It’s no secret that the retail sector was amongst those that the global health crisis hit the hardest.
A combination of stay at home orders, the closure of non-essential stores, an increase in financial worries, and a reluctance to return to the high street haven’t exactly done any favours for those in retail.
It’s been challenging. In 2020, the UK noted the biggest drop in retail sales in recorded history, with a total drop of nearly 2% compared to the previous year.
But the effects of the pandemic haven’t been consistent across the board. While ecommerce has thrived, in-store retail has suffered significantly.
Now, as things begin to return to normal, will in-store sales once again pick up? Naturally, yes. But whether or not they’ll return to pre-pandemic levels is yet to be determined.
Recent reports suggest that shoppers are wary about spending in the post-COVID landscape, and experts are predicting that consumer spending will probably remain at lower-than-usual levels for the foreseeable future.
So, should you be worried? Absolutely not! Believe it or not, it’s not all doom and gloom for the retail industry.
In fact, by making a few simple in-store improvements, it’s completely possible for retailers to boost sales, rebuild loyalty amongst target audiences, recover rapidly, and ultimately maximise revenue.
9 Easy Business Improvements To Improve Your Retail Store Today
Here are 9 of the easiest, yet most effective improvements retailers can make in-store today.
1. Improve Employee Scheduling
Think about what you want yourself when you visit a brick and mortar store today. You want to get in and out as quickly and as safely as possible, right? That’s what your customers want, too.
And if they have confidence that they can get what they need without any hassle, they’re more likely to visit. The key to achieving this level of efficiency is to ensure you’ve got the right staff coverage at the right time.
By adopting a data-centric approach, it’s easier than you might think to anticipate particularly busy periods and identify times when the store is quieter and less in-demand.
Armed with this data, you can use dedicated employee scheduling and timesheet software to optimise schedules, giving you complete peace of mind that your customers will have the attention and support they need to purchase.
2. Make Your Employees a Priority
In the first eight months of 2020, 125,000 retail workers lost their jobs.
That increased to 180,000 by the end of the year, marking a rise of nearly 25% from the previous year – it’s not surprising that your staff may be feeling a little deflated.
Happy employees are productive employees, and many do their best work when they feel supported. The good news is that most feel supported by their managers.
The bad news is that there’s still a lot of room for improvement. According to a recent report, 82% believe that they could improve their work performance and become a better employee if their employer was more transparent and communicated more clearly.
Consider building schedules that meet the needs of your workers, ensure fair pay, and most of all – empower your team to do great things.
3. Upgrade to an EPOS System
There are many, many reasons to upgrade to a cloud-based EPOS system from a traditional point of sale system.
And one of the most urgent reasons is that a more advanced, more efficient system can help you to maximise revenue when you need it most.
One advantage is advanced reporting options, which could enable you to promote the right products to the right people, based on real-time sales figures and data.
Another huge benefit of EPOS systems is that they’re usually compatible with a number of mobile devices, making it easy to check out your customers anywhere, avoiding lengthy queues and improving the overall buyer experience.
There are two main stages in in-store sales: decisions and transactions. Once a customer has decided to buy, don’t risk losing the sale by relying on slow, inefficient checkout systems.
4. Optimise Your EPOS System
Maximising revenue isn’t quite as easy as simply upgrading to an EPOS system; for best results, it’s important to optimise your system and ensure you’re making use of all the revenue-boosting features.
When you choose the right system, you can use your point of sale system to boost loyalty and maximise sales, especially when you utilise built-in features that let you build smarter, stronger loyalty schemes.
Prior to the pandemic, just one-third of Brits said they were satisfied with retail loyalty schemes, so there’s definitely a lot of room for improvement in this area.
The data that you collect from your EPOS system can really help you to deliver personalised, valuable rewards to your customers in order to rebuild loyalty and help buyers regain spending confidence. Loyal customers are more likely to come back for more.
5. Train and Upskill Your Staff
Even a well-optimised EPOS is only as good as the person operating it. When you work to train and upskill your workforce, you can ensure that your systems are operated by highly competent individuals that can attend to, support and checkout your customers as quickly and efficiently as possible to improve the buyer experience and boost sales. Every single employee should act as a brand expert.
Sadly, recent surveys show that about one-third of frontline workers – including retail staff – feel that they’re not getting the coaching and training they need to carry out their duties in the most effective and productive ways.
To maximise your revenue by providing exceptional buying experiences, it’s definitely worth thinking about new training opportunities to help your staff better identify needs and wants.
6. Reinvent Your Inventory Management Strategy
One of the problems that retailers are facing right now is that they’re getting the foot traffic they need to boost revenue, but they’re not always able to make the necessary sales. And a big part of this is stock.
Not having what your customers need is perhaps the simplest way to lose an easy sale. In fact, inventory management is proving to be one of the biggest challenges facing retailers since stores reopened.
If you don’t already have a strong and resilient inventory management system, then now is the time to get one.
It’s also important to ensure your staff are including inventory management tasks into their responsibilities, such as manually checking stock to ensure the automated inventory remains accurate.
With an EPOS system, you can use historical data to predict demand for specific items in the future.
7. Provide Exceptional Customer Service
Even the simplest improvements in your retail store could have massive effects on in-store revenue. Service with a smile? It matters.
Ecommerce isn’t thriving because it’s the preference; it’s thriving because, during the pandemic, it’s been the only option.
Many shoppers still prefer the human touch. Being greeted by a friendly brand ambassador is something that simply can’t be replicated online.
Research even shows that shoppers are more likely to be willing to part with their hard-earned cash when employees are more focused on engagement and conversation than simply making a sale.
Even if a visitor appears to just be browsing, it’s worth going the extra mile to ensure their enjoyment and satisfaction.
Every shopper should be treated the same; you never know who’s ready to convert.
8. Introduce New Signage
If budgets allow, right now is the perfect time for introducing new signage to your retail store.
Not necessarily directional signage, but information that can help guide in-store customers towards the best purchasing decision for them.
For example: if you sell jeans, signage that explains the different fits; if you sell DIY items, signage that outlines where items can be used (eg. tiles) or how they can be used.
One advantage that ecommerce has over in-store retail is that each item usually comes attached to a product description – content that guides and supports customers through the decision making process.
Content is rarely available in-store, but it should be. If customers aren’t sure about which product to choose or don’t know if they’re making the right choice, signage acts as a bottom-of-the-funnel nudge.
9. Position Your Products & Increase Order Value
Of course, probably one of the most obvious ways to maximise revenue is to simply sell more; increase the average order value and generate greater profits from your customers.
This can be particularly useful if you don’t feel ready to invest in techniques to drive more foot traffic to your store, as it works to encourage existing customers to purchase from you rather than from your competitors.
One way to do this is to train your staff in upselling or cross-selling at the point of sale, developing their product knowledge skills and enabling them to recommend complementary or associated products based on individual choices.
Alternative options include targeted in-store marketing through your EPOS system, with personalised offers based on past purchases, or strategic product positioning to boost visibility.
Both options can be done for free, it’s just a matter of training and assessing your store layout.
The New Era of Retail – Omnichannel Commerce
Ecommerce has emerged as the winner of the pandemic.
But in-store retail is far from dead.
Research shows that 41% still say that in-store shopping is their preferred method, with many being pushed into ecommerce by lockdown regulations.
As restrictions begin to ease, brick-and-mortar retail is set to experience a second wind, a new lease of life that will revitalise and rejuvenate the industry.
But the fact is that success isn’t a given: the success of retail stores in the new normal is heavily dependent on retailers adapting and making necessary changes that will help attract and engage with post-COVID shoppers.
There is hope for retail in 2021 and beyond, as long as retailers are willing to embrace change, and make small yet effective improvements that can help them maximise revenue.