Retail Task Management: The Complete Guide to store task management

Retail Task Management: The Strategic Guide to Optimizing Task Management in Retail

Apr 29, 2021 11:23:06 AM

Retail | Operations

Retail task management is the strategy that retail teams use to streamline all the tasks and processes that contribute to the upkeep of a successful store. This involves delivering instructions, allocating time for each store task, assigning tasks to employees, and prioritizing which tasks are the most important.

Store tasks include: 

  • Daily tasks, like completing opening checklists, stock audits, and creating sales reports.
  • Weekly tasks, like ordering stock and reviewing reports and feedback.
  • Monthly tasks, these could be things like cleaning the stock room or creating the employee shift rota.
  • One-off tasks, these can include setting up themed displays for holidays, re-calling stock from the shelves or onboarding new employees.

Efficient task management in retail creates the right conditions for frictionless store operations. When tasks are managed effectively, the time and effort retail teams have to spend on admin tasks is minimized, so they have more time to spend creating a fantastic experience for customers.


Why is effective retail task management critical for success?

A successful retail store is compliant, cost-effective, has fulfilled employees, and a great customer experience that’s consistent with every other store. Effective management of retail tasks achieves all of the above and benefits:


Efficient task management frees up store teams to spend their time improving the in-store experience. This matters more than ever now that online shopping is the norm and people need a significant reason to make the commitment to go into a store rather than opting for a delivery service or click and collect. When employees can give customers their full attention, they are in a better position to uphold social distancing precautions and understand customer needs. 


Time is money, and when task management is efficient it keeps costs down. Efficient task management also gives real-time visibility into store compliance and operations, so retailers can be confident that all stores have carried out tasks to the expected standard. Plus, managing tasks efficiently gives employees more time to interact with customers, which translates to more sales and makes retailers more profitable.

Store employees 

Store employees want to spend more time with customers - it’s the part of their job they find most rewarding. But they’re working at a time of increased stress as they carry out measures to make shopping safe in addition to their usual tasks. When admin work is efficient instead of manual and monotonous, it makes their workloads more manageable and reduces overwhelm. Investing in making frontline workers’ lives easier shows employees that their contributions are recognized and valued.


Where are retailers getting task management wrong? 

Outdated processes

In-person audits, emails, and paper forms are error-prone and limit how quickly tasks can be completed and feedback can be implemented. A 2022 survey of 1,400 frontline employees found that over half of workers wished for better workplace tools that would make their jobs easier.

Unclear instructions

There’s only so much you can say using paper and email. A picture speaks a thousand words, a video even more. How confident can employees really be that they’ve arranged a seasonal display correctly when the instructions are only delivered in writing?

In addition to this, priorities are bound to be unclear when tasks are fired at employees in a steady stream of notifications throughout the day. It’s no wonder employees are left feeling unsure of where to start.

Inconsistent feedback

If HQ doesn’t explain the value of a task and check whether it has been completed correctly, why would employees be motivated to do it properly? Providing regular feedback to store teams and explaining the impact of a task is critical for motivating employees to do it perfectly every time.

But feedback is slow and employees can feel like they’re sending emails into the void when they ask for help. Only 41% of workers over 54 and 28% of millennials find it easy to understand whether their work meets company expectations. 


The impact of inefficient retail task management 

Lack of visibility

Company HQs need to have a clear line of sight into what has been completed at all times. Managing tasks using paper or using computer files like excel documents means that information about what has been done is not automatically available to HQ, and there’s no way to know if stores are falling behind.


69% of retail employees are still using paper forms, which are more likely to be damaged, thrown away, lost in the murky depths of the stockroom, or buried under a mountain of documents in a folder. This can have very serious consequences for a store, as instructions for important processes like enforcing health and safety precautions, completing refunds, or applying discounts can be lost. 


A HBR study on Task Completion Bias found that when individuals are given a long list of tasks, they are likely to manage their workload by completing the easiest task first, even if it’s not the most urgent. This can have serious consequences as one-off tasks which suddenly arise may be neglected, even when they are critical for health and safety, such as clearing up a spillage or replacing fire alarms. Non-compliances like these can lead to costly fines for retailers.

Worsened customer experience

Store teams aren’t available to help customers if they’re stuck redoing admin tasks when mistakes are made due to unclear directions. Customers come into a physical store because they want an attentive and personalized experience, therefore poor service will discourage customers from visiting again.

Stressful employee experience 

Unclear instructions lead to mistakes that employees have to correct, which is frustrating and sucks any personal fulfillment employees might gain from getting the tasks done. 

A Fast Company report on The Cost of Task Switching claimed that it takes employees an average of 23 minutes to refocus on a task after being distracted so jumping between tasks as different situations arise on the shop floor is stressful for employees who don't have a clear list of priorities.

Think of it like spinning plates, except some plates are worth $1000 and others are worth $1, but they all look the same. When you’re simply told you have to keep them all spinning you might be so preoccupied with a $1 plate that you allow a more valuable plate to smash. 

When employees are able to confidently prioritize, they can concentrate on the most valuable tasks. 

Operational inefficiency

When tasks take longer to complete perfectly, brands can’t be as agile in their response to issues or changes. For example, if a company is deploying a new concept like clothing repair, in-store treatments, or grocery refill stations, a company with a weak task management strategy will take longer to mobilize employees to get it set up perfectly. Stores need to be in a constant state of operational excellence in 2022, as situations can change at light speed, and being agile is the only way to keep up.

Want to learn strategies to achieve a state of operational excellence? Read this guide! >>> Operational Excellence: The Complete Guide to Success

Damage to retail brand image

Retail giants have been subject to public criticism when images of messy stores have gone viral on social media. Employees had been bombarded with tasks and a lack of clear priorities meant that the store's appearance was neglected. The disorganized VM that customers experienced was shared widely online which damaged the reputation of the stores involved.


How to improve store task management in retail 

Digitize where you can

A survey of 1000 frontline employees found that 71% know they’d be more productive if their processes were digital. Most tasks that store teams do by hand could be automated. Digitizing processes with a retail task management software cuts down admin work while improving accuracy. 

Go mobile-first

A 2022 survey found that the tool frontline workers most desired to improve their productivity was a task management app. Delivering all task instructions via retail task management software designed for mobile devices means that employees don’t need to waste time looking for information as everything can be accessed via their mobile phones. 

Deliver tasks in an engaging format

Present instructions and expectations in a specific and engaging way so employees know exactly what they need do. Show, don’t tell - use video, pictures, or diagrams to demonstrate how to carry out tasks like setting up displays or re-calling stock. This makes the margin for error much smaller as it's clear what is expected. Use digital checklists to deliver step-by-step instructions and make it easy to tick off each step as it’s completed.

Make priorities clear

Research suggests that people have the most willpower early in the day, so if top priorities are highlighted for employees at the beginning of their shift they are more likely to be motivated to get them done straight away. Make it easy to communicate when something is unclear or changes occur, communication needs to be easy so that everyone is aware if priorities change. 

Get feedback regularly

Ask for feedback from store teams about how clear they think instructions are to make sure you’re communicating effectively. You should also ask store teams where the most errors occur and which tasks take up the most time so that you are aware of where more support may be needed and how to assign priorities most effectively.


Where do I start when improving retail store task management? 

There are four stages to improving task management in retail:

Assess existing processes

Speak to employees - which tasks do they think could be done better and how? What changes would they like to see to the way they manage retail store tasks? Find employee ambassadors who can explain what works and what doesn’t with existing processes, where instructions could be clearer, and where the most mistakes are made. This will show you the key areas for improvement to focus on.

Choose a mobile-first retail task management software

Invest in retail task management software that can deliver all task instructions, indicate which tasks are the most important and track what has been completed. Make sure it’s user-focused and supports video, animations and checklists to track tasks, easily assign and deliver task instructions in an engaging way. It’s crucial that the platform is mobile friendly so that employees can easily access it on the job.

Are you in the process of choosing retail task management software for your store teams? Follow this guide to find the perfect tool for you! >>> The Complete Guide to Choosing Retail Task Management Software

Involve employees in planning

Get frontline employees on board with the design, testing, and deployment of the new platform to ensure that it’s centered around their needs. You can use surveys, focus groups, or employee ambassadors to create a platform that best serves the employees who will be using it.

Review, review, review

Improving task management isn’t a one-time fix. Regularly gather feedback from store teams to find out what’s working well and what needs to be improved.

What format do employees prefer instructions to be delivered in? Are they allocated enough time to complete each task? At what times is the store busiest and how can tasks be scheduled so that they don’t eat into this time? A constant flow of feedback and evaluation is needed to keep stores operating at peak performance.


How other retailers mastered store task management:

SMCP Group:

SMCP Group was looking for a way to align and elevate in-store execution, engage employees and improve visibility globally across their 3 historical brands. By partnering with YOOBIC, SMCP Group has amplified the voice of their store teams and significantly boosted employee engagement while increasing compliance across their network.

The entire organization is now more connected, aligning store processes with high-level business outcomes and giving HQ enhanced visibility into store operations. SMCP can now act more cohesively and dynamically as a business and will use this efficiency to continue to fuel its growth.


The Kooples:

For French fashion retailer The Kooples, using email for task management was keeping store teams and store managers away from the shop floor, which meant that customer experience - and ultimately revenue - were slipping. Some defected products were slipping under the radar as it was difficult to maintain adherence to processes and guidelines across all branches.

By consolidating all tasks on a mobile app, store teams can now find everything they need for perfect execution in the palms of their hands. Area teams and HQ have far greater visibility into store operations, since employees confirm task completion by submitting photos.

As a result, store compliance has increased by 33%. Another consequence of going mobile with task management is faster processing of store maintenance reports and flagging of defective products, helping store teams deliver a better and far more consistent experience across every location. 

Adore Me:

Previously online-only intimates brand Adore Me knew they’d need a tool to maintain consistency in visual merchandising as they opened more brick and mortar stores. Using tools such as emails, spreadsheets, and Google docs was limiting how reactive store teams were able to be, as finding the right information wasn’t easy.

But after switching to one mobile platform for task management, every store is agile and uses interactive checklists, weekly to-do lists, and ad-hoc ‘Missions’ to streamline store operations. What’s more, by combining task management, communications, and training in one platform, Adore Me allows teams to operate at maximum efficiency and continually progress.

Key takeaways 

  • Effective task management makes perfect execution easy for store teams, gives them more time to spend with customers but also gives area and HQ teams feedback into store execution. 
  • The best way to make task management effective is to digitize tasks and processes, giving employees more time to spend with customers.
  • Task management needs to be centered around the needs of store teams. Using mobile devices makes information immediately accessible and fits in with their flow of work.


200+ retailers including SMCP Group, Gant, Adore Me, Boots, The Kooples Vans and Lancôme use YOOBIC's AI-powered digital workplace tool to streamline and optimize retail task management. Want to know why? Get a demo!