Retail Execution: 3 Strategies for In-Store Success

Aug 5, 2021 3:01:00 PM

Customer experience

Retail execution is what makes shopping in a store so magical. It's how a really cool idea becomes a reality.

Today’s consumers are no longer content with an average store experience. They want to be inspired and engaged, they want to feel safe and comfortable. They want an immersive experience.

But immersive experiences don't happen by accident. Retailers have to create them and implement them effectively in stores.

This article will help you better support your store teams by implementing the 3 core components of a successful strategy to achieve perfect retail execution.

We'll cover:

  • The definition of a successful store execution
  • Who benefits from a well-executed store concept
  • Why retail execution is a challenge for retailers
  • The 3 core components every retail execution strategy must have
  • Where to start

Let's start with the basics. What does retail execution mean?

Retail execution is the correct implementation of brand guidelines, promotional campaigns, and everything else required to provide the ideal customer experience.

Flawless retail execution is the quick, consistent, and perfect implementation of all these things without putting a massive strain on store teams.

So, it is a set of behaviors, best practices, and technologies that make flawless implementation easy for store teams.

Why is this crucial for retailers?

A solid retail execution strategy helps retailers:

  • Improve the in-store experience by turning vision into reality, faster
  • Increase in-store conversion rates and boost sales, because customer experience has improved
  • Become more agile, reactive, and competitive, since it's easier to trial new concepts

It helps store teams:

  • Sell more by refocusing their time on what matters
  • Improve their performance, because there's a plan for them to succeed
  • Increase their job satisfaction and engagement, because now they can be certain they're contributing to increased sales and happier shoppers

It helps consumers:

  • Enjoy shopping more, because the customer experience has improved
  • Find what they're looking for faster because store teams have more time to help them
  • Engage more deeply with the brands they love, since each in-store experience is consistent

But what happens when a retailer has an insufficient retail execution strategy, or worse - doesn’t have one at all?

  • Directives from HQ aren't implemented properly, if at all
  • The revenue that went into creating new concepts is lost
  • Customer experience suffers
  • Sales are lost

Why is retail execution a challenge?

Coming up with the idea is the fun part; getting it 100% completed isn’t as easy. That’s why it’s easier to buy the expensive gym membership than it is to wake up at 5:30 AM to actually go.

In a report titled ‘ Retail Execution: The New Differentiator ’, Deloitte estimates that 90% of companies fail to execute their strategy.

But perfect execution and compliance are even more difficult for retailers. Why?

  • Different stores have different skill sets. Some store managers are people-centric. Some are detail-focused. Retail moves at a million miles a second, and with different skill sets and a million competing priorities, there’s no bird's eye view of what’s going on in every store. Sticking to the plan is difficult, and it’s not the store teams’ fault.

  • Not enough support from HQ. In the traditional hierarchy of retail, head office decides what gets done and stores do it, no matter how confusing things get. In 2022, with many shoppers reluctant to set foot in a store, retailers have to make the brick-and-mortar experience worth a customer’s while. That means HQ’s top priority should now be to support stores in providing the best experience possible.

  • Outdated procedures. Just because something worked well 10 years ago doesn't mean it works well today. In fact, you can almost guarantee it won’t. Endless emails and calls from the area manager checking whether the new window displays have been implemented are taking store teams off the shop floor and preventing them from doing their jobs properly.

  • No visibility into what goes on in-store. Retailers can't perfect their strategy if they have no idea how their stores actually operate day to day. Visibility isn't about big-brothering stores: it's about seeing things from a store team's perspective to make their daily lives easier.

The 3 components of successful retail execution:

Component 1: A detailed plan for stores to execute

Every retailer wants an exceptional customer experience. But not every retailer has thought through what this should look like in every store.

If your plan doesn’t include every single tiny detail that makes up the perfect customer journey, in-store execution will be mediocre at best.

When a retailer has a successful retail execution strategy, the ideal journey through the physical store has been carefully and thoroughly mapped out.

A properly implemented plan is what the perfect store looks and feels like - from finding the nearest location (and the correct opening hours) on Google Maps to being thanked for their purchase before leaving the store.

Things like lighting, temperature, and health and safety precautions are all part of this plan and should be consistent in every store. Even post-pandemic, health and safety are still a huge factor in the in-store experience - it is not okay for customers to be slipping on wet floors or around teetering displays that have not been assembled safely.

A successful plan specifies how the ideal retail experience makes every shopper feel special. Sales associates are a huge part of that customer journey - how they greet customers, the technology they’re equipped with to help shoppers, and the procedures they use to solve difficult situations. Shoppers are happiest when they feel like sales associates are going the extra mile to help them.

Key takeaway: Your retail execution plan is a blueprint that shows what a successful store should look like. If it's unclear in any way, the in-store experience will suffer.


Component 2: A store team-friendly way to communicate your retail execution strategy

So now we have our incredible customer journey all mapped out. Every detail is perfect. How do we achieve perfect execution of that customer journey in-store?

All retailers send guidelines and instructions to their stores. The problem arises when they’re not in a format that facilitates easy execution.

For HQ, printing off 20-page stacks of paper visual merchandising guidelines and mailing them off to stores could be something they’ve been doing for years, so they haven’t given much thought to whether it’s the smartest or most efficient way of working.

But for store teams, it’s a headache.

When a retailer has a successful strategy for communicating with stores, point-of-sale materials and guidelines always arrive on time and rarely have any parts missing.

But what if the store does receive the wrong guidelines, or their display is missing a stand?

Mistakes happen, of course. But they need to be resolved as quickly as possible.

A good communication strategy should include an easy way for stores to ask for help and flag issues (such as low stock or a maintenance request) so that resolutions can be found as quickly as possible to drive compliance.

Whether it be training, merchandising, planograms, or point-of-sale materials, a great communication strategy formats information specifically for deskless workers on the go with lots of competing priorities.

To master a successful retail execution strategy, the retailer needs to understand that the smooth day-to-day running of the store is a bigger priority for store teams than perfectly following the plan HQ sends out.

For example, store teams are more concerned with making sure shelves are stocked than they are with making sure a new collection is launched on time.

So if HQ wants everything implemented perfectly, they’ll need to see things from the store's point of view and make visual, operational and training tasks easy to understand and complete.

Key takeaway: Continuing to use outdated methods of sending merchandising guidelines, promotional materials, and daily operational tasks to stores mean that things aren't getting done, compliance is low and your customer experience is suffering. 

Component 3: Consistent monitoring, measuring, and analysis of in-store implementation

A new store concept might be innovative and look incredible, but does it actually drive sales?

And if it doesn’t, could the reason be that confusing instructions prevented its correct implementation?

Store visits are great ways to audit overall store performance and give teams extra coaching and training, but aren't enough to constitute monitoring.

That's because area managers are even busier than store teams and don't have the bandwidth to frequently check in on every store.

Remote store visits are a great way to resolve this if carried out correctly.

Take, for example, a retailer whose new bestselling SKU is a branded tote bag. As regional managers can only visit one or two stores per day in person, it took them weeks to realize that the bags weren’t being displayed in 20% of stores. This major oversight could have been avoided if they had adopted a remote retail audit model, instead of solely relying on face-to-face communication.

Related: 5 Common Problems with Retail Store Visits and How to Fix Them

A feedback loop is needed to communicate the plan, then see how the plan has been executed on.

Monitoring is the first step in making sure the correct customer experience ends up in stores, on time. By monitoring store progress, retailers can determine what works, what doesn't, and make the appropriate changes.

Key takeaway: You can't improve what you can't measure.

Where do I start?

Here's what you'll need to start implementing the 3 core components of a successful retail execution strategy:

A retail execution strategy that drives results should be a continuous cycle.

Make a plan. Communicate the plan to stores. Monitor, measure, and analyze the results.

A good strategy means nothing is left to chance, because in retail, failing to plan means planning to fail.


How can retailers reduce the skyrocketing cost of operating physical stores - without sacrificing the quality of execution and overall store performance?

Download this free Ebook to learn how to use tech to streamline retail operations and help each store do more with less.

Guide to rethinking retail operations