Store Operations: Trends transforming Store Operations in 2024
TRB Retail Trends 2024 Series: Navigating Turbulence in the High Street
On the high street, retailers grapple with economic uncertainties, supply chain intricacies, and labour shortages, requiring adaptability and strategic foresight. As we kick off the 2024 Retail Trends reports, the first in a series, it’s evident that store operations are the linchpin for retailers amid this turbulence.
The high street, resilient yet facing challenges, relies on store operations not only for survival but for thriving in adversity. This series explores trends and tactics, guiding retailers to position themselves for sustained success in an ever-evolving market. Store operations emerge as silent architects, shaping not just transactions but entire customer experiences, impacting the strategic success of the entire retail ecosystem.
Trends and Tactics Transforming Store Operations
Omnichannel: Bridging online and In-store
The omnichannel approach stands as a cornerstone for thriving retailers. For store managers and inventory specialists, this means seamlessly melding online and in-store experiences, ensuring efficient inventory management, and optimising logistics to meet customer expectations for a cohesive journey, thereby enhancing satisfaction and driving sales.
[Find out more about how The Cotswold Company are working to deliver their omnichannel growth strategy].
Integrated experiences: Elevating beyond transactions
In 2024, the retail landscape is witnessing a shift toward immersive experiences within physical stores. For customer service representatives and store associates, this entails transforming physical spaces into engaging environments. It involves implementing interactive elements, personalised services, and leveraging technology to create a profound connection between brand and consumer, moving beyond the transactional aspect of retail.
An example: Lush’s new Hair Lab in Brighton is a bold and beautifully executed concept of this. They are seamlessly merging distinct aspects of the experience, including a coffee bar, botanicals hair washing, and a product section. This space not only caters to loyal Lush customers looking for a haircuts but also invites new patrons to discover Lush products through a unique and immersive salon experience.
AI Takes centre stage
Empowering front-line workers: AI’s Supportive role
AI doesn’t just transform the back-end operations; it serves as a valuable ally for front-line workers too. AI-powered tools can assist store associates in various ways, from providing real-time product information and inventory updates to suggesting personalised recommendations for customers. By automating routine tasks, such as inventory checks or order processing, AI frees up time for front-line workers to focus on enhancing customer experiences, answering queries, and fostering meaningful connections. Additionally, AI-driven training modules can empower staff with the latest product knowledge and customer service skills, ensuring a consistently high level of service.
Enhanced AI integration: Revolutionising supply chain dynamics
AI takes centre stage, not merely as a tech tool but as a critical player in addressing supply chain challenges and directly impacting customer satisfaction. In a world where footfall without sales is a risk no retailer can afford, ensuring the right goods are in stock, at the right price, becomes imperative. AI-driven insights not only optimise inventory management but also tackle issues like out-of-stock items, pricing discrepancies, and trend identification. By seamlessly aligning supply chain efficiency with customer expectations, retailers can turn every store visit into a fruitful sales opportunity, maximizing revenue potential.
[Read more on how Vertiv trends forecast sees intense focus on AI enablement and energy management].
Community building and collaboration
Active community-building around brands is reshaping the retail narrative. For store managers and community engagement coordinators, this involves creating spaces for connection and engagement. Events and online forums can be organised within the store to foster a sense of belonging, turning customers into advocates and establishing a loyal customer base.
Shifting consumer spending patterns: Mindful Shopping
With economic challenges influencing consumer behaviour, retail and store managers must consider the shift in spending patterns. According to insights from BazaarVoice, customers are increasingly mindful of their spending, with 77% reducing expenditures on non-essential items. In response, retailers need to evaluate changes in customers’ needs hierarchies, understanding how products are prioritised against competing expenditures, optimising variables that influence purchasing decisions in challenging times.
We talk to JD Saint-Martin, President at Lightspeed to find out how retailers can use AI to accomplish more with less
The pace of innovation presents a formidable challenge for retailers in the upcoming years. As we cast our gaze to 2024, it becomes clear that AI will play a pivotal role in shaping success within the retail and e-commerce sector. While the potential of AI to benefit the retail industry is still in its early stages, it holds promise for transformative and futuristic technologies. Innovations like virtual and augmented reality or fully autonomous robot-powered stores, are poised to revolutionise the future of the shopping experience. Meanwhile, in the current landscape, AI is already empowering retailers to accomplish more with fewer resources, offering practical applications that enhance the efficiency of everyday business processes.
As the landscape of online shopping continues to expand, AI-powered chatbots emerge as invaluable tools, providing retailers with an ‘always-on’ help desk capable of addressing customer inquiries in any language. These chatbots automate routine tasks and seamlessly escalate complex issues to human support when necessary.
The integration of AI has elevated customer analytics, inventory management, pricing optimisation, and competitive intelligence to sophisticated levels, all at an affordable price point. What were once exclusive tools for big-box retailers are now accessible to small and medium-sized businesses, revolutionising their operational capabilities.
Physical retailers are compelled to adopt an omnichannel strategy and establish a robust online presence. For our customers, translating the quality of their physical stores to their online platforms or social media becomes a challenge. AI solutions alleviate this burden by swiftly providing high-quality images and accurate product descriptions, particularly beneficial for retailers managing extensive inventories.
AI serves as a powerful catalyst, enhancing the capabilities of staff and streamlining workflows. This trend is set to intensify in 2024, underscoring the importance of proper upskilling for employees to harness the full potential of AI tools and avoid falling behind in this rapidly evolving landscape.
Have you got an amazing retail ops or store team?
Elevating store operations and mastering retail management hinges on the strength of your team – the true backbone of success. Behind every thriving operation are exceptional individuals and teams. If you boast a stellar team, seize the opportunity to celebrate their excellence by entering the People in Retail Awards. Don’t miss out on the chance to showcase your team’s achievements.
Grab your free entry pack here and let the recognition begin!