We've spent quite a bit of time recently talking about retail execution - what it is, how to improve it, and why it's important to your business. Now let's take a deeper dive into the foundations and focus that come into play for companies who really excel at retail execution. Whether you're talking to the leadership team at your company's home office, or your reps and workers out in the field, we’ve identified nine of the main considerations that can help you get the best possible execution in store to meet your business goals:
1. Clear Communication & Direction
For a consistent execution across your various locations, it’s critical that you are communicating with your teams consistently and clearly.
Find a single format and repository for sharing information where everyone in your organization, throughout the chain of command - from the leaders of the company to the employees who help customers on the front line – are all getting the same details and direction at all times.
Finding a way to cut through all the noise of various emails, calls and other channels is important to make sure you’re all on the same page and that all parties understand what they are being tasked to achieve and by when.
Define clear roles and responsibilities and establish for your team who is the tie-breaker if conflict were to arise. This eliminates a need for your staff to try and determine priorities or a hierarchy if information is ever contradictory.
2. Clear Reporting & Tracking of Results
Outline with your leadership, based on the strategy plans you have for the upcoming year, what the key performance indicators (KPIs) should be tracked for projects to determine whether activities, promotions or sales have been successful.
Establishing a baseline and then ensuring that teams are tracking these KPIs will help you determine whether any actions are worth repeating, or whether you should scrap a promotion to try something else.
This is also a great time to practice good “data hygiene” – teaching your teams to enter their results clearly, accurately and using an agreed upon naming scheme for files, etc. This will help set you up for success in the future, especially if you’re consistent in filing information where it can be referenced/archived as needed.
The most important goal with reporting and tracking will be leveraging a program that can provide real-time insights and actionable results. Automating responses from your team and having visibility to the information immediately, helps prevent you from being trapped in a holding pattern for days or even weeks before you can make a decision, while you wait for results from a blizzard of Excel spreadsheets or paper reports. In retail, not being able to make course-corrections quickly can be a death blow to a business. It’s dangerous when your customers perceive a store “never has” what they’re shopping for.
Tracking results also allows you a great opportunity to celebrate successes – highlight teams that are performing well and hold them up as examples. However, beware: data can be used for evil just as easily as it can be used for good. Fight the urge to use performance results to punish others. Nobody wants to be the target of a disappointing, metaphorical, “Why can’t you be more like your sister?” Remember, be the carrot, not the stick.
3. Processes & Goal Sharing (Project Management)
In any business, it can help for leadership to include some level of detail with their teams as to what the company’s goals are for the year, on what pillars everyone should be focused and what tactical approaches are being pursued.
When everyone is aware of the broader goals, it helps them stay laser-focused on how their roles and responsibilities feed into the big picture.
Work with a project manager to help identify where processes can help you smooth out friction points in your existing workflow. Then they can create, document, test and launch those new procedures with your teams. Clearly outlined next steps and established workflows help keep your troops marching in the same direction – toward success.
- Leverage for success/automation
Change your systems from outdated, over-involved paper trails to automated processes via software or new hardware.
By eliminating or reducing the amount administrative paperwork from the day-to-day work your teams are responsible to complete, you will get more meaningful activity each day. Employees are able to focus on their work that has the most impact, which is with your customers.
Your employees are probably watching the time clock to make sure they stop physical work early enough to complete paperwork and reporting in time for the end of the business day. Instead, invest in a product that will help your team stay on pace to get projects finished and get to the next location or task on the list. Job satisfaction, productivity and efficiency will improve – and it will show in your sales and, more importantly, customer satisfaction. Remember, keeping a customer once you’ve earned their business is much less expensive in the long run than trying to attract and keep new customers.
- Device management
You may want to investigate where a mobile device management (MDM) or mobile application management (MAM) would work the best for your company’s needs. MAM, for example, is managed access that’s very limited to a specific set of applications. It allows a company to remotely wipe an individual application’s database or uninstall the app itself. MDM, however, might allow you to remotely reset the entire mobile device back to a factory-installed state for security purposes.
Many businesses are opting to work with their employees on a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) basis. This saves on overhead, because you aren’t requiring a separate hardware investment to provide devices for each team member. Companies who utilize BYOD strategies also benefit from the fact that employees are using devices they already know and love. But best practice in a BYOD scenario would be to develop a package within the MDM that creates a password-protected and encrypted sandbox on the BYOD device. This essentially holds all the apps the user needs to be able to work, while creating a comfortable firewall between the encrypted company data in the sandbox and safely protecting the personal data the device contains for its user.
- Integration (APIs)
While having a big ol’ tool box at your fingertips can be great to help you complete all of the day-to-day activities and projects at your disposal, dealing with multiple programs, operating systems or checklists can start to have the opposite impact than you intended on your productivity.
Once you add up all those micro-movements of log ins, log outs and accessing multiple programs, Excel spreadsheets, payroll apps, inventory management programs, productivity software … it adds up quickly. Managing work in those disconnected systems takes both time out of your workday and a toll on your overall team productivity.
Look at ways to streamline efficiency and get your systems in one easy-to-access place. If you are worried about the sunk cost of programs you’ve already invested in & use on a daily basis, it’s a great idea when shopping around for technology partners to find out if they offer APIs that will play nicely with your existing systems. By offering a fully-documented API, your existing payroll software, for example, could be accessed or reported through a single interface.
- Connectivity (online/offline work)
If your team is using mobile, but not able to do work unless they have a strong Wi-Fi connection, investment in software portals and programs becomes a moot point.
Managers and employees need to be out on the store floor, where the customers are, in order to get work done. So, make sure that your system of choice includes the ability for your people to work offline, as well as access necessary information without depending on Wi-Fi connections, and have the ability to sync automatically when the device is on Wi-Fi next.
5. Consistency (Level-Set Expectations)
Consistency and clear direction help create an environment of trust with your teams. When you are able to continuously deliver information, clearly define goals and level set your expectations and job demands, you are affording your people with security in their work environment, without feeling a need to second guess their own efforts or micromanage their subordinates. This also helps ensure that when everyone knows their role and what is being asked of them, no project tasks are overlooked or ignored.
Credibility and respect also go hand-in-hand with practicing consistency. Your credibility as a retailer improves the more customers consistently get a great service experience and find what they need easily.
And with technology in your corner, by automating processes and giving workers a clear outline of tasks and instructions – consistently – they are able to execute by following the software step by step… without feeling like they have to decipher information or make an uninformed decision. They are better able to trust the process, the system and the management decisions being made. Ultimately, this all shows in the retail environment and reflects itself in how customers are able to shop and experience the store.
6. Space Allocations & Feature Planning
When it comes to feature planning, it’s helpful to create easy-to-follow, easy-to-execute space allocation plans and planograms for your teams to execute. If you are able to plan enough in advance, you can even work with the manufacturer and logistics companies to pack product with clear, easily identifiable labeling and color coding so that it’s more efficient to get from the back room to its correct position and department on the sales floor to be stocked. The more smoothly you can help your teams transition product out to the shelves, the faster your customers can find and purchase the items they want and need.
7. Inventory Management
No doubt about it, this one is a biggie… and it’s constantly a challenge. Real-time tracking, and the ability to order and mark product as damaged or send back returns – all from a mobile device – are the types of game-changing automation that can benefit your company.
However, it goes beyond just day-to-day tracking and forecasting of supply and demand for an item. Great inventory management requires an almost entrepreneurial outlook at all times.
Beyond having a way to track what’s selling and what’s not, savvy retailers have also learned to stay on top of social media and influencer activity, as well as keeping an eye on the weather or other less-than-predictable scenarios.
For example, in 1996, when Oprah Winfrey started a book discussion segment in her talk show, people flocked to stores to get the latest recommendation. Obscure titles became bestsellers. Publishers even started developing “Oprah editions.” At the time, I worked at our local bookstore and, I kid you not, we had to start keeping up with the show religiously to make sure we knew of what titles were about inundate our special orders or requests shelf.
Walmart once stated that Strawberry Pop-Tarts increase in sales at least seven times their normal rate ahead of a hurricane. The breakfast pastries store well, don’t require heating or cooking and could basically be eaten for any meal in a pinch. The other big seller ahead of hurricanes? Beer.
It’s this kind of on-the-fly information and key learnings that would be most helpful if your distributed teams could share across the organization as “inventory hacks.” Real-time ability to share information helps make real-time impact on success for more locations.
8. Task Completion Rates, Compliance & Audits
To fully measure the effect of your promotions and to ensure that manufacturers are getting the full feature space in which they’ve invested, it’s important to have an idea of the compliance rates of your workforce.
And having visibility to those completion rates today (not 2-3 weeks from now) will save your business from potential make-good costs or fines from brands. Real-time reporting is worth a fortune in the amount of impact it has to your execution rates and reputation.
Having the right technology partner to give you that visibility is a powerful tool – because, with the right investment, you can become almost omnipresent without having to rely on the not-yet-fully-realized technology sci-fi flicks have been promising forever. Teleporting and cloning abilities would be great, but the right retail execution software can help you feel like you’re everywhere at once. Features like photo verifications, surveys or ability to capture management signatures can provide you with peace of mind. You can see that tasks are being completed to spec, and you can course-correct where you see things that may not be getting done correctly or on time.
9. Employee Engagement (Invested in Shared Success)
Being visible and transparent with your teams is something that helps everyone understand what’s behind the decisions being made, what’s at stake for all parties involved and the size of the prize—if everyone executes on plan.
You can help outline for employees exactly what direction and strategy were included in making specific decisions. With a clear understanding of the strategy pillars, company goals and leadership focus, you are essentially adding “guardrails” around a project while simultaneously making your team feel trusted, included and heard.
Make it happen, Cap'n!
When all of the above factors are taken into consideration and cultivated with your teams, you’ll set your company up for unprecedented success through leveraging powerful retail execution planning. It’s a win – win – win: great for your sales, great for customer experience and great for workplace satisfaction of the teams who are out there making it all happen every day.