Retail Efficiency: Best Practices in Retail Store Operations

Retail Efficiency: Best Practices in Retail Store Operations

09 August 2022

Retail | Operations

Retail efficiency might not be the most exciting phrase in the retail world.

But in 2022, efficient retail store operations are critical - not only for profitability - but also for a superior customer experience. 

This post will help you improve efficiency in your stores and identify the biggest challenges your stores are facing on the road to operational excellence.

We'll cover:

  • Why success in retail can't exist without efficient store operations
  • How operational efficiency and omnichannel are linked
  • Which obstacles prevent stores from becoming efficient
  • Best practices for improving store operations 
  • How other retailers are doing it

Retail Efficiency: What is it?

Retail operational efficiency is a state of higher desired outputs while requiring less inputs to get there.

So what does this mean for stores?

An operationally efficient retail store has maximized its outputs (which we’ll define as the quality of the customer experience, brand image and sales) while requiring fewer inputs (which we’ll define as people, time and money) to get there.


Why is store operational efficiency critical for success in retail?

It helps retailers:

  • Reduce costs. Less money, time and staff resources are needed to achieve better results.
  • Increase profits. Studies have linked operationally efficient stores to higher levels of profitability for retailers.
  • Demonstrate the ROI of the physical store. Increased rents, higher wages, declining store traffic (a 3% decline every year) have put a lot of pressure on retailers to justify the continuing existence of each store in their network. Simply put, stores must do more with less.
  • Make better decisions. Stores are a goldmine of invaluable data that most retailers aren’t aware of. Data from online shopping channels are analyzed extensively to help retailers make the most strategic decisions - why isn’t the same approach applied to stores?

Want to know how to how to improve retail store operations while cutting costs?  Download this free Ebook to learn more: Retail Recovery: 4 Ways to Cut Costs and Boost Performance 

Retail recovery: 4 ways to cut costs and boost performance

It helps store teams:

  • Improve the customer shopping experience. Efficiency gives store teams more time with customers, providing the human connection that makes stores so special.
  • Become more autonomous. Operational efficiency refocuses store teams and store managers on decision making instead of low-value admin tasks.
  • Enjoy their job more. Being micromanaged is a death sentence for your happiness as an employee. Store managers of operationally efficient stores refocus their store teams on spending time with customers and developing their skills.

It helps consumers:

  • Get their expectations met and actually enjoy shopping. Customers don’t want to be waiting in long lines or searching through disorganized displays. When retail efficiency is achieved, this is avoided and the in-store experience is more enjoyable and fulfilling for everyone.

Why is store operational efficiency the key to a true omnichannel experience?

A seamless omnichannel experience is expected in 2022.  A 2022 Omnichannel Statistics Overview found that retailers who don’t sell on multiple channels miss up to 30% of sales. But many retailers are struggling to integrate stores into their omnichannel strategy.

Why are retailers lagging behind?

  • The old-school “online vs. offline” mindset that many retailers still have, in which shopping online and in-store are viewed as competitors.
  • Stores lack the operational efficiency necessary to integrate with omnichannel shopping.

Why is retail efficiency necessary for this integration?

  • With so many outputs spread over so many channels, every backend operating system has to be efficient or the whole shopping journey collapses. Omnichannel can’t exist without operational efficiency. And if the store is part of omnichannel shopping, it can’t survive without operational efficiency either.

The truth is, stores have a lot to learn from online shopping before they can master operational efficiency.

Retailers with eCommerce platforms are constantly analyzing vast amounts of data to optimize the user experience and make the customer journey as seamless as possible. Every new innovation is correlated to a sales output - or else what would be the point?

But the approach most retailers take to optimizing the customer journey and increasing conversions in-store is a lot like throwing fistfulls of cooked spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.

That’s why operational efficiency is so desperately needed to fully integrate stores into the omnichannel experience.

And the time to get that done was yesterday.


Why is operational efficiency a challenge for retailers?

  • A lack of visibility into store operations. Running your stores efficiently without visibility into what’s going on inside them is virtually impossible. 
  • A lack of support for stores. This stems from a top-down approach to retail, where head office decides what happens and stores scramble to get it done. The result is a lack of cohesiveness between the different levels of the organisation - and it shows.
  • Limitations in evaluating individual store performance. When a retailer can’t evaluate store performance they can’t spot efficiency problems and can’t help stores get better.
  • High employee turnover. Running a retail store in the fastest, most efficient way is no easy feat in an industry with one of the highest turnover rates around. 
  • Manual, time-consuming daily store tasks. These tasks haven’t evolved in decades. Just like that weekly 9AM Monday meeting where no one has anything to say, but no one is brave enough to stop showing up, many store processes exist simply because they’ve always been done that way.

How to improve operational efficiency in retail stores

  • Change your mindset. Head office exists to support stores, not police them. Changing the way you look at stores will help you spot inefficient tasks. 
  • Identify inefficient tasks. Ask yourself how each procedure contributes to the in-store experience relative to the time it takes up. 
  • Automate. Seeing things from the store's perspective will make this easier. 
  • Measure and monitor store operations. Every store task is a revenue- driving activity and should be continually monitored and optimized. 
  • Refocus store teams on the customer experience. They'll have more time for customer service, training and development, which is far more engaging than low-value operational tasks. 
  • Invest in store tech that makes all of the above easier. If something's being done manually, it's definitely not being done properly. 

Making these changes will help you better support your frontline teams in their quest to establish and follow the best practices in retail store operations. And with the right support, stores will achieve a state of operational excellence.

Operational excellence simply means that maximum performance with minimum effort to get there has become the default mode of the store.

Where do I start?

Here are a few of the most inefficient store processes: 

  • Filling out retail store visit checklists. Read this blog to find out the 5 common problems with retail store visits and how to fix them.
  • Rollout of promotions, campaigns and product launches
  • Reporting and resolving maintenance and facilities issues
  • Product and inventory management
  • Retail store communications
  • Health and safety audits

While all these procedures are vital, the way they're done hasn't changed in decades. And that's what needs to change to reach a state of operational excellence. 


Here’s how other retailers did it

See how streamlined communications helped Lacoste perfect in-store brand image and be more reactive as a retailer:

HubSpot Video

 

See how operational efficiency supercharged leading French toy retailer King Jouet’s digitization and differentiation strategies:

HubSpot Video

 Key Takeaway

If increased profits, data-driven decisions, happier employees and an improved customer experience aren't reasons enough to focus on store operational efficiency, consider that the survival of brick and mortar retail depends on its ability to seamlessly integrate with other ways of shopping. 

Consumers expect a seamless shopping experience on your website, on Instagram, on Amazon, in your stores and everywhere in between. A seamless shopping experience is one that revolves around them. And if they can't get it they'll move on. 

For every retailer who can't master omnichannel, there are thousands of others nailing it every day. 

The survival of a retailer's physical store depends on the extent to which stores can put the customer journey first.

So why not start today?

The YOOBIC tool enables 300+ retailers including Johnston and Murphy, Boots, Vans, The Kooples, Logitech and Leyland SDM achieve consistent operational excellence across their store networks. To see how YOOBIC would drive efficiency for your store teams, get a demo!

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