5 Manual Processes District Managers Should Automate in 2020

Working as a retail district manager requires you to become a jack-of-all-trades. You oversee multiple stores in your region, handling their store-specific issues on a day-to-day basis. Concurrently, you’re tasked with ensuring that each store aligns with the company’s operational guidelines and longer-term strategic goals. 

To thrive in this fast-paced business environment, you need to operate as smoothly and efficiently as possible. In other words, you need to ditch the time-wasting manual processes that don’t serve anybody well. 

To that end, here are 5 antiquated business practices that need a 2020 upgrade.

Paper schedules

You’re familiar with the dogs that eat homework, right? In the retail world, hungry canines can’t be blamed for chowing down on paper project and shift planning schedules. However, these sketchy documents can suffer damage from spilled coffee or soda. Papers can also become hopelessly lost under piles of other paperwork on your (or your store manager’s) desk.

Planning projects using paper schedules is also very labor-intensive, requiring cross-outs and complete rewrites when changes pop up (which they will). For instance, if team members need to swap responsibilities or shifts at the last minute, they would need to manually update the schedule by hand, which can cause confusion. 

Paper project and shift scheduling also makes real-time collaboration impossible — unless you plan to be in the same room with your staff at all times. It’s far easier to use digital scheduling tools that offer in-app communication, so updates and notifications can be sent through one platform, and everyone stays in sync. 

So, banish paper schedules forever, and move to online project and scheduling solutions for your team, department, or entire enterprise. For best results, go for a solution that’s cloud-based, so it’s accessible to store employees from anywhere, even on their mobile devices.

Reporting and analytics

As part of your job, you must closely monitor your stores’ sales projections, inventory turnover, profit and loss numbers, and key performance indicators, among other metrics. 

While it’s technically possible to find the data yourself, extracting data the manual way and performing calculations can be extremely time-consuming, especially if you’re looking after multiple stores. And, there’s always the chance you’ll make a mistake or let your biases get in the way, unintentionally skewing the results. 

Enter retail analytics. 

Depending on your retail stores, you can choose software that can measure specific components of your business — including sales, inventory, staff performance, or all of the above. 

Well-designed retail analytics software features POS operations, sales reporting, inventory management, and other functions. Even better, modern systems can automate data collection and storage, so you won’t have to worry about manually coming up with the data you need. 

Advanced solutions offer predictive analytics functions and graphics-rich dashboards that streamline your operations and make it easier to get the information you need – fast.

Retail audits 

District Manager with tablet using Compliant IA in a grocery store

Manual retail audits have long been ripe for streamlining and automation. Here’s how they typically work: Traditionally, internal auditors (often the region’s district or sales manager) have conducted these regularly scheduled paper-based audits. 

To begin the process, the auditor scribbled notes onto printed audit forms. Next, the auditor entered the details into an Excel spreadsheet while trying to avoid data entry errors that would compromise the end result. After compiling the audit data, and making relevant recommendations, he sent the report to internal partners via email. And hopefully, the recipients could soon carve out a few minutes to read it. 

This time-consuming sequence slowed down the decision process and represented a less-than-optimal use of everyone’s time.

If the above-process is still implemented in your retail business, it’s high time to modernize your retail audit practices. 

Do yourself (and your entire organization) a favor and switch to retail audit software that can digitize and streamline your store audits and inspections

Compliant IA, for example, lets you customize your forms and checklists, so you can easily evaluate your stores and programs. Modern retail audit solutions can also speed up the process by eliminating paper forms. These solutions enable managers to quickly fill out the necessary forms and instantly send them to the right people, so no one has to play the waiting game. 

What’s more, a quality retail audit software program can be scaled to multiple store locations. You can designate the store(s) and distribution centers to be audited, and change the audit criteria as needed. You can review the results in real-time, and decide which stores would most benefit from your in-person guidance.

Modern retail audit programs can also ensure that tasks and changes are carried out successfully. If you use Compliant IA, for instance, you can stay on top of follow-ups by automating store visit frequency, tasks, and corrective action notifications. You can also generate custom reports, and see your top-performing locations and instantly spot areas for improvement. 

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Retail training

Well-trained, customer-friendly employees are the lifeblood of a successful retail business. As district manager, you must ensure that your stores’ associates are knowledgeable about the products and services your company offers. In addition, employees should know how to provide customers with the top-notch service they deserve.

Although you’ve got plenty of staff training skills, you’re not an expert in every aspect of sales and retail operations. And, you simply don’t have enough bandwidth to consistently fulfill all the training needs in your multi-store region.

To remedy the situation, bring in extra resources that will enable you to deliver the training your stores’ associates need while you free up your schedule for other work. Having other people train your team is great, but you should arm them with the right tools. 

Use online and video training programs, so you can efficiently disseminate information to the right people. Where possible, arrange interactive webinars with product or industry experts. 

The great thing about digital learning tools is that they allow you to save sessions and replay them whenever necessary. This can further streamline the training process because it means you won’t have to keep repeating the same information yourself. 

Additionally, modern training programs allow staff members to consume the material on their own time, so scheduling sessions won’t be a painful and time-consuming process. 

Another tip? Ask your vendors for product training assistance. Let’s say your stores handle a major brand that has just launched a new product line. You want to provide your stores’ employees with the knowledge they need to successfully sell that merchandise. So, arrange for a manufacturer’s representative to visit each store for in-depth product training.

Do the same for your technology vendors. Most hardware and software companies provide online and in-person training to get your staff up to speed on how to use their solutions. Leverage these resources whenever you can. Let your vendors handle the training, so you don’t have to. 

Multi-store management

district manager mentors store manager using retail audit software

Besides monitoring an individual store’s retail analytics, you’d like a real-time picture of how all your region’s stores stack up against each other. For example, you want to know if all your stores display similar sales results for a major product line. If not, what factors might account for different outcomes in high- and low-achieving stores? 

This is where multi-store management software comes in. While it’s important that each store has the technology and systems it needs to run properly, you also need a solution that ties everything together. 

As district manager, arm yourself with a system that gives you a complete view of how various stores are performing, so you won’t have to manually compare and assess locations. 

To satisfy all these criteria, find a highly rated multi-store management software solution. With hundreds of options on the market, you’re likely to find one with the ideal combination of features, scalability, and price. Although each solution is different, common features include merchandise management, order management, and customer relationship management. Some packages are also tailored to specific industries’ operational needs.

Set up your stores for success in 2020 and beyond

Gaining a competitive edge in the coming years isn’t just about clever promotions or big, bold campaigns. The not-so-sexy components of retail — specifically, your internal operations and processes — can make or break the success of your stores. 

For this reason, you should constantly find components to optimize and streamline, so you and your team can be as efficient as possible. And what better way to do that than to digitize manual and time-consuming tasks?

Use the pointers above to evaluate the processes and operations of your stores. And if you find something that needs to be modernized, get on it ASAP. 

About the author:

francesanicasio

Francesca Nicasio is retail expert, B2B content strategist, and LinkedIn TopVoice. She writes about trends, tips, and best practices that enable retailers to increase sales and serve customers better. She’s also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores.  

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