The retail landscape is changing, and the future lies in cross-channel orchestration, as customers expect a seamless experience no matter how, when or where they shop. Are you prepared to deliver this experience as you grow your business?
Signs That It’s Time to Reevaluate
Indicators that it’s time to reevaluate your growth plan can be found throughout your business. Internally, employees may be unhappy, overwhelmed and frequently miscommunicating among departments and roles, and operations may be less efficient. Externally, flat-lined revenue and increased customer dissatisfaction may be indicators.
Organizational growth may be exceeding retail growth if there’s an overlap in responsibilities and layoffs or budget cuts seem to be in order. Conversely, retail growth may be exceeding organizational growth if tasks are exceeding employees’ capabilities and you have high employee turnover.
Growth doesn’t just affect numbers, but also employees, customers, products and other aspects of your organization. It’s imperative to be aware of the indicators, because the sooner the signs can be identified, the better opportunity you have for ultimately finding the right path for growth.
Prepare and Plan
As customers’ buying habits change and retail shifts, so must your business to remain ahead of the curve. Internal resources and the retail business need to grow in tandem.
Create a multi-year, long-term plan that addresses the growth of the retail business as well as internal functions. Continuously evaluate and update bandwidth to ensure that one side of the business doesn’t suffer while the other thrives.
If your organization is well established, leverage past results to project the future. Evaluate the current state of your employees, inventory and other aspects of what makes your business run, and, if you have historical data, use it to predict what is to come.
Often when businesses begin to flat-line, retailers lay off employees or downsize, when it’s the opposite of what they should do. The organization should be evaluated internally and externally to determine next steps. Are employees complaining or overwhelmed? Are stores running out of inventory? Is the company providing a great customer experience? Evaluations will drive your organization’s plan.
Shifts in Roles and Responsibilities
The organizational makeup of small and large companies varies drastically, so roles and responsibilities must be assessed to plan for growth.
In a small company, it’s perfectly normal to begin with just a few employees all wearing several hats. As your business grows, however, you must recognize when skill sets are needed beyond your current employees’ capabilities and bandwidth and begin hiring. In addition, an executive management team should be established that employees can rely on for guidance and structure.
Effective leaders must also provide training and encouragement to enable teams to complete critical tasks and remain focused on growth and productivity. As roles continue to grow and shift, there will be a need for additional management tiers.
Partnership and Vendors
While internal acquisition is necessary to meet your company’s changing needs, third party partners and vendors may also be helpful in supporting company growth.
While there are both pros and cons, hiring outside your organization can be a viable option. Delegating projects to a third party can relieve internal stress and often specialists can bring a higher level of expertise. In addition, contracting with third parties for short-term projects requires less commitment than hiring, and they’re accountable for completing the work they’re paid to do.
To create a successful growth plan, it’s imperative to use information you already have. Data is the most powerful tool a retailer has for staying ahead of the curve, as it provides an understanding of what brought the company to where it is today to help to forecast how shifts will impact the future.
As your company evolves, the amount of available data can be overwhelming, but fostering a culture of continual analysis will help your business grow. Defining key performance indicators (KPIs) and then identify what data is needed to measure success. Once you have numbers, analyze them to answer questions that will provide the direction your organization needs to take next steps.
The consumer must be the central focus of any retail business. At first you may rely on intuition or belief in an innovative idea to get your business off the ground, but once your business has matured, it’s crucial to rely on what will help you grow the most — customer behavior data. The key to successful growth in retail is to listen to and embrace the customer voice.
Email and Ecommerce
Email and ecommerce programs reflect a retail organization’s maturity, and providing the sophistication consumers require is paramount to getting to the next level.
Even the largest retailers have small, nimble digital teams dedicated to ecommerce and email marketing who must depend on creative and efficient solutions to maximize bandwidth. Two key components to making email and ecommerce efforts effective are automation and segmentation. Begin by defining a few segments, develop a plan for targeting them, then monitor results to optimize future email campaigns.
Customers seeking your products outside of brick and mortar stores should be able to easily find them. If you’re not offering the accessibility your customers are looking for, there are many competitors who are, and your customers will quickly become theirs. Retailers must offer every option possible – including ecommerce, stores, email, mobile, apps, social, and search – to capture customers.
And finally, the omnichannel experience must be seamless. If channels are separate within your organization, the experience will be disconnected for your customers. To prevent this, internal teams must share a common vision, open communication and have an executive leader who is consistently customer-centric.
Reevaluate your retail business to see if you’re offering a seamless, omnichannel customer experience. If not, plan to get resources in place to improve it. Schedule regular meetings with all internal teams to discuss how to support each other and better understand each other’s initiatives and goals. Create and share planning calendars to stay in lockstep internally and externally.
Kara Surrena is Director of Client Services for Listrak