It’s easy to get caught up in the grind of retail.
Open the shop, talk to the customers, clean up, sell things, clean up again, close the shop, manage the register, and then clean up one more time.
When you’re heads down, you never have a chance to look at the bigger picture and think about how things could be instead of how they actually are.
Focusing on retail operations can help you make your business more efficient, make more money, and have more time to spend on growing your store, instead of just running it. Retail operations are one of the most often overlooked parts of retail management, but it can help you stand out from the crowd.
Today, we’ll look at why you should take it seriously and what tools exist to make managing operations simple and straightforward.
What are retail operations?
“Retail operations” covers every part of a retail business that can be managed, refined, and made more efficient.
Some people use the term almost interchangeably with the idea of retailing in general—meaning that retail operations covers the whole of the business—but it’s more constructive to think of it as applying to things that can be systematized, such as opening the store and balancing the register.
For instance, scheduling employees and designing training are part of retail operations, but working with employees to coach them on soft skills and language wouldn’t be.
Implementing a retail operations program
Everyone who runs a store does some amount of retail operations, even if they don’t think about it. You have a system in place for opening, closing, managing people, and laying out inventory.
Here’s a man who has a system in place
To get better at it, though, you need to actually think about the work you’re doing. That means you need to design a baseline for operations. Take the typical tasks you’re performing and quantify them.
- How long does it take you to open the store, clean up, balance registers, and close the place?
- What percentage of customers buy from you and how long does it take to close the sale?
- How much time do employees need to get trained up and start selling?
- How long does it take you to hire new employees?
Once you have a baseline for how long each task takes, you can start thinking about ways to improve on your current processes.
Take it one step at a time
Amazon wasn’t built in a day and you shouldn’t try to fix all your ills in one fell swoop. Find a single thing you want to make better and start with that.
Making progress toward a faster store opening is an easy one. Get a checklist in place so everyone can open the business as easily as you can. Put things in the same place every night. Color code items—it makes life easier.
One of the side effects of a good retail operations program is that it removes points in your business where one person’s absence can lead to failure. If you’re the only person with the know-how to open the shop, the day your car breaks down is going to be a very expensive one.
If you’ve systematized the process, you can just call Jill and have her open the place up.
Software that supports retail operations
With all this data and all these processes to track, the world can quickly get overwhelming. Luckily, there are plenty of software options that can simplify things for you.
You don’t have to go it alone
1. Using Excel to track metrics
It won’t be the prettiest thing in the world and there’s a lot left to be desired, but it will work.
You only need one thing out of a software solution—simplicity. If it makes your life less complex, then it’s a fine solution. If you spend more time dreading the work than doing it, then invest in something better.
2. Retail management software
Retail management software is a catchall for systems that cover a large part of the retail operations process. These might include customer databases, inventory tools, sales reporting tools, and other management tools that make life easier.
Many of these also have integrated point of sale (POS) solutions, which can help tie a lot of your information together and make it easier to understand.
For example, how were sales affected by that follow-up email you sent to website visitors that put something in the cart but didn’t buy? Retail management software can get you to that answer.
3. Workflow management software
Workflow management software is all about getting processes so refined that any monkey—with keys to the shop, the ability to read, and some good customer service on their resume—could do them.
Workflow management software can help you automate customer communications, shipment management, and report generation, for instance.
These tools aren’t usually specific to retailers, so you’ll need to find one that works for your scope. You might not need compliance controls, for example. The Capterra software directory has a feature filter in the sidebar, though, so you can narrow things down quickly.
4. Scheduling software
Once you employ more than ten people, scheduling software can really free up your time and give you certainty about the schedules you’re drawing up.
From personal experience, I can tell you that scheduling people is one of the least efficient things you can do by hand. On top of that, it’s one of the most straightforward things software can do for you. Capterra’s scheduling software directory has over 250 options, so finding one that suits your needs and budget shouldn’t be too difficult.
Making retail operations part of your business
Building a more efficient business is as simple as carving out the time, which is to say, it’s kind of difficult.
The payoff for finding some time to focus on retail operations is a huge. A smoother system is like an investment. You put the time in now and that time is paid back to you in increments that quickly add up to more than you initially invested.
Looking for Retail Management Systems software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Retail Management Systems software solutions.