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Conversion is king: Winning in retail with targeted store service scheduling

As the retail landscape becomes increasingly competitive – driven by rising business rates and the post-Brexit pound – conversion is more important than ever. And, in an omnichannel shopping environment, where connected customers now expect the speed and convenience of shopping online to be replicated in-store, how can bricks-and-mortar outlets optimise store performance to drive enhanced customer experiences and, ultimately, increase sales?

Finding the right balance between store associates and shoppers is key.

Here are five key ways retailers can optimise their store scheduling, to ensure that the store – and its staff, who remain at the heart of driving in-store conversions – can serve up the convenient and personalised interactions consumers expect, and uphold best-class service, even during busy periods.

Define your scheduling goals In order to deliver positive in-store encounters, most scheduling objectives focus on stock fulfilment, the checkout and interpersonal service. Retail leaders and store managers need to understand how these factors impact the store, and in what capacity, in order to successfully establish labour allocation.

This will vary from sector to sector. Luxury retailers, for instance, commonly have smaller in-store teams focused on delivering high-touch, highly personalised customer interactions – whether it’s one-to-one product demonstrations or personal styling at the fitting rooms. This requires a focus on floor coverage to ensure there are sufficient staff to provide the one-to-one experience touted by luxury brands, and so associates will be keenly focused on service rather than general tasks (cleaning, stocking, etc.) during open hours. Grocery or quick service retail environments, on the other hand, will need to focus on stocking and the manning of the checkouts.

Footfall first It’s important to not rely on guess work, or gut instinct, when it comes to mapping a store’s peak periods. Inaccurate traffic forecasts can cause service level gaps in scheduling. Traffic data highlights the opportunities for sales and conversions – and the specific dates/time that labour should be allocated.

Mix and match associate availability The key to putting associates at the heart of store performance is ensuring that, during any one shift, a suitable mix of staff are on the floor together. For example, putting experienced store staff on shifts with newer employees, as opposed to leaving all new associates to work the floor, safeguards customer service while avoiding last-minute schedule changes.

Relate hours to associate behaviours As a standard for allocating associate hours, set individual goals, how they will achieve those goals, and any additional tasks that they must perform during their scheduled shift. Goals can take the form of a brand’s selling KPIs (e.g., sales or transactions per hour, units per transaction, etc.), or even how many shipment boxes need to be processed each hour for a non-selling associate. This ensures that store staff are clear about their responsibilities during shifts, that they remain on task, and that sales objectives are always on each associate’s mind.

Think beyond the days With flash discounting days or major peaks in footfall prompted by gifting days or even public holidays, it’s easy for managers to become hyper-focused on an individual day. Additionally, traffic volatility within each day makes it hard to consistently maintain appropriate service levels within the day itself. Rather than narrowing in on a specific day or set of dates, such as peak trading, it’s vital to remain focused on winning both the week and longer-term periods, such as the 13-week quarter. This ensures long-term success on the store and, even, brand level.

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