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Meet Foko, the Instagram of Retail

Next time you see a sales associate using their smartphone on the store floor, don’t assume they’re skiving. They could be using Foko, a photo-sharing app that’s been dubbed “Instagram for retailers.”

Co-founded by Eric Sauve and Colin McDonald in 2013 and headquartered in Quebec, Canada, Foko this month launched a new feature called Photo Task that allows regional managers or higher-ups to assign store staff to take photos of specific displays and offer feedback in real-time by commenting or drawing right on the images to highlight what needs to be changed.

“It gives retailers from greater control and visibility when it comes to auditing their merchandising displays, as well as drastically reducing the amount of time spent on the traditional merchandising validation process,” Sauve explained. “Gone are the days of floor staff taking a photo of a display, attaching it to an e-mail or SMS to send to their regional managers, waiting for feedback, then updating the display, only to have to repeat the whole process again.”

Since its debut three years ago, Foko has launched a series of back-end connections with retail-focused third-party software providers, meaning that the app can be integrated with various point-of-sale systems, inventory management and scheduling tools. Not only does this offer head office and regional teams increased visibility in terms of what’s going on in-store across multiple locations, it also saves time on team communications and helps ensure merchandising standards are being upheld across the board.

Not to mention, it can simplify employee training by housing all required materials in one place for onboarding or ongoing learning.

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“Retail is a highly visual industry, so it’s a no-brainer that retailers are moving away from e-mail and text-based communication for merchandising and display management, to something more suitable—not to mention more fun to use—that allows them to interact in real-time,” Sauve continued, adding, “Retail employs a largely Millennial workforce, so it makes sense to engage them using their tool of choice, while incorporating aspects of the photo-sharing apps that have become so ubiquitous in their personal lives.”

Currently used by the likes of Whole Foods and Esprit, Foko is offered on a freemium basis (it’s free for an unlimited number of users for an unlimited amount of time) but certain advanced features are available for a fee.

“Employee engagement and company culture are elusive, often difficult-to-measure concepts that remain a top concern for most employers,” Sauve said. “Foko encourages increased collaboration between departments and stores: it’s a platform for sales staff to show off their best work, inspire one another and share creative ideas.”