Author: Poornima Mohandas
Time to read: 3 minutes
Despite the economic slowdown, Indian retailers are eager to expand their footprint. And why not, after a smart uptick in sales during Diwali.
A lot of the retail action is set to be in Tier II and Tier III cities in India. Lifestyle brand, Fabindia plans to add 10 new stores in eastern India. Japanese retailer, Miniso is looking at 800 stores by 2020. Sketchers plans to be in every Indian city with 500 stores. And at a macro level, McKinsey predicts over 300 international fashion brands will open stores in India in the next two years.
So how do you keep growing your footprint with quality in check?
Here are 5 steps to effectively deliver a consistent customer experience across your 500+ stores:
1. Train, Certify, and Monitor Adherence to SOPs
Let’s do a quick exercise:
- Do you know what time your store at Dibrugarh opens?
- Is the signage of your Darjeeling store as per your brand guidelines?
- Is your storefront in Dharwad free of street hawkers?
This is tough to monitor on a daily basis in real-time. You probably do it today with pen-and-paper methods, a maze of phone calls, and Whatsapp messages. This quickly becomes hard to track and offers little to no reports to track historical trends and problem areas.
How about a more structured approach?
Step 1: Educate your store staff on the importance of the SOP
Step 2: Assess their knowledge on it. Certify them
Step 3: Let them fill out the daily checklists on an easy-to-use, retail operations app
Step 4: Have automatic reminders for stores that miss filling it out on time
Step 5: From the head office, you can easily monitor SOP compliance across your entire network.
2. Conduct Effective Store Audits
How does your regional manager conduct store audits? Let’s take the case of Rahul, a regional manager at a men’s clothing retailer. He goes to the HSR store in Bangalore to conduct a store audit, but he cannot remember the open issues from the previous audit. Who can blame Rahul? He has 15 stores under him. He recorded his findings in his notebook but the all-important notebook has gone missing. Plus, Rahul has only been in his new role for two months so he has little to go by. Rahul has a clean slate for the HSR store audit, which is unfortunately not a good thing.
Store audits help spot issues and ensure they get resolved promptly. Equip Rahul with a retail operations app so he can easily conduct audits on his smartphone. This will save him time and give him a historical perspective of how the HSR store has performed over time. For the head office, automation will help you get a bird’s eye view quickly. Easily consolidate audit reports from across your 500 stores and ensure all open issues are automatically tracked and followed up with till resolution.
3. Ensure a Consistent Look and Feel for Your Stores
“It was never an easy task to roll out new campaigns to 500+ stores and check how the execution has fared,” says Priyesh Bhagat, the visual merchandising manager at Adidas, a customer of Wooqer. With multiple Visual Merchandising (VM) changes per year, including new season guidelines, festive changes, End of Season Sales (EoSS), and in-store product communication, VM implementation and tracking meant visits to top 50 stores. Stores in tier 3 and tier 4 cities were hard to cover; they sent in their pictures over email and Whatsapp. And yet, the whole effort took time to complete and significant follow up effort. So what did Adidas do?
They digitized their VM guidelines and implementation. As a result:
- Store VM champs could easily access the guidelines on a mobile app, for easy reference during on-floor execution
- Store VM champs could easily click and submit date and time-stamped, pictures for review through the app
- Regional VM Managers got real-time access to the pictures
- Non-compliant store managers got automatic reminders to comply
- The VM team saved on time and travel
Digitalization not only smoothes out the execution piece but also offers monitoring. The head office can easily track activities and progress to ensure that all stores have the latest collection and a consistent look and feel.
4. Provide Structured Training for Your Store Staff
High attrition and frequent product launches make it hard to uniformly train all your store staff. Classroom training is expensive and often does not cover all stores. Plus your store staff have no material to refer back to. They quickly forget what was taught in the classroom. When 40% of customers say sales associates with deep product knowledge improve their shopping experience you have to invest in staff training heavily.
- Allow your store staff to consume training anytime, anywhere on any device.
- Give them byte-sized, multimedia courses
- Do assessments to measure training effectiveness
Online training will not only help you save on travel costs but will also be more engaging, convenient, and effective.
5. Conduct Periodic Customer Surveys
How do you hear from your customers now? Do you have to depend on a third-party agency to hear your customer’s voice? Use technology to smoothen out the customer feedback loop. QR code-enabled surveys make it convenient for customers to easily give you feedback on their smartphones. Don’t let qualitative feedback bog you down. Easily decipher it using survey analytics. Absorb the feedback, make changes, and keep your customers happy.
These are five ways we have seen our customers use technology to deliver consistent customer experiences even as they grow their retail operations. We will discuss each of these in more detail in upcoming posts, so make sure you check this space for updates.