In-store execution 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.
Unless a retailer has no physical stores, that is. Retailers like this have been dwindling though, as we’ve been seeing retailers who were previously online only increasingly move towards opening physical stores.
Why? Because the physical store gives a brand legitimacy. Because when the perfect shopping experience is created online, having a store to immerse shoppers in that same experience is the next logical step.
And if that experience isn’t immersive and seamless, it detracts from consumers’ perception of the brand.
So it’s critical to understand what a successful in-store execution strategy is, who benefits from it, why it’s difficult and what it looks like when a retailer does it well.
What is successful in-store execution?
Successful in-store execution is the correct implementation of brand guidelines, promotions and everything else required to provide the perfect shopping experience.
It’s what stores need to perform their best.
And it’s why shoppers buy products in-store.
Who benefits from it?
Shoppers, because the in-store experience is more enjoyable with fewer obstacles between them and purchasing.
The retailer, because better in-store experiences mean more purchases, higher conversion rates and more revenue.
Store employees, because there’s a plan for them to succeed, making their jobs easier. With planning comes measuring, which means employees can be certain they’re contributing to increased sales and happier shoppers. Job satisfaction and engagement increase.
Why is in-store execution difficult?
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, but difficult to wake up at 5:30 AM and actually go.
Deloitte estimates that 90% of companies fail to execute on their strategy. But this execution is more difficult for retailers. Why?
Each store has different employees with 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 store teams’ fault.
A successful in-store execution strategy makes it easy for stores to implement the perfect customer experience.
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.
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.
Last month 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 .
Component 2: A way to send the plan to stores that's most convenient for them.
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.
And 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.
Component 3: A way to monitor, measure and analyse 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.
There’s no knowledge or progress without visibility.
Without analysis there's no agility.
There's no analysis without measuring results.
Measuring comes from monitoring.
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.
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, failure to plan means planning to fail.
Experience is everything. This guide for retail executives will help you take your perfect customer experience from vision to reality.