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The Complete Guide to Retail Store Operations: Today and in the Future

Amazon may have swept through the globe as the world’s biggest online retailer, and although online shopping is here to stay, there’s much to be said for the physical in-store experience. Many people long for the days spent on Main Street where the store owners and staff knew them, greeted them by name and offered help in their search for the right product.

Today, retail operations are a complex, interconnected web of processes that need to be streamlined for optimal success. With rising competition in the industry, it’s never been more important for retailers to be aware of all the aspects that go into managing a retail store and how to optimise its performance.

In this post, you’ll find out what goes into retail store operations and how to improve your offering for greater customer satisfaction and improved store results. Let’s dive right in.

What are retail store operations?

The term “retail store operations” is a broad, all-encompassing term for all of the operations that go into making a retail store successful.

These operations are the consideration of every facet that makes a retail store what it is and they also go beyond the typical standards to offer customers a unique selling point, which makes these retailers more successful.

Therefore, these operations can include things such as:

  • Store design
  • Customer service
  • Cash, fraud and internal controls
  • Product inventory
  • Administration responsibilities
  • Management
  • Perspectives
  • Standard operating procedures
  • Congruence between physical and online shopping
  • Streamlining retail store operations 
  • And much more.

We’ll cover each of the factors mentioned above in more detail below.

Responsibilities regarding the design of the store

Store design is possibly the very first step a retailer will have to consider in their retail operations process. The store’s design is of utmost importance because this will speak volumes about the brand and it will play a key role in drawing customers in.

A well laid out store with sufficient space for moving, neatly presented items, limited clutter, great lighting, music, scents and atmosphere, clear signage, dedicated store operating hours, neat restrooms, pleasant customer service and staff, excellent parking and ease of accessibility and a whole host of related factors play a key role in the store’s design.

The design and layout of the store should be optimised for three other reasons.

One, a pleasant store design will lead to a pleasant customer experience. This in turn will create greater purchase opportunities, which is the ultimate aim of the store.

Two, a great store design that proves to be successful can be replicated with similar levels of success in other locations in the future. This speaks to the owner’s long-term strategic vision and goals and helps ensure that their business is growing.

Finally, it can also lead to great opportunities for cross- and upselling of related goods to boost sales.

Functions related to customer service

We briefly referred to customer service in the section above, but it’s important to dedicate a separate section to this aspect of retail store operations.

Why? Because customer service can be the deciding factor if a customer chooses to buy from you or from your competitor next door. Sometimes, customers are willing to pay a higher price just knowing that they’ll have an excellent experience in visiting a store.

And this justifies investing time and effort into ensuring that your customers are satisfied. But how can you do this? There are several factors to consider.

Firstly, there is the training that you need to provide to your employees. They need to have thorough product knowledge to be able to answer all your customers’ related questions and help them decide to buy. Not only should your staff be knowledgeable, they also need to be friendly and approachable.

Secondly, you need to look at your returns policies. Many customers want to feel safe and comfortable in the knowledge that your store will not penalise a return if they bought the wrong colour or size.

Or if the item simply wasn’t right for them. You need to let your customers know in an easy and convenient way what your returns policies are and how they can go about approaching you for this in a way that doesn’t leave them feeling sour.

A third reason is to encourage customer loyalty through reward programmes. Such programmes can entail offering discounts on purchases over a certain amount or something similar.

These tactics are proven to boost customer loyalty as they feel special and that the store has their best interests at heart. As such, customer service should also involve encouraging customer loyalty as well.

Functions related to cash, fraud and internal controls

Unfortunately, theft is very common in the retail store setting. This is why having internal controls in place to control cash flow and fraud is so important.

Many stores may employ the services of in-store security guards who stand by the entrance or exit of the store.

Meanwhile, others have CCTV cameras, which are less intrusive but still provide for a safer shopping environment and tracking where theft can take place.

Fraud, on the other hand, is a much more complicated discussion and a serious societal problem. It involves dishonesty and false information for the unjustified enrichment of another party.

In retail, fraud can manifest itself through losses owing to theft by staff, managers mis- or underdeclaring amounts earned over the course of a sales period or even underreporting the number of items received as part of the inventory.

There are numerous other examples but these should suffice to prove the point.

Although it is exceptionally serious, fraud can be minimised to a large extent if certain strategies are followed.

These involve streamlining and automating procedures whilst incorporating technology at the same time. But for more on this, take a look at our discussion below.

Responsibilities related to product inventory

Product inventory is undoubtedly one of the main reasons why your customers come to you. Whether you offer them a unique product or service, something that no one else offers, whether you’re competitively priced or you simply have what they are looking for – your inventory or your products are the lifeblood of your retail business.

Despite its importance, many retailers simply do not have streamlined processes in place to handle inventory.

They may have pre-existing relationships with their suppliers and may even have organised storage space in a warehouse, but other related aspects such as getting the right products to your store at the right time to meet customer demand are lacking.

This is where automation comes in once again, but we’ll delve into this a bit later on.

retail store inventory management

Administration responsibilities in a retail store

Administration responsibilities in a retail store may refer to factors such as staff recruitment, training and retention. It may also include aspects such as sick leave or annual paid leave.

Yet other factors could be the behind-the-scenes responsibilities and teams that are essential to making the retail operations run smoothly. These include departments such as accounting and bookkeeping and even IT.

Even though they do not have a direct bearing on the sales process, without them, a retail store would not be able to function.

This is why it’s essential to look at these administrative responsibilities as a cohesive whole that forms a part of your entire retail operations as opposed to separate silos that should be approached on an as-needed basis. On the contrary – a unified and holistic approach is required.

What does store operations management mean?

Having said all of the above, we now turn to retail operations management. In essence, this takes all of the above factors in mind and “manages” the retail operations as a unified whole.

This task is generally carried out either by the store owner (if they are the store’s manager, too) or a separate manager whose primary role is to oversee the store.

This manager is someone who is fully responsible for each aspect of the retail store’s operations – from opening and closing time to store cleanliness and attractiveness to customer service, staff management, safety and related administrative tasks.

Owners, managers and staff perspectives

It goes without saying that owners, managers and staff hold different perspectives about the running, operations and effectiveness of strategies involved in running a retail store.

Starting with the owner, they have a vested interest in the success of their business project. This can be both personal and financial. This is why they are the people who will spend the most nights worrying about their store and thinking of strategies to implement to improve its performance.

Managers are those that are responsible for the day-to-day operations of the store. They handle everything from staff to customers, stock and inventory to ensure store cleanliness and smooth operations.
As the “face” of the store, the staff play a crucial role as well. If they are highly knowledgeable, friendly and helpful, they’re much more likely to give a customer a pleasant shopping experience.

They’re also great for collecting feedback from customers and, therefore, a sort of “feedback loop” should be created to ensure that their ideas and suggestions are implemented at the top level to boost the customer experience and the overall service that shoppers enjoy.

operations in retail store

Standard operating procedures

When it comes to standard operating procedures in a retail store, there are five main elements that a retail store owner or manager needs to consider.

General store opening and closing

It’s essential that store opening and closing times are displayed in clearly visible areas. It’s also essential that these hours are adhered to consistently every single day.

In addition to this, shoppers must get an indication of when the shop is going to open. This can be done through an announcement, switching on the store lights, opening the doors or other signals.

As for store closing, customers should also be made aware of when the store will close through gentle reminders of how much time they have left to complete their shopping.

Store staffing

We covered the importance of store staffing a bit earlier on but can’t emphasise its importance. Store staff is the “face” of your store. A negative experience with one of your staff members could result in a customer choosing never to do business at your shop again.

The opposite is also true. This is why it’s crucial to invest time and resources into accurately training your staff on all aspects of boosting the customer experience and customer service.

But there’s more to this than that. Staff should be used strategically. You should monitor when your peak hours are and ensure that you allocate staff to the right places in your store to ease bottlenecks.

Staff reward or recognition programmes can also help you identify your best performers. These should ultimately be deployed during your peak hours as well to ensure you maximise sales opportunities.

Cash management

Cash management usually takes place physically with the actual counting of notes and coins at the end of the business day and reconciling the cash amount with the recorded number of sales. However, this is usually quite an outdated way of handling your books.

This is why it’s important to ensure that you have software that helps you keep better track of your sales. This can include barcode-scanning software that immediately gives your reports or analytics to enrich you with insights into how many sales you’ve made, at what time of the day, at what prices, which products are the most popular, etc. so that you can emulate these sales successes.

Merchandise handling

It’s also important to streamline merchandise handling. When you order stock from your suppliers, you need to make sure you’re ordering the right products. In other words, the products that are selling the most.

These are your business’ lifeblood, as mentioned above, and catering to the most in-demand products is one way to again maximise your sales experience.

One way of doing this is to ensure that you use software that helps you see, at a glance, what stock is available and in what quantities and varieties and what you need to order when (while taking into account shipping and delivery times).

Customer service

And lastly, there’s customer service. This was also covered in detail above but its importance bears repeating. Customer service is what will make or break your brand and business reputation.

The greater your reputation among your customers, the more loyal customer base you’re going to have, leading to more repeat business.

This is why it’s truly worth investing every resource you have in ensuring that your customers get a truly personalised and enjoyable shopping experience at your retail store.

Between physical stores and online operations

Many retail stores today are supplementing their physical offering with an online storefront. While online shopping will never be able to fully replace the experience and friendly customer service of a brick-and-mortar store, it is coming increasingly close to doing so.

It’s also important to consider the changing customer purchasing habits these days. Many customers first browse online to make a selection of what they’d like to buy and follow this by visiting the physical store to buy it.

Therefore, as part of the future of retail, it’s important to have a website and e-commerce store to supplement your physical store’s offering and act as a catalogue of what your customers will find there. Luckily, with myPOS, this is possible because you can build your own e-commerce store with us for free.

Discover why our clients trust myPOS to get payments

Apart from being able to create your own e-commerce store with myPOS, many retailers are choosing us because we offer seamless payment solutions and a whole host of benefits that go along with them.

For starters, every merchant that signs up with us gets a free merchant account which they can access with their free business card. But that’s not all. All payments are done on an instant-settlement basis. What does this mean? It means that as soon as your customer swipes their card on your point-of-sale (POS) device, the money for the purchase appears in your free merchant account immediately.

In addition to all this, there is also a wide range of POS devices that we offer that are perfectly suitable for retail operations. From the sturdy myPOS Carbon to the elegant myPOS Slim, there’s also the option to accept payments intelligently through your smartphone with myPOS Glass.

How to streamline retail operations

Streamlining retail operations may seem like a daunting task. Especially for those that are not comfortable with technological advancements and the pace at which these are developing.

However, keeping up with your customers’ payment needs and offering them ease and convenience is crucial. Especially since digital and card payments are predicted to rise significantly over the next five years.

As such, tips to follow when it comes to streamlining your retail business’ operations include:

  • Ensure you offer a smooth checkout process by offering card and digital payments through a POS device(s);
  • Rely on your reports to help drive your decision-making process;
  • Implement barcode scanning and ensure that this “speaks” to your POS software for better analytics;
  • Cater to contactless, Chip & PIN and magstripe payments.

The face of retail: now and in the future

Operations in retail now and in the future are likely to remain the same at their fundamental core while aligning with technological developments for more streamlined processes.

In essence, this means that while retail is not expected to disappear, retail business owners will need to compete effectively against their competition. This will be done by offering a unique selling advantage and exceptional customer service whilst streamlining and automating the operations related to repetitive and mundane tasks.

Of course, having a POS device at your store is an essential element of the customer experience and if you need any advice in terms of which one is ideal for your business, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us!

Disclaimer: Please be aware that the contents of this article and the myPOS Blog, in general, should not be interpreted as legal, monetary, tax, or any other kind of professional advice. You should always seek to consult with a professional before taking action, since the particulars of your situation may materially differ from other cases.

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