years, 72% of people will access the internet only through their smartphones. Therefore, encourage employees to sign up for benefits notices via text or personal email (if they don’t get a corporate email account).Consider creating a Twitter and/or Snapchat account, or even a Facebook page, for your benefits team to share information, links to important sites, and host interactive events. You can even post short video “ads” or public service announcements.

As the old TV slogan said, “an educated consumer is our best customer.” What was true for a 1980s-era retail clothing chain is just as true today for ANY retailer—and equally true when it comes to “consuming” benefits. Great communications is critical to helping employees and their families choose and use their benefits wisely. Creating a communications plan that accounts for differences in how and when your employees receive information ensures that they find out what they need to know, when they need to know it.

Want more information on how your company can support its retail employees in their benefits adventure? Check out DirectPath’s retail information sheet here.


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