This post was originally published June 13 2018 and has been updated for relevance and clarity.
A successful in-store execution strategy is why shopping in a store is so magical. It's how a really cool idea transforms from the theoretical into reality.
People don't shop in stores to buy products.
They shop to be inspired. They shop for an immersive experience.
Inspiring, immersive experiences don't happen by accident. Retailers have to create them and implement them in stores.
And it's imperative to get it right these days, because the perfect omni-channel shopping experience can’t exist without stores.
This article will help you better support your store teams by implementing the 3 core components of a successful in-store execution strategy.
- The definition of a successful in-store execution strategy
- Who benefits from it
- Why it's a challenge for retailers
- The 3 core components every in-store execution strategy must have
- What you'll need to start implementing these components in your retail organization today
Let's start with the basics. What is a successful in-store execution strategy?
In-store execution is the correct implementation of brand guidelines, promotions and everything else required to provide the perfect customer experience.
Successful in-store execution is the quick, consistent and perfect implementation of all these things without putting a massive strain on store teams.
So, a successful in-store execution strategy is a set of behaviors, best practices and technologies that make quick, consistent and perfect implementation easy for store teams.
Why is a successful in-store execution strategy crucial for retailers?
A solid in-store 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 try new concepts and quickly decide what works and what doesn't
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 available to help them
- Engage with the brands they love, since each in-store experience is consistent
But what happens when a retailer has no in-store execution strategy, or an insufficient one?
- Directives from HQ aren't implemented properly, if at all, and the revenue that went into creating new concepts is lost
- Customer experience suffers - read more about how poor in-store execution impacts customer experience
- Sales are lost
Why is in-store execution a challenge for retailers?
Coming up with the idea is the fun part, but 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 and actually go.
Deloitte estimates that 90% of companies fail to execute on their strategy. But execution is 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. But in 2019, it's all about customer experience, which means the only purpose of HQ is 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. Those 20 pages of planogram instructions and calls from the area manager checking whether the new window displays have been set up are taking store teams off the shop floor and preventing them from quickly executing on instructions.
- No visibility into what goes on in-store. A retailer can't make implementing the perfect customer experience any easier if they have no idea how stores are doing it every 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.
Here are the 3 things every retailer needs for a successful in-store execution strategy.
Component 1: A detailed plan for stores to execute on
Every retailer wants an exceptional customer experience. But not every retailer has thought through what this looks like in every store, down to the tiniest detail.
If these details aren't part of the scope of the plan, execution will be mediocre at best.
When a retailer has a successful in-store execution strategy, the ideal journey through the physical store has been mapped out.
This includes everything from finding the nearest location (and the correct opening hours) on Google Maps through to being thanked for their purchase before leaving the store. Your plan is what the perfect customer experience looks and feels like.
Things like lighting, temperature and how often fitting room mirrors are cleaned are part of this plan, and should be consistent in every store.
Sales associates are a huge part of the customer journey - how they greet customers, the technology they’re equipped with to help shoppers, and the procedures they use to solve difficult situations.
A successful plan specifies how the ideal in-store experience makes every shopper feel special. Sales associates are a huge part of this. Shoppers are happiest when they feel like sales associates are going the extra mile to help them.
When we asked the YOOBIC team to tell us about their best and worst in-store experiences, sales associates were a big source of frustration.
So if the retailer hasn’t figured out every detail of how they want sales associates to interact with customers, it’s a recipe for disaster.
Each store is different, too. Footfall is different, store size and layout are different, and a good in-store execution strategy addresses these differences.
Key takeaway: Your in-store execution plan is a blueprint for stores about what success looks like. If it's unclear in any way, the in-store experience will suffer.
Component 2: A store team-friendly way to communicate your plan
So now we have our incredible customer journey all mapped out. Every detail is perfect. How do we get this into stores?
All retailers send guidelines and instructions to their stores. The problem is, it’s not in a format that facilitates easy store follow-through.
For HQ, printing off 20 page stacks of paper guidelines and mailing them off to stores could be something they’ve been doing for years, so they haven’t given it much thought.
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.
99% of the time, stores receive the correct materials.
But what if the store does receive the wrong guidelines, or their display is missing a stand? A good communication strategy includes an easy way for stores to ask for help and flag issues.
Mistakes happen, and need to be resolved as quickly as possible.
Whether it be training, planograms or point of sale materials, a good communication strategy formats information specifically for people on the go with lots of competing priorities.
To master a successful in-store 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.
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: Sending VM guidelines, promotional materials, and daily operational tasks to stores in the same way you did 10 years ago means that things aren't getting done and your customer experience is suffering.
Component 3: Consistent monitoring, measuring and analysis of how stores are executing on the plan
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.
Some stores might only get a visit once every 6 months. That's 6 months where the in-store experience could be completely wrong, and 6 months of lost revenue.
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 in-store execution strategy:
- A mindset change. Good in-store execution is as fast and easy to get done for store teams as humanly possible, which means retailers will need to see things from a store team's perspective
- A thoroughly mapped out customer journey
- Visibility into in-store operations
- The right retail execution technology to help you get there
Looking to improve your in-store execution with retail execution software? Check out these 5 considerations to keep in mind when choosing a retail execution vendor
An in-store execution strategy that drives results should be a continuous cycle.
Make a plan, communicate the plan to stores, monitor, measure and analyse the results.
A good strategy means nothing is left to chance, because in retail, failing to plan means planning to fail.