WARMINSTER, PA, August 2, 2023 –
What are Retail Operations?
The term ‘retail operations’ typically refers to the day-to-day activities of businesses within the retail industry. These activities can include sales, e-commerce, customer experience management, inventory management, customer service, and more. It is said that ‘streamlined retail operations’ means that the store’s default is achieving maximum performance with minimum effort.
Why Achieving Streamlined Retail Operations is Difficult
The retail industry has undergone a significant amount of change over the years. Whether it be technological advances, changing consumer preferences or wider economic factors, all have played and continue to play an important role in shaping retail operations. However, achieving streamlined retail operations is now more complex and challenging for a number of reasons.
Changing Customer Expectations
What customers expect of retail stores has changed substantially. For instance, many customers now prefer self-service checkouts over traditional checkouts due to their desire for speed, convenience, and in some cases, less human interaction. Overall, customers expect ever higher levels of convenience and a near-enough seamless shopping experience at the checkout or elsewhere throughout the store. Given these changes, focusing on customer experience and customer relationship management is paramount to success.
Labour Shortages & High Employee Turnover
Ongoing labour shortages and high staff turnover are also major challenges currently being faced by the retail industry. This unfortunate combination is causing a chain reaction of problems that negatively impact retailers’ bottom lines. If these issues are not managed correctly and in a timely manner, retail operations will likely take a hit. For example, without enough staff to provide adequate care customer service and keep stores stocked and organised, there will likely be an increase in customer complaints and potentially an impact on customer retention and/or the experiences had by new customers.
Lack of Visibility, Support & Cohesion
Another reason that organisations in the retail sector may struggle to achieve streamlined operations is due to a lack of support from the business’ head office. Management at the top of the organization may control operations and make decisions without much insight into how things really operate on the ground. This lack of cohesion between different levels of the business can be a major hindrance to the achievement of efficient retail operations.
Poor Performance Management & Evaluation
The failure to effectively evaluate and manage performance, whether this be store or employee performance, is another reason why many retail firms struggle to achieve streamlined retail operations. If store management are too caught up with other tasks and/or there is a lack of cohesiveness with head office (as mentioned above), it is unlikely that any areas of inefficiency will be identified, thereby hindering the chance of improvements being made and streamlined operations being achieved.
The Importance of A Cohesive Retail Operations Strategy
Given these challenges, it is vital that retail management approach retail operations in a strategic manner and consider the following.
In 2023, a seamless omnichannel experience is expected. Nowadays, effective customer experience management is realizing that customers, both old and new, are interacting with retail businesses across multiple different touch points. A touch point is any point of interaction a consumer has with a business before, during, or after the point of purchase. For instance, it has been reported that almost half of consumers prepare for shopping in-store by conducting their own online research beforehand. With this key example in mind, it is important for retailers to consider all parts of their omnichannel strategy and how they work together cohesively to achieve a streamlined retail operation overall.
Similarly, any retail business that is serious about improving their retail operations must take an end-to-end customer perspective and think about the overall customer journey. The success and ultimate survival of physical retail stores depend hugely on their ability to put customer journeys first – from the moment they discover the brand, all the way through to purchase and after-purchase service.
How To Streamline Your Retail Operations
Create Standardized Processes and Procedures
No matter the size of your business or how many stores you have, one of the most fundamental elements to achieving streamlined retail operations is creating and implementing a set of standard processes and procedures. With clearly defined procedures in place, retailers can save valuable time, which may have been spent checking up on or correcting staff not following the expected guidelines. These standards and processes should cover areas such as merchandising/display, customer service/customer experience management, cash management, store upkeep/cleaning, inventory management, and more.
Invest in Technology
Technology of all kinds can be used to streamline retail operations. In fact, technology is extremely important to retail operations nowadays, as it was recently reported that in North America, the market for retail technology is expected to reach $26bn by 2026.
For example, with increasing consumer expectations for convenience, it can be beneficial for retail businesses seeking to streamline operations to introduce certain technologies. For example, mobile point of sale (mPOS) is increasingly popular among retail customers. Equipping staff with mPOS technology is an excellent way to boost customer experience as it allows shoppers to checkout whenever and wherever they want in-store. Offering mPOS also helps to streamline retail operations as it can help to reduce wait times at fixed points of sale, such as manned checkouts or self-service checkouts.
Optimize POS System
For retailers to get the most out of their chosen Point of Sale (POS) technology, it must be optimized for the specific product or service, business goals, and consumer needs associated with that business. With advancements in both POS hardware and software, retailers can now use POS systems tailored to their business to streamline and track a number of processes. These include inventory management, sales reporting, and even employee monitoring/management. Utilizing software to keep track of such data saves a lot of time and money.
Focus on Inventory Management
An efficient inventory management system is key to achieving streamlined retail operations. As mentioned above, POS systems can now aid in the inventory management process, making it even easier for retailers to plan accordingly to meet customer needs. Maintaining efficient stock is critical to good customer service. Understocked and poorly managed shelves can result in frustrated customers and lost sales. As such, choosing an appropriate inventory management system for your business is essential if you want to meet customer needs and ensure customer satisfaction.
Ensure Technology is Set Up Efficiently
To get the most benefit out of your chosen technology, it is vital that the technology is set up efficiently. Consider the placement of the technology in the store – does it follow the natural progression of a customer through the store? For example, if you set up a point of sale in a far corner of the store, this may not be the most effective, streamlined place to locate it in terms of the usual customer journey. In turn, it is important to consider the needs of the store’s sales representatives to ensure that they are able to use the technology comfortably. For instance, the technology must be at an appropriate height for all store associates and/or should be adjustable to suit different heights and preferences.
Ensure Technology is Secure
With the use of any technology in retail comes the need to ensure it is protected from theft, damage, and other forms of criminal interference. Aside from the business case to protect your retail technology, it is also a requirement. There are a number of global standards set up by the PCI Security Standards Council, which aim to ensure the implementation of standards by retailers of all types and sizes to ensure safe, secure payments for business customers. You can learn more about PCI SSC compliance here.
Provide Employees With Technology Training
The reality is that not all employees will be naturally tech-savvy, and some may find the thought of using new technology daunting. So, to get the best results from new technological investments and for the technology to positively impact customer satisfaction and customer experience, store managers must ensure that all staff receive adequate training for any store technology.
Invest in Retail Business Employees
This need for training also extends to other areas of the business. Given that employees are an integral part of any retail business, investing in retail staff and ensuring they receive adequate training in all appropriate areas of the business is a key way to ensure retail operations run smoothly. For example, if employees are educated on customer service best practices and the set procedures for handling any customer complaints or queries, customers are more likely to have a positive experience. This is especially important for new customers as first impressions count.
Gather Customer Feedback
Gathering customer feedback is essential, especially if you are serious about improving customer experience and streamlining operations. Whether conducting more structured consumer research or simply talking to customers as they shop throughout the store, using this data is a proven way to identify areas for improvement and find out where customers truly find value.
Bridge The Gap Between Offline and Online Shopping
A great way to please shoppers and improve customer experience is to incorporate the parts of online shopping that customers love. Despite significant growth in e-commerce, many consumers still rely on or prefer physical stores. As was mentioned earlier, almost half of consumers prepare for shopping in a physical store by going online.
Similarly, many consumers now browse and shop from the comfort of their homes and then pick their orders up in-store. By offering BOPIS (Buy Online Pick-Up In-Store), retailers are meeting a growing consumer preference and are making the shopping experience more convenient and seamless. Offering BOPIS could also be a way to add additional touch points to the customer journey and potentially gain new visitors to the store (e.g. if a consumer found the brand online, placed an order and then decided to check the business out in person by choosing to pick up the order).
Optimize Retail Store Layout & Design
The store environment, which includes store layout, design, and overall ambiance, plays a significant role in customer experience. In line with research findings, many companies now seek to design stores that encourage customers to spend longer in the store, hoping they purchase more. Most importantly though, retailers must consider the customer journey when deciding on store layout and design. If the store is not organized in a way that makes sense to customers (and staff), retail operations will not likely run smoothly.
Prioritize Organization in Retail Stores
Leading on from this, another key element of customer experience management involves maintaining a high level of cleanliness and organization throughout the store, both front and back. Customers will have a more positive experience if products are in the correct places and are located in intuitive spots throughout the store that make sense vis-à-vis the customer journey. Retailers can also avoid time being wasted if staff have to search for items in a messy warehouse or show customers to where an item is located.
Take Advantage of Automation
A great way to increase efficiency is to automate retail operations with technology hardware and/or software. Automation can be used to conduct and manage repetitive or time-consuming tasks such as inventory management, payroll, store temperature control, customer loyalty and more. With automation, retailers can more easily achieve standardized processes across different locations and can enable retail staff to focus on more important, value-adding tasks.
Likewise, taking automated task management as an example, retailers can avoid miscommunication and potential wasted time if it is unclear which employee is in charge of which tasks. In the case of loyalty programs, automation can also be beneficial. POS systems can be set up to alert checkout staff when customers are eligible for a discount, free gift, or similar, thereby helping to nurture valuable customer relationships.
Maximize Cost Effectiveness
As in any industry, the bottom line cannot be neglected. Cost-effectiveness must be considered when making any decisions to streamline retail operations. If retailers wish to increase efficiency, the most obvious place to begin is with labor. For instance, labor costs can be reduced by maximizing productivity while staff are on the clock. Having set procedures in place and an encouraging, supportive management team will help in this endeavour.
Conduct Regular Retail Store Audits
Last but not least – to ensure all of the above is running smoothly and helping towards more streamlined retail operations overall, store managers must conduct regular audits. Management must regularly review store and employee performance and all store processes/procedures to ensure they are still beneficial and conducive to business goals being achieved. It is important for any inefficiencies to be identified and improved upon as soon as possible, otherwise the achievement of streamlined operations will be hindered.
Using Havis Solutions to Streamline Retail Operations
As an industry leader in technology mounting and mobility solutions, Havis is uniquely placed to help companies expand their service offerings and streamline their retail operations. From the curbside and front of store to the warehouse and last mile delivery, Havis offers a wide range of solutions that enable retail businesses to boost efficiency, increase sales and provide superior customer experience.
Self-Service Kiosk Solutions
Havis offers a selection of retail self-service kiosk solutions, enabling retail management to streamline operations and empower customers. For example, Havis’s recently launched SC-1000, a family of universal self-checkout and self-service kiosk solutions, is helping to streamline operations by enabling retailers to make use of their existing technology. SC-1000 kiosks also help merchants cater to customer demand with the option to convert from a self-checkout to an associate POS station in seconds. Available in Countertop or Pedestal/Floor configurations, SC-1000 products provide versatile, future-proof self-service kiosk solutions which are simple and elegant.
Payment Terminal Stands
Havis provides a comprehensive portfolio of payment terminal stands and accessories for many of the newest and most popular devices on the market, with stands available in a range of heights, styles, and materials. By mounting a payment terminal to a stand and then to a fixed location such as a checkout counter, retailers can benefit by protecting valuable technology from accidental damage, tampering, theft, and/or substitution. Likewise, the mounting of devices also assists with requirements for usability, ensuring that all customers can easily and comfortably make payments. The correct, secure mounting of payment devices in retail is crucial for streamlining operations. It ensures customers can make payments seamlessly and maximizes device uptime by mitigating accidental damage.
Havis’s proprietary Mobile Protect line of mobile cases is ideal for mobile point of sale (mPOS) use cases across the retail sector. These protective cases are expertly designed to protect mobile payment and computing devices from accidental drops, bumps, and scratches. Available for many of the market’s newest and most popular mPOS devices, Havis’s Mobile Protect cases provide an enhanced grip experience and improved usability, installing in seconds without using tools. Additionally, with a range of optional drop-in or slide-in charging solutions, Havis can help retail companies ensure their mobile payment devices are always charged and ready to use. Havis chargers also offer a reliable location to store devices when not in use, ensuring staff know where they can find the device(s) when needed. In all, this is great for streamlining operations.
More from Havis
With an ever-expanding portfolio of innovative solutions, both off-the-shelf and custom, the ways in which Havis can help you to streamline your retail operations are endless. To explore the full Havis Retail & Hospitality portfolio, click here. Alternatively, contact us today to discuss your particular goals and requirements.
Havis, Inc. is a privately held, ISO 9001-certified company that is the leader in providing robust and reliable end-to-end technology mounting and mobility solutions in demanding environments. The Havis legacy dates back over 80 years as a trusted designer and manufacturer of critical equipment that ensures critical technology is accessible, secure and reliable.
Havis’s engineering and manufacturing teams are committed to consistently researching and developing unique products and solutions for a range of industries worldwide. With headquarters in Warminster, PA, and additional locations in Plymouth, MI, Burnsville, MN, and in the UK, Havis currently employs more than 400 team members. For more information on Havis, please call 1.800.524.9900 or visit http://www.havis.com.