We invited to our last webinar, Rachel Williamson, the chief strategy advisor and founder of Running Great Stores. As you can probably tell by the name, she focuses on helping retailers maximise the in-store experience and make brick and mortar the amazing experience that it should be and what it was designed to be. Alongside our CEO, Daniel Martinho-Corbishley, they explored how retailers can use the holiday season to reposition for high growth into opportunities—if they make bold, data driven decisions.
Drawing from her experience, Rachel gives recommendations to retailers on:
I really have three things to share that I think everybody who's listening today who has a store, you can just take away from what makes sense for you. But I think the war on talent, as we've called it in the United States, has been going on for decades.
Back when I was a store manager, I always felt like I didn't have quite enough of the pool of talent that I was looking for. And so certainly a talent shortage is really not new. Perhaps it was exacerbated by the Covid Pandemic. And for sure, there seemed to be a lot less people in the workforce, but there is light at the end of that tunnel.
The operational fundamentals for how you run your store are going to be vital because if you don't have enough people and your store doesn't run well, it's a fiasco. Maybe not for you, although it is for you as well, but really for your customer. And on holidays, many times, that is the customer's first introduction to your brand because they received a wish list from someone that said, buy me something at this retailer. And so they're walking in for the first time and you want that first time experience to be so remarkable. And so have your operational processes buttoned up?. That means make sure your new hires have been properly trained. So the first thing that I'll say is hire for attitude. Hire for people that love it, that love retail, that love to shock, that have a passion for helping people. You can train their skill set. I can teach you how to stock your floor but I can't teach you how to be an amazing, happy person who loves to engage customers. The second thing that I would just say is, This whole staffing crunch has always escalates the accountability factor. And what does that mean? It means that you, as a store manager, have to run a great store. You have to be kind and compassionate to your staff, you have to be understanding. If they couldn't find parking, be understanding if they're five minutes late. And because this generation's not really gonna tolerate being barked at.
…Treat people like you wanna be treated. Be super kind, be super helpful. And then the third thing is you really have to cross train your team. So I like to refer to it as being a Swiss army knife.
How does that compare to a retail store? Well, I should know how to ring the register. Yeah, I should know how to be a greeter at the front door. I should know how to engage a customer in the changing room. So I should be able to do all those things. if your cashier doesn't show, you can just say, Associate A, would you go ring for me for a bit until the next person comes in? And that is really part of running an operationally excellent store.
So cross training is huge. And you may not need it throughout the year, but you're gonna need it for the holiday. And if you're short staffed, customers really won't notice.
Daniel: Do you think that there's missing insights that store managers and maybe head office have to know about?
Rachel Williamson: It's a great question , the reality is many of us that run retail businesses, we've been in retail a long time and our tendency is to think “What got me here is what I'm comfortable with. I'm gonna hold onto and it's gonna get me there”. But we all know, like the book, what Got You Here will get you there. We must have all and adapt and running a retail store is really no different. And so prioritising, you might have always said, I'm gonna have every register open, but if you don't have three deep in line, you only need one register open.
That cashier needs to be heads up and say, I'm gonna be right with you. Thank you so much for waiting. So there is an etiquette that is so important, you don’t want your customers to think you don't care that they're there and there's no urgency to assist, right?
I love that I can see dwell times and the recommended number of heads on the Aura Vision Dashboard,
It’s important and empowering the the store manager to know : How long does a customer hang out in this part of the store and is that where I should zone my people because that's where they might need to be. And also how does that compare to other store locations.
Rachel Williamson: I work with a lot of retailers on doing testing around having an Individual commission based programs vs store bonuses.
We first launch an A/B test with a numbers of teams that continues on commission based and other teams where the whole store team is incentivized and if the store makes bonus, the entire team gets a reward of some kind, whether it's monetary in their pay-check or it's a gift card etc
I would say that nine out of 10 times, What really plays out is the entire team being incentivized really is better.
Your store team needs to collectively know the product, to be confident in selling it, and to just make it such a fun experience for that customer that they'll be back again and again.
Your finance team is going to wanna see an ROI and that number is different for every retailer, but you, you definitely want to see a lift in conversion and average order value.
In other cases, You have to ask yourself, does cash incentivize a part-time associate? Well if the bonus payout was $20 for the month, It sure doesn't feel like very much. But a $20 Amazon or Starbucks gift card would work better. There's nothing like a stack of gift cards to thank your team for coming in. Thank 'em for a job well done. They could be $5.
- Another way to incentivize your team is to really talk to them about their hours and earnings, Example: if you pick up this other shift, this is how much dollars you're gonna earn.
Also, do kind things. Bring in cookies for your team. Let 'em have an extra few minutes on their break, Be creative, think about things that you would like, and then let them have that, but long term, longer term, work with your head office and really figure out your incentive program so you can have less turnover.”
Rachel Williamson: It's really hard to prove ROI on floor moves. The reality is, at the very least, you should move to the front zone, which some retailers call the hot zone. So that could be a front table and refresh your windows.
I would say if you're spending an enormous amount of money on floor moves, do some testing to figure out if you're really getting an uplift from them. Information out there says a customer shops four times a year in their favourite brands. So , If you're changing your floor set every four weeks, who are you really doing it for? You do have customers like me, who are going to notice the changes but most don’t.
We have visual teams at these retailers. This is what they do and they love it. They're so passionate about it. Yeah. And they wanna believe that you need to move everything. But, I think the pendulum should swing somewhere in the middle, not on the far left.
The first thing I ask teams when discussing this is what metrics would you typically track when doing your store refits? What is the productivity of this fixture? How does this correlate to the conversion rate? What has your run rate been? What’s the baseline? Having tools like AuraVision which do the math for you is amazing.