Employee stores.

By Filippo Conforti on April 16, 2024

In many larger companies, employees have the option of buying company products at very competitive discounts. The available assortment may be the same as what is available to public customers, or a selection of products that were withdrawn from the public catalog. An internal outlet that is only accessible to employees.

These stores are called "employee stores" and can be physical, digital, or both. When compared to official stores available to the public, employee stores tend to offer a very basic customer experience. The marketing initiatives, if any, are very limited and closer to a B2B experience than a B2C one. However, that does not mean the company doesn't care about the revenues generated by the employee store. Rather the opposite. This is especially true for organizations with hundreds or thousands of employees. Quite a large, loyal customer base with almost no customer acquisition cost due to being part of the company.

When you think about it, it's a brilliant model where the company pays a salary to employees who, in turn, spend part of their wages on products they produce. All of this at no marketing cost.

Employee outlets also allow the company to reduce stock retentions, which lowers warehouse costs. Furthermore, employees appreciate this kind of reserved benefit, which increases their loyalty to the company. Benefits that extend to their family members and friends.

When building employee stores, security is a key aspect to keep in mind. The privilege of receiving a special price list can be so attractive that a non-employee might pretend to be an employee in order to be eligible for the discounts. Employees are generally required to show their badge or scan it before they can enter a physical store. Online, employee stores should be protected by the company's internal identity system. Additional security checks may also be implemented. Typical examples are the verification of the payment method used by the employee, who can only use a registered card, or the spending threshold allowed for each employee. The threshold is controlled primarily to prevent malicious employees from reselling discounted products through online marketplaces and secondary markets.

In order to transition from an offline-only employee store to a fully fledged digital experience, a company can take multiple steps. When compared to nothing, a shared spreadsheet with accurate data can make all the difference. Compared to spreadsheet, an employee newsletter with the list of available products and a pay-by-link option is far more powerful. Or a a simple microsite with a shopping cart protected by the company authentication system.

Developers might not find all these solutions particularly exciting. Where's my API? Next.js, where are you? How about AI? In fact, there are cases when the business impact of a shoppable link can be much more significant than the latest fancy developer tool. When designing commerce solutions, technology shouldn't prevail over business value. What is boring to a developer may be a game changer for a business user. We developers must always prioritize business outcomes, and recognize when a simple, no code tool is actually the most appropriate solution.

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