The Complete Guide to Agile Store Execution

How to bring your brand vision to life in stores, no matter how fast your business changes

August 16, 2022

It’s safe to say that retail is only getting more and more complex.

Today’s store teams are being asked to provide a top-notch customer experience while also running product out to the curbside pick up, dropping deliveries in mall lockers and handing off purchases to Uber drivers for same day delivery. 

Delivering the promise of connected commerce can only happen when store associates are given relevant, correct, and executable direction… and the autonomy to get everything done in a way that works best for their store.

Jump ahead:

What is agile store execution?

What if brick-and-mortar retailers could move as fast as their online counterparts? What if they could A/B test in-store concepts, collect frontline feedback, and scale what’s working fleet-wide in a matter of days, not months? What would they be able to achieve? Higher profits? More customer loyalty?

Agile store execution is the implementation of direction sent to stores down from headquarters in a way that continually adapts to the ever-changing priorities of a retail business. In essence, it helps brick-and-mortar stores approximate the responsiveness of an online storefront.

Agile store execution can only happen when store employees understand that the decisions they make have a tangible impact on the way their brand performs. And beyond that, they know they are allowed and encouraged to make these types of decisions.

Why is it so difficult to achieve agile store execution?

Store managers are ultimately responsible for the financial performance, customer service metrics, and HR management of their given store. Balancing the needs of their individual location with direction from HQ is, at best, exhausting. 

Most store leaders spend their days planning labor schedules, checking displays, helping customers, and coaching their direct reports – which can sometimes be in the dozens. Executing direction from headquarters is simply another task on this unending list. 

In short: getting store teams to take timely, precise action is hard. Which is why so many retailers aren’t great at it. In retail, store execution traditionally hovers around 29%. This means that less than a third of the direction HQ sends down to their store teams is executed correctly, and on time. Retailers leave a lot of money on the table through badly executed campaigns – and it all stems from ineffective communication to the frontline.

How to drive agile store execution

Achieving agile store execution starts with engaging your frontline employees. Engaged employees how their own best interest and their company’s best interest intersect. They have the necessary skills and knowledge to carry out their tasks and because they understand how these tasks contribute to their organization’s greater good, they are intrinsically motivated. Therefore, these employees show little need for continual oversight. 

In order to drive agile store execution and engage employees, retailers need to implement the following three principles:

  • Clear, streamlined communication
  • Accountability at every level
  • Context and connection to company goals

Clear, streamlined communication

Executives in retail have a harder job than most: They not only have to set the company’s vision and hold teams accountable to metrics, but also have to do all this without the ease of gathering their entire employee population under one roof. You might even say that retail is the original “remote work.” (And we all know how difficult it is to rally employees remotely.)

Geographically dispersed employees aren’t the only issue, either. Retailers also see a challenge in engaging all employees because associates are often part time, trained once and then left to learn on the job. Ironically, these employees are closer to customers and trends than corporate could ever be, so it’s especially important that they embody your brand’s culture. 

This type of seamless customer and brand experience can only happen when store associates are given relevant, correct, and executable direction and information to exceed customer expectations.

Accountability at every level

Guess what: The real job of your Regional Directors, Territory Managers, and District Leaders isn’t to simply forward emails from corporate to their stores. It’s to coach and guide their store teams to more precise, consistent execution so your vision comes to life in the field.

So how do you empower this middle level of your organization to hold their store teams accountable? By getting everybody – especially your Upper Field leaders and your store teams – on the same page. 

When you provide field leaders and store employees with access to the same information, everybody understands what the company priorities are and what good looks like. This level of transparency, in turn, drives increased accountability at every level of a retailer’s brick and mortar fleet. 

Context and connection to company goals

Like it or not, store managers are going to make their own decisions about where they’re spending time. That’s why agile store execution starts with giving them the proper tools so they can effectively prioritize and plan. One of these tools that retailers often overlook is context. 

Today’s retail leaders are running multimillion-dollar operations, and they’re making day-to-day decisions that impact brand reputation and in-store sales. Connecting what stores need to know (the “why”) with what stores need to do (the “what”) in a way that gives them context to understand how to effectively prioritize their tasks. Through this approach, HQ has the power to make their store leaders better stewards of the business and proactively influence where they spend their time.

How Zipline can help

We built Zipline from the ground-up with a focus on driving better store execution through streamlined, clear communication. Zipline’s approach allows your teams to take action and get store execution back on track before it takes a toll on your business. Here’s how:

  • Zipline doesn’t just give teams tasks – it gives them context, too.
  • Zipline empowers your Upper Field Leaders to take action before issues reach the C-Suite.
  • Zipline enables you to do what you do best: inspire your teams, at scale.

Ready to unleash the full potential of an empowered, aligned, and agile frontline workforce? Zipline’s Store Enablement Assessment measures the effectiveness of your people strategies, communication process, and technology platforms. Take the 10-minute assessment and see how your stores score today.

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