The Challenge

In the modern climate, traditional bricks & mortar retailers have been hit by a couple of big curve-balls:
1. Serial cost cutting initiatives born out of 5/6 years of dampened consumer confidence
2. The wave of multi-channel shopping alternatives and associated new market entrants

Around 90% of all retail transactions still take place in stores so retailers with heavy investment in physical shopping space are still well placed. However, how do they continue to make stores relevant? How do they transform the in-store experience in the wake of years of frugality? How do they give customers a reason to continue dragging themselves through the doors of a store not just to browse before diverting to a competitor, but make a purchase?

The Answer

Maximising the impact of the oldest and most powerful sales tool in the book:
The shopfloor colleague
Whether it’s an immediate purchase in-store or a future purchase with that same retailer’s online offer, in-store service is a traditional retailer’s trump card given the colleagues:
a) Have sufficient time to serve
b) Are focused on delivering across all channels

So how does this play out?

1. Do more…with the same: Hitting the middle ground between cost reduction and store investment

Walk in to many retailers and there’s plenty of evidence that the cost-cutting initiatives of the past half decade haven’t necessarily gone hand in hand with efficiency. Short-term margin-focused initiatives often have a longer term impact which is not always easy to foresee. Let’s think for example about those replenishment teams moved in-hours. An increased colleague presence on the shopfloor and cost effective move away from night premiums, or sub-par service and heavy customer obstruction during key trading times?

Subsequently there are many golden nuggets of operational effectiveness to be won throughout a store’s operations. Whether that’s efficiency of replenishment, complexity of internal audits or customer-focused scheduling of colleagues, the trick is to go after these existing inefficiencies to fuel the new service environment that you want to ignite.

2. Refocus the ‘lost generation’: Win back store colleagues scarred from years of cost cutting initiatives

Building effective in-store operations is one hurdle, but sustainability of a transformed in-store experience relies on a far more complex ecosystem: The colleague population.
With refined in-store operations providing them with the time, retail colleagues will need to be refocused on those things that truly matter to the paying customer, and away from the non-value adding activities of the past. They must be provided with not only the skill to deliver differentiated customer experience, but also the will to provide this day in, day out.
A carefully constructed service-focused training model working alongside an incentive structure focused on customer rather than business outcomes can be an incredibly powerful combination to transform the loyal team that retailers already have standing in their stores.

Summary: A frugal transformation

Whilst there will always be a place for (arguably a need for) reinvention of the store environment in the right circumstances, for those retailers without the deepest of pockets there is huge potential in maximising the assets they already have to transform the customer experience in store. By re-focusing the time and environment you already have, and providing existing colleagues with the will and the skill to deliver first class customer service, you really can do more with what you’ve already got.