Retail's resurgence has created a perfect storm for stores
Foot traffic climbed by about 200% within the first week of stores reopening in the UK, marking the greatest growth in retail sales since 2018. Consumer confidence was at a 14-month high, with 50% of US consumers intending to indulge themselves after a difficult year, and there has been a 90% increase in retail sales in April 2021 versus April 2020.
However, even when the light at the end of the tunnel continues to brighten, merchants must remember the harsh lessons gained in the last two years. These learnings will aid retailers in adjusting to their new duties in an uncertain future.
Retail brands are hitting operational roadblocks as they try to do more with less, affecting store employees, customer experience, and overall organisational success.
This article will explore the challenges facing retail operations as well as how to overcome them without sacrificing store performance.
Inadequate visibility Without a real-time line of sight into store activity, it's impossible to be reactive and plan for the future.
Disjointed store teams 35% of retail employees feel disconnected from their organisation and peers. In an unpredictable environment, not being up to date with new information can leave employees unable to perform their best and feeling overwhelmed.
Too much time spent on repetitive, manual processes, and not enough spent with customers Employees can't offer their full attention to more rewarding tasks like servicing customers on the shop floor when their hands are tied with admin. This causes them to be dissatisfied with their jobs, creating a barrier to employee retention, and impacts negatively on customer service.
Regional teams do not have the time or resources to support stores As regional teams have shrunk and their workload has increased, they are visiting stores less frequently. As a result, these stores receive less feedback and have fewer opportunities to improve.
Store teams lack the necessary knowledge, at the appropriate time and in sufficient quantities, to drive conversions Nowadays, by the time a customer walks through the store doors, they have probably already researched a product online. And to support customers who have enhanced product knowledge, store teams need effective training and information at their fingertips.
Despite these challenges, there are ways that retailers can assist stores in overcoming them and weathering the storm without sacrificing store performance.
5 ways to overcome challenges in retail operations
1. Digitise store operations Digitise retail operations so you can track, measure, and improve everything that happens in the business.
Digitise store tasks, processes, and conversations so that information isn't lost in paper, emails or Excel spreadsheets.
Pull digitised store data in real-time, so teams can collect the information they need to support stores.
Use AI to automate the interpretation of this data for the store, area, and HQ teams, allowing them to make data-driven decisions easily. That way, they can react to changes in-store performance and customer behaviour as they happen.
2. Improve store communications
Improve store communications by connecting retail employees to their organisation and peers in other locations through accessible, non-hierarchical, and engaging communications.
Make internal communications available to all retail employees, whether they're on the shop floor or in the back office, via mobile devices.
To foster a sense of community among stores, encourage teams to share their triumphs, challenges, feedback, and questions.
Make internal communications interesting to read with GIFs, emojis, and a welcoming tone.
Make them interactive and quantifiable with polls, comments, and likes.
3. Simplify repetitive store processes
Automate routine and repetitive processes to achieve the ideal balance of quick, accurate completion while giving store associates more time to spend with customers.
Get rid of paper-based processes.
Merge tools like email, phone and intranet.
Digitalise complex processes involving different people, departments and approvals.
4. Digitalise regional team processes
Digitalise processes so that regional teams can perform some of them remotely, thereby expanding coverage and improving store support.
Allow video calls, photos, and live chats to be used to facilitate remote communication between the store and regional teams.
Delegate simplified regional team processes to store teams by using digitalised checklists, pictures, and phone calls.
Supplement in-person store visits and audits with remote ones.
5. Upskill store teams in the workflow
Customise training to the retail employee workflow to provide store teams with the knowledge they require and the employee experience they desire.
Use mobile to make training available to all employees, wherever they are – 74% believe mobile app-based training would be simpler.
Keep training content brief and easy to understand so that it fits into the workflow. Keep sessions short enough to fit in between shifts and make sure the information is easy to find whenever needed.
Make training content enjoyable, engaging, competitive, and social so that everyone wants to return for more. It is critical to match training to what younger employees are used to, as well as to give older employees something new to keep things interesting.
Want more advice on your retail strategy? Speak to one of our experts today.