Few, if any, roles in retail are more demanding than that of a store manager. Store managers are essentially the CEO of their store. They are accountable for such areas as financial performance, customer service, expense management, talent management, and compliance. Unlike corporate CEOs, store managers seldom have senior leaders overseeing various disciplines inside the store. Therefore, they rely on their experience, intuition, and a limited set of tools to help them operate efficiently.
In today’s digital environment, the role of the store manager is rapidly becoming even more onerous. Customers are much more knowledgeable and come into the stores armed with a plethora of knowledge about products, services, and available alternatives. Store responsibilities are growing to encompass omnichannel capabilities and enhanced personalized services. Topping this off is a rapidly evolving compliance and regulatory environment that places much of the onus for privacy and security on stores.
Store managers set the tone for operations in a store. They need access to relevant and timely information to allow them to make real-time decisions that can positively impact overall store performance. Unfortunately, most store managers still get most of their information from static reports and point-in-time information screens.
To compete in the digital age, store managers need new tools that provide them with all the information they need at their fingertips. To facilitate this discussion, let’s group the information store managers need into six major categories:
- Sales floor activity monitoring
- Event management
- Store staffing
- Talent management
Activity on a sales floor is fluid. Customers need service, departments and registers require coverage, inventory must be monitored, and trends identified for action. This information must be presented in real-time to allow the store manager to make adjustments to influence performance.
Let’s review a couple of examples. When customer traffic (arrivals) outpaces register capacity, the store manager needs to open more registers or instruct floor associates to use mobile POS to assist in processing sales. A particular product is selling rapidly and is down to only a few remaining items on a shelf. The store needs to pull more inventory from the back of the store to meet customer demand.
In both these examples, the information and associated decisions are occurring in real-time. Because of the real-time nature of the information, it should be presented as alerts or messages to a mobile device that the store manager is carrying. These real-time decisions rarely require extensive information. Present the pertinent facts to the store manager and allow them to use their discretion.
Event management covers all aspects of planned store promotions, signage changes, floor sets, product launches, and other visual merchandising activities. In these instances, the store manager needs reminders of when specific tasks are due to be complete, who should be working on the tasks, and details about the tasks (accompanied with visuals). Ideally, these reminders are integrated as inspection tasks into a store manager calendar or task list.
Few activities take more store manager time than staffing and schedule maintenance. Store managers need access to information that allows them easily inspect schedules for appropriate coverage. This information would include things such as forecasted sales, forecasted customer traffic, active promotions, and sales associate performance metrics and experience (including training certifications). In short, the store manager shouldn’t have to search and gather information to build or confirm a schedule. This information should be gathered and presented in a way to facilitate quick and accurate review of staffing coverage.
Most store managers are also responsible for talent management. Talent management includes monitoring job openings and applications, reviewing resumes, scheduling interviews, conducting interviews, facilitating hiring, onboarding, periodic performance reviews, and terminations. Adding intelligent screening of applications and resumes to focus on the most appropriate candidates is a big time-saver for store managers. Automated workflows to govern hiring, onboarding, and reviews are other important capabilities that have emerged to simplify these activities for store managers.
Administrative tasks vary widely across retailers based on the type of store and the control structure of the corporate office. The most common activities prevalent in most retailers include budget management, forecast reviews, and payroll processing. Payroll processing, specifically handling time card discrepancies, missed time punches, new hires, terminations, and pay rate changes often take an inordinate amount of store manager’s time on payroll days. Providing a simplified, and time efficient manner for handling these tasks is essential to increasing store manager efficiency.
Depending on the type of store, store managers could deal with a variety of audit and safety reviews. Being able to track outstanding items from these reviews and incorporate them into a task management system is an effective way for store managers to stay on top of compliance activities.
In general, good store managers are active on the sales floor. They need tools that provide access to information wherever and whenever they need it. Mobile form factors such as smartphones and tablets are the preferred delivery media for these new tools.
In addition to mobility, much thought and care should be put into the information provided to store managers. Avoid information overload and keep communications succinct and pertinent.
Finally, consider the workflow itself. Are there steps in a workflow that could be simplified or eliminated altogether and still provide the level of performance compliance needed by the organization?
In summary, store managers are under immense pressure. It is incumbent on Store Operations and Information Technology organizations to work together to acquire or build the tools needed to support store managers. Armed with these tools, store managers can more effectively execute their activities and focus their attention on ensuring they are providing the differentiated customer experiences that will be critical in today’s digital world.