Back-to-school is a lot like a second Christmas in the middle of the year, except without presents and chocolate.

UK parents' back to school spending last year totalled 1.48 billion pounds.

And according to a survey of US consumers by RetailMeNot, 96% of parents will visit a physical store for their back-to-school shopping this year.

Back-to-school season is hectic. It's stressful.

But it can also be a lucrative time for retailers willing to put in the work so they can come out at the top of their class.

How? By helping each store nail their execution.

Here are 3 areas to focus on for top store performance.

1) Discounts get shoppers into stores. Support flawless execution on promotional campaigns by making sure stores get the materials they need, when they need them.

Store compliance with promotions can make or break the back-to-school season.

79% of retailers plan on offering more back to school discounts this year, and 67% of shoppers will be actively looking for more discounts.

56% of shoppers will also research online before buying in-store, according to Deloitte's 2018 Back-to-School Survey.

There's no room for error here. If shoppers find a 50% off sale online but find "up to 40% off" on all the posters in stores, they'll go somewhere else.

Store teams don't intentionally put up incorrect point-of-sale material. Usually, the culprit is a combination of these 3 things:

  • The store team never received the correct materials.
  • The store team wasn't briefed on the promotion and didn't know it existed, so they had no way of knowing their POS materials were incorrect.
  • The store team knew they received the wrong POS materials, raised the issue with either their area manager or HQ, and never got a response. The only feasible option was to wing it and display what they had.

To help stores get an A+ on compliance, ensure they receive the correct materials well in advance of the promotional launch date.

Create simple procedures so stores can report errors, request more materials, and confirm with HQ that they're ready to go.

This will require a detailed database of store specs (e.g. one front window or two?), real-time communication between store teams and HQ, and more store visits by area managers.

Just like a maths test, failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

2) Discounts get shoppers into stores, but a visually appealing store interior keeps them there. Don't let accurate execution on VM and operational tasks fall through the cracks just because it's busy.

A store team's priority is helping shoppers. They'll have little time for anything else when there's more store traffic.

That's a problem. Not enough time is left for checking that VM guidelines have been implemented properly, and keeping it that way through frequent daily checks.

The same goes for operational tasks like sweeping the fitting rooms.

Disorganised, messy stores make it difficult for shoppers to find what they're looking for and discourage impulse buying.

So, to make sure VM and operational tasks get done, retailers need to make them faster for store teams to complete.

Have you ever not understood the instructions for a homework assignment the night before it was due? Panic ensues.

But concise, step by step instructions from the teacher means less time gets wasted on panicking and calling your friends, and more time is spent getting the assignment turned in on time. The teacher also spends less time answering questions from the entire class. Everyone wins.

Group projects are a nightmare when one person does most of the work while the others slack off. But in a group where each member has individual tasks and responsibilities, the project is completed faster and more accurately.

It's no different for store teams.

The easier guidelines are to understand, the faster they'll be implemented.

The clearer each staff member's responsibilities, the faster everything gets done.

And speaking of store teams getting things done:

3) Just like an overworked student, sales associates can experience burnout. Equip sales associates to handle the rush without losing their sanity.

Ipsos Retail has found that in-store conversion rates decrease during busier times. It's no coincidence that there are usually fewer sales associates around to help shoppers when footfall increases.

The back-to-school period is one of these busy times. How can retailers avoid decreased conversion rates?

Hiring and scheduling more staff is an obvious solution.

But helping existing sales associates get more done is a less resource-intensive option.

Give each sales associate a mobile device, and they'll have more time to help shoppers instead of constantly running into the back to check stock. They'll already know if an item is available and where to find it.

A sales associate with a mobile device always has the answers to a customer's question right at their fingertips.

They never have to go ask their manager for help and then wait 5 minutes because the manager is busy dealing with a customer situation.

Removing points of friction from the in-store shopping journey makes a great customer experience.

But what about removing points of friction for sales associates, giving them more time to do what they do best?

That also makes a great customer experience.

Flawless in-store execution doesn't have to be difficult. We'd love to show you how we can help!

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