Running the Store of the Future in Today’s Retail Reality
At the start of the year—and the start of a new decade—the store of the future was a hot topic. New retail technology, shopping channels, and customer expectations drove innovation and speculation about what might come next. But by the end of March, it seemed like everything in the retail landscape had changed.
Now, retailers have had time to adapt their retail operations to the immediate challenges posed by the pandemic and are starting to think about the store of the future again. With foot traffic down and convenience in high demand, retailers are exploring strategies to make omnichannel shopping experiences seamless, frictionless, and engaging. At the same time, many are developing new store formats and layouts to better serve changing customer demands. This innovation also requires updating your store operations and execution strategy to keep up with this new retail reality.
What’s in Store for Future Stores?
The current public health crisis has caused retailers to diversify their network of stores. These new formats, layouts, and strategies help retailers fill service gaps and effectively connect with customers during disruption.
In order to make in-store shopping more convenient—and enticing—retailers are experimenting with new store layouts and designs. These new models help highlight key product offers and simplify the customer journey in store, so customers can efficiently find the staples they need and the extras they want. At the same time, additions like kiosks, pick up lockers, and self-checkout options give shoppers more omnichannel options and easy contactless experiences.
In addition to revamping existing stores, many retailers are also adding entirely new infrastructure, with investments in:
- Discount Stores – In the face of large inventory backlogs and low consumer spending, chains like DICK’S Sporting Goods and Macy’s are developing or expanding their off-price offerings. These discount stores allow brands to give cash-strapped consumers shopping options without undercutting the value of the overall brand.
- Distribution Centers – In addition to in-store changes, retailers are adding new distribution centers to help speed up shipping times. With the current demand for digital and omnichannel service, adding DCs enables retailers to increasingly offer same-day delivery or pickup, and maintain a competitive edge.
- Dark Stores – Similarly, some retailers are converting existing store space into dark stores—stores dedicated to packing online orders, offering quick, local fulfillment, but closed to in-person shopping. Grocery retailers also converting facilities into ghost kitchens, enabling customers to conveniently pick up hot meals and meal kits without having to enter a crowded store or restaurant.
Innovating Store Strategy and Store Operations
These reinventions empower you to connect with customers, create engaging experiences, and ultimately develop the store of the future. However, innovation isn’t without challenges; adding store layouts or formats also requires updating your store operations and execution.
Different stores have different needs at the best of times, but the more diverse your locations are, the more noise potentially exists in your operations. New formats require different staffing and forecasting models. Certain projects will only apply to stores with new layouts or offerings. Daily tasks for an associate in a dark store may look very different to their counterpart in a traditional store. Your operations and workforce management solutions need to be able to account for this variation or you risk flooding stores with irrelevant and inaccurate information.
Intelligent communications and real-time task management can help mitigate this risk; corporate-to-store communication—from updates and training resources, to merchandising projects and store audits—can be targeted by role, location, store features, and more. As a result, store managers and associates only receive the tasks or updates that are relevant to their stores and their jobs.
Additionally, during this period of change and disruption, it’s easy for updates to be missed or mistakes to be made as frontline teams adapt. With a real-time store execution system, your field managers have real-time visibility into which stores have completed projects, which have questions, which are out of compliance, and more. This enables them to lead effectively, and manage by exception. Rather than following up with every store or manager individually, field managers or corporate stakeholders can reach out to only those teams that need additional reminders or support to resolve issues. As a result, your frontline teams operate more efficiently, maximizing the return on investment for new store formats, programs, and infrastructure.
To learn how Reflexis can help you innovate store operations during disruption, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to connect with one of our experts!