Earlier this week, we looked back at some of our defining moments from what was an awesome year at Branch Messenger.

Today, we want to explore some of our favorite blog posts that we've written over the course of the past year.

Customer Stories####

Whether they man the front lines at a fast food establishment or handle customer inquiries in the garden and outdoor section of a home improvement retailer, we are excited about sharing the stories of our most passionate users. We're interested in more than how they use Branch Messenger, although that's important. The insights we've learned from the frontlines of our hourly workforce have taught us a lot about what work really looks like in America, and where it's going. Much of that learning goes back into our product. And, when we're really lucky we get a story like we did with the crew at the Tampa Pizza Hut who used Branch to communicate with employees and maintain operations during a hurricane.

A look back at our top customer stories:

How A Tampa Pizza Hut Stayed in Contact During Hurricane Irma

When Hurricane Irma’s landfall became imminent, their store’s communication thread took on new meaning. Instead of focusing on preparing for busy sports weekend staffing, Allison was readying her location and employees for the hurricane.

“Branch was an extreme help during that time,” Allison recalls.

“Before the storm, I was able to use Branch to post a hurricane safety checklist -- little tips like getting gas before the storm, things like that. It also allowed my store manager to communicate with the rest of the store about which days we would probably be closed.”

Their ability to communicate with staff went well beyond the normal daily operations that impact a corporation that has 16,000 locations around the world employing more than 135,000 people. Allison was able to use Branch to communicate to delivery drivers who were able to navigate and discuss the surprisingly volatile fuel shortages that impacted the state in the days before and after Irma.

Read: A Branch Customer Story - Pizza Hut

How Branch Helps Solve Challenges for Lowe's

Sales were already increasing before natural disasters struck. A steadily increasing housing market entrenched before the hurricane season and a “do it yourself” (DIY) market among first-time and younger homeowners both were important factors the past season.

This is where the challenge lies. While Lowe’s has made marked improvements in the DIY landscape, they still are facing challenges of competitors who are competing for property owners seeking casual home updates and professionals in the home improvement space.

Here's how a Texas Lowe's team used Branch to stay on top of their retail game.

Read: A Branch Customer Story - Lowe's Home Improvement

How Branch Keeps A McDonalds Crew Feeling like Family

For the crew of the Grand Rapids McDonald’s, Branch has been a huge asset to their team, especially improving the daily tasks of Julie Bostwick, Guest Services Manager. Julie is in charge of handling customer complaints, promotions for new menu items and sandwiches and basically ensuring things are set up right for customers to come back time and again.

Now that the scheduling system have been taken from paper to app, employees have streamlined their schedule shifting digitally on their mobile devices. And, it’s improving the store operations and even the level of employee engagement.

Read: A Branch Customer Story - McDonald's

Sharing the Branch Story

Being transparent is important. We believe there's value in sharing the lessons and processes we learn while building Branch. This year, we've shared our story about relocating our company from Southern California to Minneapolis and explored some of the lessons we learned in our earliest days at the TechStars Retail Class. One of our internal experiences was even published on Sentry, a San Francisco-based tech company who's series, A Comedy of Errors explores the most interesting and perplexing application issues.

Here is a look at some of those stories:

Putting Down Roots in MSP

It’s been just about a year since we moved operations from Southern California. As graduates of the inaugural Techstar retail class last year, we’ve had the opportunity to pursue our goal of improving the collaborative and productivity tools for millions of hourly workers.

Since Techstars, we’ve relocated from Pasadena, increased our staff, raised $10 million in funding, and expanded our product offering across verticals including retail, restaurants, hospitality, call centers, manufacturing facilities, and banking.

While Techstars was the culmination of everything we put into the initial stages of founding Branch Messenger -- our earliest employees, the first versions of our software, our pilots with Target -- the relocation to Minneapolis signifies everything that is critical to our future success. Take a look at the four critical elements that have helped shape our success and journey to the Midwest.

Read: Why Branch Put Down Roots in Minneapolis

Lessons from Partnering with the Enterprise

One of the biggest moments for Branch was taking the plunge and joining the inaugural TechStars Retail Class last year in Minneapolis. Not only did it open up our fledgling startup to the amazing people in the Upper Midwest, but it also connected us to the ingrained and established players in the thriving Minneapolis enterprise verticals our customers exist in -- healthcare, manufacturing, retail, and more.

The seeds for our future product development and pilot programs were planted early. According to Ryan Broshar, Managing Director of Techstars Retail Accelerator, one of the biggest keys to the wild success of their program has been connecting early-stage startups and founders with the long-standing enterprise organizations that dominate Minneapolis across a variety of verticals from banking and finance to healthcare and retail.

Read: Startup Partnerships 4 Lessons from Partnering with the Enterprise

Industry Knowledge####

Branch is used across many different industries and verticals, from manufacturing to retail. We try to explore many of these verticals and write about how these trends are impacting them. Most of these stories are written by our editorial team and are published on the blog. We also curate them for our newsletter, Shiftonomics, which explores the trends and news that shape the future of the modern American shift workplace.

Dollar Store Mania

It’s been good days for America’s dollar stores.

Despite the doom-and-gloom reports that retail is facing the end of days, the dollar store concept has been a smashing success. In fact, dollar stores seem to be successful doing the exact opposite of what other major American retailers are doing.

As malls continue to lose tenants and retail closures continue, the dollar store continues to see positive growth and upward trends of success. We explored the history and growth of America's popular and succesful dollar retailers.

Read: How Dollar Stores are Staying Competitive in a Changing Retail Climate

Retail Trends

Americans helped lift the shopping spirit to the tune of one of our best holiday retail seasons in over a decade. Here is a look at how the industry was thinking about trends heading into the Thanksgiving week.

Read: Holiday Trends Shaping Increased Retailer Expectations