Right around this time, you are probably looking back on everything that your retail chain has accomplished this year and, more importantly, what’s in store for 2019. And every New Year brings on a batch of those inescapable resolutions. You know, that aspirational list that we optimistically draw up in December and then forget about by February.
We’ve been thinking about ways to make resolutions stick. We have determined that you are much more likely to stick to, and maybe even achieve, resolutions that focus on opportunities to enhance efficiencies, perfect your customer experience, gain competitive advantage, and even improve staff engagement. What these opportunities have in common is that they are highly relevant aspects relevant to today’s retail reality and therefore your business success.
Here is our gift to help your 2019 resolutions stick: four tips to turn your New Year’s resolutions into reality.
1. Unify your processes end-to-end
Retail chains are looking for ways to optimize the time they spend performing back-office tasks and taking care of details that seem tedious but are quite essential to running a business.
Do you spend hours every month trying to make sense of your numbers? Is your staff unable to see which products are available at other store locations? Do your managers have no idea what is going on in their store when they are travelling? If your response is “Yes, to all of the above,” there is an evident disconnect in your operations management systems and processes… And the likely cause is using several software solutions to manage the different parts of your retail operations.
In 2019, start managing your retail business with an end-to-end retail suite. It may sound dramatic to rethink your operations holistically— front office, back office, online store, e-commerce, stock, and more— but a unified retail solution is easier and more affordable than you imagine. The positive impact of an end-to-end solution will become evident in how you manage staff, inventory, customer service, supply chain, and delivery.
By fixing the disconnect in your systems and implementing a unified solution that covers your retail operations front to back, you can save time, reduce paperwork, improve customer service, and lower costs. And ultimately, getting greater control over your whole business can enable you to focus on critical strategic objectives like the customer experience.
2. Use Your Data Maximally
Once you have successfully implemented your resolution to unify your systems with a single end-to-end retail management solution, you will discover that these systems include business intelligence technology that offers new ways to analyze store behaviour, buying patterns, and measure the impact of your merchandizing efforts.
You can leverage this information at store level to provide sales associates with customer data that will enable them to personalize their customer interactions. Knowing customers’ individual needs and past purchases, your sales associates can deliver a tailored in-store shopping experience based on each customer’s unique interests and desires.
Between store visits, it will be possible to reach out to customers proactively. Using data from different channels, such as in-store purchases or online browsing history, to identify needs and interests and then personalize communications, events, and promotions for customers.
Your retail chain can obtain business intelligence data that monitors stock levels while also identifying buying patterns. The BI capabilities of inventory management modules in end-to-end systems can analyze mounds of product and customer data that larger retailers can use to make informed decisions about what products to buy and when, determine promotional effectiveness, and more.
With business intelligence tools, the data from every purchase, every like, and every page view produces relevant insights that you can apply to your stores to gain a major competitive advantage.
3. Engage Employees
When you equip your staff with the proper resources and tools, you empower them to do their best work, which typically leads to higher employee engagement.
Today’s retail employees need to be tech-savvy, knowledgeable about products, fast, friendly, and helpful to customers who have a lot of shopping options available to them. Because customers have easy online access to any product they need and at many price points, when they visit a physical store, they very frequently do so for the experience.
This means that investing in your retail employees is more important to your business than ever. So, how to engage sales teams has become an important area of focus for retailers who want to improve the in-store experience. By adopting end-to-end management systems, your retail business can build employee engagement in key areas:
First, you will be providing your sales associates with modern in-store and back-office tools and technology that help them offer customers a quick, knowledgeable and personalized experience.
Next, by providing training on new systems and technologies, you will promote your brand and your business as an ambassador of employee talent development and professional growth.
And ultimately, with a unified system, you can leverage insights on performance and service quality to identify areas of strength, and talent development opportunities that can help you build an engaged team.
These elements combined have the potential to create a robust and enthusiastic team who is committed to doing great work and to the success of your stores.
4. Get on board with social media
There is no way to get around it. Social media is here to stay. So, it’s time to get social on those platforms where your customers spend time, and where they can follow what you are up to.
Be friendly and honest and save the corporate messaging for your website. Social media is your opportunity to further develop your approachability with current customers and promote your retail business as an open and welcoming environment to all.
Be constant once you get started. Social media is not very effective when used only occasionally. Have a marketing and communication strategy in mind and push content that is relevant to your customer base and that aligns with your retail image.
Be accessible and keep the communication channels open. Keep in mind that consumers often use social media to vent and comment so, again, post regularly and do not ignore your followers. Address their comments and concerns in a timely manner and always reply to their questions. You will keep your customers engaged, and build a loyal following for your business.
Be a fun destination to visit. Weave entertaining elements such as contests or events, into your social media marketing and communication strategies. Make it worthwhile, relaxing and fun for your current and potential customers to spend their free time on your page and visit frequently.
In the end, by tying into some of the current retail imperatives, you can stick to these resolutions beyond March and throughout the year.
The ACCEO Retail-1 team wishes you a happy and successful New Year!