Retail store execution is a critical part of any retail operation or campaign. Your brand vision may be on point, and you may even have brilliant plans to engage in-store shoppers, but if they aren’t carried out the way you intended, then your vision and plans won’t yield results.
And while tools such as planograms, checklists, and task management software can help with store execution, at the end of the day, it’s the individuals carrying out your plans who need the most attention.
That’s why it’s important to invest in your workforce. It’s not enough to teach employees how to execute your plans; it’s equally important to empower your team members, so they go above and beyond expectations.
Here are 5 tips to help you do just that.
1. Offer competitive compensation
Many retail employees remain overworked and underpaid because companies still see labor primarily as an expense instead of an investment that can drive sales. Few merchants realize that cutting labor costs isn’t saving them money; quite the opposite — underpaying employees can lead to high staff turnover, poor execution, and a less-than-desirable customer experience.
Meanwhile, retailers that invest in their workforce are seeing results in the form of higher sales and smoother operations.
In fact, a Wharton School study revealed, “every dollar in additional payroll led to somewhere between four and twenty-eight dollars in new sales.”
Additionally, Zeynep Ton, an MIT professor, studied store chains that paid their employees well, and found some interesting results. Her research, which included companies such as QuikTrip, Costco, and Trader Joe’s, revealed that retailers who invested more in their employees “have high profits, low prices for their industry, excellent operational metrics, and a reputation for great customer service.”
Why is that? Simple: well-compensated employees are more motivated to work hard and deliver results, while low-paid workers may only do the bare minimum of what is expected from them.
As Ton wrote:
“It’s the low-paid employee, not the inventory-management software, who notices that a shelf looks messy or that some of the products are in the wrong place. It’s the low-paid employee who notices that some of the lettuce has gone bad or that there are still signs up for last week’s promotion.
It’s the low-paid cashier who can tell the difference between serrano peppers and jalapeno peppers during checkout. It’s the low-paid employee who notices that there are too many customers waiting in the checkout and offers to open an additional cash register.”
“When retailers don’t invest in human capital, operational execution suffers and the company pays with lower sales and lower profits than it could have had.” – Zeynep Ton, MIT
Clearly, investing in your workforce can have tremendous benefits. It may be worth looking at your company’s compensation structure and comparing it with other retailers in the market. If you’re not investing enough in human capital, look into how you can do more for your employees — you may find that this move alone can improve your store execution and results.
2. Invest in employee training
Another way to invest in your workers? Train and educate them well. And no, we’re not just referring to providing an employee handbook or giving basic instructions at orientation.
Staff education isn’t something you can set and forget. Effective staff training programs require a continuous effort and a combination of various education methods.
For instance, rather than just training new employees, you could offer refresher sessions for existing team members. Or, you could give your staff opportunities to attend conferences that expand their industry knowledge. You could even bring in third-party consultants who can provide additional training.
Showing people how to do something is far more effective than simply telling them how to do it. This is especially true when you’re educating your team on how to execute in-store programs or campaigns.
Aside from verbal communication and step-by-step documents, throw in additional training methods into the mix. You can, for example, create videos demonstrating how to set up a display. Images can also go a long way. Christine Guillot, founder at Merchant Method, recommends using “is and is not” photos to show employees how to execute your visual merchandising as well as how NOT to do it.
Using a combination of methods and materials not only helps your employees internalize the necessary information, but it gives them excellent reference materials that they can check whenever they have questions or concerns about the programs they’re executing.
3. Consider gamification
Gamification could be just the thing that makes learning and execution more interesting (and fun) for your staff.
Have a look at what Walmart did. To improve top-line sales and the customer experience, the retail giant implemented a trivia-based learning application that tested associates on their knowledge around product features and processes.
Employees scored points for answering questions correctly and the game ranked associates according to how well they were doing. These components introduced a friendly competition among employees and encouraged people to participate.
According to Inward Strategic Consulting, the results of the initiative suggested “an increase in knowledge retention and a more positive perception to learning than traditional CBL training methods.”
If it makes sense for your program and store, consider doing something similar by introducing things like games or competition into the mix.
4. Practice great communication
Miscommunication can derail your campaigns. Prevent that by being mindful of the messages that you’re sending and ensuring that you’re communicating to the right people at the right time.
Let’s say you’re running a program in just a handful of locations, and the details of the campaign are only relevant to employees from Stores A and B. In this scenario, you wouldn’t want send the same message to all locations (e.g. Stores A, B, C, and D), because doing so may create confusion.
Communicating store processes or guidelines? Craft messages that are tailored to each store’s nature and environment. For instance, the guidelines that are appropriate for your stores in California may not work for your locations in New York. Or, the processes that work well in your toursity locations may not be appropriate for your locations near the suburbs.
Also note the communication methods and channels are nearly as important as the messages themselves.
As much as possible, stick to one communication platform when disseminating critical information. It’s important to have a system that keeps everyone on the same page. This will reduce questions and doubt, which in turn will enable employees to carry out their tasks well.
5. Track program goals and results
Having a goal can drive employee motivation and action. Your staff members need to know what they’re working towards — and how they’re doing — in order for them to be effective.
Think about what you’d like to achieve with each campaign. Are you looking to drive sales? Increase brand awareness? Boost basket size? Whatever your goals are, be sure to communicate your program objectives. Make sure your team knows what success looks like and give them measurable KPIs for each program.
Then there’s the matter of actually measuring performance and results. You need a system that can track store data (preferably in real-time), so you can check in with how your store programs are doing, and then relay that data back to your team.
Having up-to-the-minute insights into program performance will give you and your team a better idea of what you need to do to accomplish your objectives.
Top-notch store execution requires top-notch employee performance. If you’re not getting great results out of your programs, you may want to look into your workforce issues before anything else.
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