AI in Retail: Beyond The Hype and Into Reality for Store Operations.
The Top 10 AI use cases that Retail Operators at every level told us would transform their daily work. AI for Retail Operations is...
Building adaptability, growth, and resilience is now a business imperative. Increasing organizational agility is now almost on the same par as the traditional drivers to grow profits or attract more customers.
Its recency, however, means that few really know how to go about achieving it. Even those leading the pack are doing it with guerilla tactics: learning from the theorists, learning from each other, and learning from their mistakes.
We’ve had our eyeballs to the data for seven years and seen what’s worked, and what turned out to be a waste of time. In this article, we share what good agility looks like in-store operations as well as a roadmap to suggest and inspire what it could look like for other retailers.
The easiest way to think about Agile Store Operations is to think about how your eCommerce operations work. With heritage in the software world, eCommerce organizations use data, experimentation, and rapid feedback cycles to nimbly iterate their way to successful outcomes. With the right approach and the right tools, small teams can orchestrate simple and engaging customer journeys for large customer bases.
In sharp contrast to the sleek efficiency of digital technology, one only needs to walk into a store back office and see the cluttered notice boards and paperwork which are somehow expected to drive efficient operations in stores. But managing the physical is still very different to digital and so we need to carry out some creative interpretation. So, what do best-in-class Agile Store Operations look like?
Store teams were drowning even before the pandemic and things have only gotten worse. Recent evidence suggests workloads have increased by at least 30%. Ensuring teams spend their time only on what matters is essential, yet most managers still spend less than 40% of their week on the floor or coaching teams.
The current approach to management is not helping. Our most recent store audit noted that the typical store is sent over 20 reports, and more than 50 tasks a week. Analyzing, understanding, and actioning all this information in itself becomes a full-time job.
Less than 40% of an organization at any one time knows what their goals are. Today’s volatile environments make this even harder. Large organizations are reluctant to change goals too often because companywide alignment takes so long, but it means they’re inflexible to any kind of change and risk dangerously lagging behind. Retail needs to be able to realign continuously and rapidly between the center and field.
Many of the retailers we talk to felt that information sharing was too slow between the center and the field. There are 3 core challenges. Firstly, timely insights and analysis. Although real-time data can be shared, waiting six weeks for an overall picture of performance is too slow. Secondly, information back from the field is sporadic. Ad-hoc surveys are a poor way to understand how the field engages and acts on information.
And finally, there is the challenge of disseminating information across the field. Sharing of best practice, for instance, is often reliant on a District Manager to manually communicate with nothing systematically captured or communicated across regions beyond company meetings.
As Sam Walton once said, “If you want the people in the stores to take care of the customers, you have to make sure you’re taking care of the people in the stores”. 59% of customers will walk away after a few bad experiences, and your store associates are at the core of driving those experiences.
So when 41% of retail employees hardly ever enjoy coming to work, the worst of any sector, it is clear that something needs resolving.
How do you ensure you become simpler, speedier, with more engaged teams? Download our template which walks you through the practical steps to set the right goals and measurement markers.