Innovative Retail Technologies

SEP-OCT 2016

Innovative Retail Technologies (formerly Integrated Solutions For Retailers) is the premier source for innovative yet pragmatic technology solutions in the retail industry.

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it begs a question. How did the company manage its associates — the front-line operators of the new systems — through such fast and comprehensive change? Tom Cross, VP of store operations at Performance Bicycle, says a tightly orchestrated announcement of the coming changes, a well-planned rollout, and thorough training were key to ensuring acceptance and adoption of the new systems. "We kicked off the rollout at our annual district manager's meeting. Sam Felts, our director of training, was accountable for training our district managers. From there, the training duties trickled down; district managers trained store managers, and store managers handled associate training," Cross says. But that formal training was just one element of ensuring the platform's success. Cross says a multimedia approach was deployed, including: • Webinars conducted through the register system at all stores. • In-person market-specific training conducted by Felts in key markets, where store managers were brought together in one place. • Basic training video housed on the company's intranet. • Distribution of an interactive quick- reference training manual to every store, which Cross says enabled the head office to monitor each associate's training program completion rate. • Continuous two-way communication through Performance Bicycle's Cat 1 corner, a weekly communications piece produced by the store operations group that comes out every Friday afternoon. "As a part of our 'Extraordinary Service' initiative, we created an e-mail program called "Enterprise Issue E-mail," explains Cross. "We've asked our associates to share if there's anything enterprise- or POS-related that hinders them from delivering extraordinary customer service, and this tool gives them the opportunity to do that." Where this collaborative process did uncover struggles, Cross says, most instances were resolved through re- education or additional training. "The Aptos system is intuitive, but some of our seasoned managers needed a bit more time to adjust to it after using our previous system for so many years. Now, as I visit stores, I receive nothing but positive feedback," says Cross. He says associates are most excited about the consolidation of steps necessary to complete transactions. The six-month rollout was managed in stages, eliminating the "red phone" to the call center, layering on ship-to- store, ship-from-store, and buy online/pick up in-store incrementally. Overcoming Sales Attribution Arguments For many merchants with a history of running sales channels as separate — and sometimes competitive — businesses, sales attribution becomes a major point of contention that has sunk more than a few omni-channel initiatives. The company made a strategic decision to attribute sales to the associate team that would have the biggest impact on the ultimate customer interaction. In most cases that was the store where the order originated, was fulfilled, or was picked up. Cross says overcoming that dilemma is part cultural, part operational. "Retailers love sales, regardless of the channel from which they originate," he says. That's the cultural part, and it requires aligning the omni-channel sales mentality with the omni- channel systems functionality that enables those sales. "Store managers love sales too, so when you tell them they're going to get attribution for more sales — the ones they help facilitate through enterprise selling and store-level fulfillment — there's immediate acceptance." In fact, Cross shares that his original plan entailed limiting store-level fulfillment of online and catalog orders to the stores he felt had enough inventory and a large enough footprint to facilitate it. "I didn't plan on allowing some of our smaller stores to fulfill those orders because of their limited size and personnel. But as we rolled out ship-from-store, I found that store managers were clamoring to be moved up the list. They could see that brick-and-mortar retail was changing, and they could see the sales that resulted from enabling ship-from-store, so I've since changed my thinking on that and have made plans to allow every store to fulfill web and catalog orders." Store-Level Fulfillment Process Change The paradigm shift created by enterprise selling is not lost on Cross. "Our brick-and- 9 Sept-Oct 2016 "When you tell [store managers] they're going to get attribution for more sales — the ones they help facilitate through enterprise selling and store- level fulfillment — there's immediate acceptance." Tom Cross, VP of store operations, Performance Bicycles mortar associates used to be consumed with the in-store customer experience. Enterprise selling expands that obsession to every customer in any channel, and they all deserve an equally great experience," he says. To keep that customer experience promise, Cross says, a change to scheduling processes was in order. "We have people coming in earlier in the morning or later in the evening, depending on the store, to handle ship-from- and ship-to-store orders. You can't necessarily deal with this large influx of orders while the store is open, because you can't distract associates from spending time out on the floor taking care of customers," he says. Performance Bicycle is also designating specific associates to fulfillment tasks based on skill level, experience, and customer service attributes. The company is also adding the in-store infrastructure necessary to make store-level fulfillment an efficient process, including UPS shipping stations such as packaging, fill, package measurement devices, and label printers in the back rooms of its stores. Successfully transitioning from single- channel merchant to multi-channel retailer to omni-channel enterprise isn't a light task. It requires a fine balance between the upgrade (or overhaul) of retail systems and careful change management related to retail associates. Performance Bicycle appears to have struck that balance well, the results ensuring it will continue on its trajectory of growth in the specialty sporting goods segment.

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