Using Communication to Keep Customers and Employees Safe: Webinar Key Takeaways

October 15, 2020

By Jim Dudlicek, NGA Director of Communications and External Affairs

As consumers leave their homes and shop for groceries, they’re doing so with heightened safety expectations. Shoppers expect and demand that the grocery stores they’re visiting have put their safety first, and that they’re delivering an experience that doesn’t put them at risk. The same applies to store associates, who were deemed essential and continue to serve on the front lines with the expectation that all safety precautions are being taken by their employer to keep them healthy.

NGA and store communication platform provider Retail Zipline recently hosted a webinar to address the steps retailers are taking to provide a safe in-store experience, both for consumers and employees, with a specific focus on how communication is enabling those efforts.

Jessica Ringena, senior vice president and chief digital officer at Midwestern grocery chain Hy-Vee Inc., shared her thoughts with Zipline Founder and CEO Melissa Wong on store execution and compliance amid COVID-19 guidelines; why agile store teams are critical in a rapidly changing environment; the increased importance of store associates, both as brand ambassadors as well as safety monitors; and what the future of grocery looks like.

Some key takeaways from this webinar:

Engagement is great for employee morale, especially amid a pandemic, during which your teams are giving it their all on the front lines to deliver an essential service. Ringena said Hy-Vee associates appreciate the weekly video messages from their CEO who keeps them informed about events within the company, as well as those impacting operations, from COVID to climate. It’s also a platform for employee recognition.

Communication makes retailers more agile, a plus in a dynamic marketplace. Retailers’ needs can shift dramatically based on changing market trends, so when they need to pivot, the ability to communicate rapidly keeps everyone’s goals aligned. It also keeps everyone fully informed of changes in state and local guidance on pandemic safety procedures.

Strategic partnerships are important to helping teams stay on message. Ringena noted that Zipline’s know-how has been key to customizing a communications system that works best for Hy-Vee and its diverse offerings, which include foodservice and pharmacy as well as grocery. That journey included bringing delivery systems up to date, from signs, video boards and other analog media to smartphones and other digital devices. “We can not only target communication by role and by location, but the message comes to employees’ personal devices,” Ringena said. “It’s their channel, and they feel it.”

To view this complete webinar and others in the series, visit