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    Behind all that we get to see in a modern retail store – organized aisles/merchandising, wide range of products, uniformed employees, payment terminal with readers and scanners, a cool and clean environment, designer interiors, lighting and seating arrangements etc. there’s a multitude of integrated business processes at work in the background to ensure that the customers have a pleasant and delightful in-store experience. These business processes have to be planned in advance and executed with utmost precision. It’s easy said than done. Firstly, there are several processes involved in the functioning of a retail store like customer service, inventory, staffing, finance and accounting etc. with each process having unique operations. Secondly, these processes need to be integrated at the right places. To overcome these challenges in managing of processes, retail stores can go for SOP development. Developing Standard Operating Procedures can help retail stores in five important areas.

    Store Merchandising

    Through planned store merchandising, retail stores can ensure an appealing visual display environment and also provide an easy shopping experience for customers. It can also help a retail store achieve upselling and cross-selling. Effective merchandising often leads to impulse purchases as well. And most importantly, planned to merchandise help retail stores effectively manage its available space and provide convenience to employees in stacking arrangements. Merchandising is not a one-time effort. To continue deriving the benefits of merchandising, retail stores need to lay down stringent merchandising procedures in place and ensure that these procedures are being consistently followed by the employees on an everyday basis. Different stores use different positioning criteria for the display of their products. These criteria include – category-wise (departmental stores), alphabet-wise (pharmacies), price-wise (bakeries and confectioners), on the basis of brand name (apparel stores) etc. SOP (Standard operating procedures) procedures can prove to be very useful for employees in retail stores for sorting, stacking and placing of products in their designated areas right from the moment fresh inventory reaches the store.

    Through planned store merchandising, retail stores can ensure an appealing visual display environment and also provide an easy shopping experience for customers

    Customer Service

    Customer service can be simply defined as the organized set of efforts performed by a business enterprise to create customer satisfaction and customer delight through customers’ shopping experience. Customer service goes beyond smiles and behavior. It encompasses a wide range of focus areas which include ensuring availability of products, organized merchandising for the convenience of customers, home delivery for bulk purchases in local areas, a customer-friendly communication policy for providing information on promotional offers and gathering productive customer feedback, adherence to product return policies, proper billing, a swift and effective grievance redressal mechanism etc. Working in these areas not only helps a retail store render customer service but also gives them a competitive edge. Thus, customer service has evolved as a strategic business process which cannot be left to chance. This process has to be built on stringent operating procedures to ensure that the established standards of the retail store are met in every area and store’s performance exceeds customers’ expectations. Documented operating procedures for employees in the form of SOPs in various operations of customer service process can help retail stores maintain high standards of customer service to create and maintain a delightful shopping experience for their customers.

    It encompasses a wide range of focus areas which include ensuring availability of products, organized merchandising for the convenience of customers, home delivery for bulk purchases in local areas, a customer-friendly communication policy for providing information on promotional offers and gathering productive customer feedback

    Supply and Inventory

    Irrespective of the size and operations, maintaining adequate storage and a steady flow of inventory is vital for retail stores to avoid stock out situations and thereby prevent customers from turning to competitors. Ensuring steady inventory levels involves real-time and accurate stock information reporting mechanism, timely reordering, smooth internal indenting process and effective storage/warehousing and logistical solutions. Use of modern-day supply chain management practices and technologies like SKU (Stock Keeping Unit), NOS (New Old Stock), GPS tracking and supply-chain ERP application have become very popular with many retail stores to effectively and efficiently manage their inventory. But to ensure that the inventory processes and associated technologies facilitate a healthy and stable inventory management, retail stores need to establish clearly-defined operating procedures for the execution of these processes in tune with the technologies in place. Retail stores can achieve this end with SOP development and implementation. A systematic step-by-step approach to execute operational activities will help in timely and accurate reporting and decision-making pertaining to the inventory levels, indenting, reordering, logistics, storage and warehousing.

    Ensuring steady inventory levels involves real-time and accurate stock information reporting mechanism, timely reordering, smooth internal indenting process and effective storage/warehousing and logistical solutions

    Store Safety and Security

    To protect and safeguard employees, customers, equipment and inventory from potential hazards or from the consequences of any unforeseen incident, safety and security are of paramount importance in retail stores. Theft, fire, damage to building and accidents arising from the use of faulty electrical, mechanical and electronic equipment are some of the common safety and security risks in a retail store. Different kinds of retail stores are exposed to different kinds of safety and security risks. This calls for the implementation of adequate protective and preventive measures for safety and security in retail stores. SOPs can prove to be very instrumental in maintaining the established standards of safety and security in retail stores. The measures adopted by retailers to ensure safety and security in their stores can be incorporated into the routine operating procedures. This will help ensure that there’s a routine check on the established safety and security parameters of the store. Timely renewal of insurance cover, properly working condition of CCTV cameras, deployment of security guards from reliable agencies, procedures for using equipment in stores, placing fire extinguishers and first-aid facilities etc. are some of the necessary measures that need to find a place in the SOPs of retail stores.

    The measures adopted by retailers to ensure safety and security in their stores can be incorporated into the routine operating procedures. This will help ensure that there’s a routine check on the established safety and security parameters of the store

    Training

    Training is a very important area of work all for retail stores. There is a host of processes involved in running a retail store and these processes are executed by the employees. Any glitch on the part of an employee can cause the entire system to slow down or even arrive at a halt. Therefore, it becomes important to impart necessary training to the employees to make sure that the operational activities in every process are executed as per the established standards leading to the smooth functioning of the entire store. For example, the employees in charge of the stock should be well-acquainted with the operating procedures of the store’s inventory management. Any shortcoming in performance on the part of stock/inventory management process will have a direct bearing on another crucial process i.e. customer service. SOP-based training programs have emerged as very effective tools for making employees ready for the job in a short span of time. Training modules built on a step-by-step learning methodology emulated from the actual SOPs at work help employees quickly understand the flow of work and the standards of output/performance required to be delivered at each stage.

    Training modules built on a step-by-step learning methodology emulated from the actual SOPs at work help employees quickly understand the flow of work and the standards of output/performance required to be delivered at each stage

    The outer glitter and glimmer of retail stores rest on the foundation of robust internal processes built on systematic and integrated operating procedures. And these operating procedures can be designed with the help of SOP mechanism. With more and more retail stores opting to go omnichannel, SOPs (combined with emerging technologies) will continue to serve as a useful management tool for the integration of business processes.

    Benefits of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

     


     

    To read more topics related to this click here: 05 Reasons why Developing the Right Culture in the Organization is Inevitable for Growth | YRCHow SOPs will Benefit Wholesale Brand Venturing into Retail | YRC5 Ways to Improve Staff Retention in the Organization | YRCEffect of REIT on Indian Malls | YRC10 Ways to Get IPO Ready Part-II | YRC

    YRC is an “Expert Service Division” of Mind-A-Mend Consultancy Pvt. Ltd.

    Author Bio

    Nikhil Agarwal

    Chief Operations Officer

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      PROCESS AUTOMATION

      The idea of having Ecommerce Consultants on-board from the beginning itself points towards reducing the involvement of the promoters in daily operations. Ecommerce Businesses willing to be a brand reaping profits & sustaining the competition must ensure that most of their processes should be automated. The more the manual intervention, the more would be the errors.

      In Ecommerce business, you get only 1 chance to impress the customer & if you mess up there, you lose the customer for long.

      Process automation in respect to all the activities pertaining to customers from order receiving to order fulfilment is a must for a seamless experience for the customers.

      Task Management is another grey area where most deadlines fail as 90% of the tasks are assigned manually & are forgotten, unheard, misunderstood or mistaken.

      YRC Team of Ecommerce Management Consultants helps to make maximum of the processes system-driven to ensure minimalistic manual intervention.

      VIDEOGRAPHY & PHOTOGRAPHY

      No matter how good your product is, the customer would know only if it looks good.

      Photography includes the following steps:

      • Cataloguing your products
      • Cataloguing your images
      • Backup your images (A few cloud storage solutions include Dropbox, Google Drive, Bitcasa, Apple’s Cloud Storage etc.)
      • Choose the right camera & lens (You may also outsource the photography to a third party agency)

      DIGITAL MARKETING

      Digital Marketing includes SEO & SMM. SEO i.e. Search Engine Optimization includes activities like back-linking, meta tags, blog-writing etc. to ensure your website ranks on the 1st page on Google Search.

      Next comes SMM i.e. “Social Media Marketing” which as the name suggests including promoting your products on all the social media sites, email marketing, influencer marketing & several other BTL activities.

      These activities are going to be recurring & would decide the traffic on the website, the conversions, whether the right target market is tapped, the likes, the views, the orders, the reviews & much more. YRCs Ecommerce Consultants create a budget for digital marketing right from pre-launch to launch & for each month thereafter.

      Building digital marketing strategies in coordination with the agency, selecting them to signing them off would be the role of YRC.

      This ensures seamless coordination, detailed interactions & desired execution as it is always advisable to work with a single agency than multiple of them.

      IT INTEGRATION

      Selection of the right software for smooth functioning of back-end operations right from production to webstore display would be suggested and integrated by YRC Team.

      YRC’s Team defines SOPs of Product Movement, maps it with the locations & people. They then create a blueprint of all the features required in the software & help in shortlisting & selection.

      IT Integration involves connecting your offline inventories with real-time online webstore so when a sale occurs, inventories get deducted real time across offline as well as online platforms.

      This helps in accurate inventory management, maintaining the MOQs, re-order levels & achieving the optimum inventory levels.

      Some popular software include unicommerce, viniculum for your front-end website management & Genisys for your entire back-end Purchase, Production, Accounting, Invoicing etc. management.

      WAREHOUSE & LOGISTICS PLANNING

      • How many cities or countries you wish to sell in?
      • Where should your Warehouse be located?
      • Should you have one warehouse in each country or city?
      • Should you be having your own delivery team in your base city?
      • Would the 3rd party vendors be reliable? What happens when they lose or misplace your product during delivery?
      • How should I manage the logistics if my goods are coming from different countries?
      • How should the goods be stored and barcoded?
      • How much space do I require for warehouse?
      • I am sure several such questions must be haunting you while you think of starting your own fashion ecommerce brand.

       

      At YRC, our warehousing and logistics experts can help you devise a strategy for all of the above mentioned queries and much more.

      We design the layout of the Warehouse considering the inward, goods processing, software entry, barcoding, outward, goods return, scrap storage, goods stacking & much more.

      Logistics route plan is devised considering the manufacturer to your warehouse and from there to last mile delivery locations.

      UI & UX DESIGNING

      This Step involves 03 distinct parts:

      Part 1: Choosing the right Platform:

      From several platforms available in the market right from Shopify to magento, woocommerce, prestoshop, wordpress etc. you must choose the one that fits best for your business

      Part 2: UX Designing:

      “UX” denotes User Experience, which if put in simple language is building the functional requirements of the website.

      UX Designing includes designing the features required in the website, customer journey map, website features, the browsing features, navigation features, ecommerce order management process flow, checkout cart features, catalogue management, ecommerce payment system, cross selling features & much more.

      “As per statistics, 68% of the customers abandon the carts before payment”

      An interesting UX ensures the customer sticks on to the website for a longer time.

      Part 3: UI Designing:

      UI stands for User Interface, which means designing the look and feel of the website. UI includes using the right colours, elements and the entire aesthetics of the website.

      A good User Interface ensures the user completes the task that he has come for. It navigates the user through the journey of the brand in the simplest but most effective way.

      The UX designer maps out the bare bones of the user journey; the UI designer then fills it in with visual and interactive elements.

      If User experience is the bare bone, user interface wraps it up with an attractive cape.

      At YRC, our team if experts can help you develop the entire User Journey to ensure it is engaging!

      SAMPLING & PRODUCTION

      This step follows the “Designing” Phase, whether you have an in-house design team, freelance designers or an outsourced design company. It is one of the most exciting phases, as here you see your designs turning into products & your ideas turning into reality.

      In most start-up cases, production is outsourced i.e. brands tie-up with the established manufacturers/ job-workers to get their products manufactured.

      Sampling involves multiple 04 Stages, Fit-Sample, Prototype Sample, Pre-Production Sample & the Production Sample.

      Prototype Sample is the first sample provided to the buyer. It can be in any fabric/ colour. This sample is just to understand whether the product design looks equally great in reality.

      Fit Sample, as the name suggests is prepared to check the fit of the garment i.e. the various sizes, length, width etc.

      Pre-production is made by the actual production line. Here the stitching quality and other aspects related to manufacturing are checked. This is the last stage where rejection can be accepted.

      Production Sample is made before the production which is the replica of what is going to be finally produced.

      Once you are through with all this, you are good to go ahead & get your goods manufactured.

      PRODUCT DESIGNING / SOURCING

      Product Designing or Sourcing is the heart of the Ecommerce Fashion Brand.

      Product Designing / Sourcing can be done in several ways, as follows:

      • In-house Design Team
      • Freelance Designers
      • Outsourced Design Team
      • Ready Product Sourcing (From Manufacturer or Wholesaler)

      At YRC, we evaluate your business strategy & business model to arrive at the decision, which of the above ways would be best-fit for your business. In certain cases, product sourcing may be a combination of the above.

      These are the people who are going to build your brand! Whether they are the designers or merchandiser, your brand look is going to be in their hands.

      If you are designing each garment from the scratch, the sourcing would play crucial role in developing design identity of your brand.

      Sourcing includes fabric, trims, lining & all the raw material required to build the garment.

      BRANDING

      Branding is the “Look of the Brand”, right from logo to tagline, the colours used, the brand story, the brand communications on social media, the packaging & all the other aspects which speak directly or indirectly to the customers. Branding constitutes the look & feel of the brand & hence must be thoughtfully planned to match with the product that we are selling.

      Branding must appeal to our target audience. Example : A golden colour logo depicting finesse, art, richness, premium, however beautiful it may be individually cannot go with a brand selling affordable kids wear products. So, your logo must be in-line with your brand positioning, whether you are an expensive brand or a luxury brand or a value for money brand, it must be depicted from your “Branding”.

      It is an integral part to attract the target audience.

      ORGANOGRAMS & SOP’s

      Organogram is the “HR Blueprint” of the business which is created at the onset, to map out the team required across each function at various stages of the business. At the launch, only key people need to be got on board to ensure the project gets started & at this stage, all of them need to multi-task. Similarly, certain financial as well as operational goals are set for addition of the further team. Example, for the operations team, we hire 1 operations manager during the pre-launch phase & we add 1 more only when the business kicks-off & we reach a volume of selling more than 1000 pcs/ month or a turnover of more than 0.1 million USD.

      SOPs are Standard Operating Procedures, a bible to run the entire organization right from Sales, Purchase, HR, Order receiving to Order fulfilment, Inventory Management, Accounts, Warehouse, Logistics, Supply Chain, Production & all the other relevant functions for the business. Business must be organized from its first day of operations; only then the tasks can be delegated.

      At YRC, we design the organization structure, the processes, and approximate time taken to execute each process, job profile of every member within the organization, their KRAs, KPIs & the Reporting Structure.

      CRITICAL PATHWAY

      Critical Pathway Analysis (CPA), is a project management technique which cannot be overlooked while launching an ecommerce fashion brand. Brand launch process is cumbersome with multiple inter-dependent & time-bound tasks involved, which need to be tracked to ensure the project remains on track.

      CPA outlines key tasks across the project, their turnaround time (TAT) & the dependencies of tasks upon each other. It identifies the sequence of tasks, their interdependent steps from inception to completion, their criticalities, and their dates of onset, target dates of completion along with the key responsible person for the respective activities. Critical Pathway helps in understanding the unimportant & not urgent tasks which may jeopardize the execution of the project because of an unexpected snag! It also maps out the potential bottlenecks which might be posed because of the dependencies of tasks upon each other & cases where the next task cannot be commenced before the completion of the previous one.

      CPA detects the minimum & the maximum time involvement of a particular individual or team to execute the task, thereby arriving at the overall deadlines associated with the project.

      At Your Retail Coach, we design the Critical Pathway & review it periodically to ensure the project is on track & the progress is measurable.

      BUSINESS STRATEGY & BUSINESS PLAN

      Business Strategy includes the vision, mission, goals, business model, business plan & strategy for all the functions within the organization.

      Business Strategy is a well-defined plan that outlines who, what, where, why, how & when for the company; for example, who would be the target market, how to attract the target audience, when to launch new products, where to operate from, how to handle competitors, what would be the USP, what would be long term goal of the organization & several other answers to the 5Ws of Strategy.

      Business Strategy aligns the organization towards a common goal. Business SWOT helps company to identify & overcome their weaknesses & focus to sharpen the strengths. Business strategy forecasts future risks and helps business in building skillsets to overcome the potential threats.

      YRC’s Business Plan focuses on creating a “Blueprint” of the business, thereby deriving the feasibility of the concept & gauge whether the opportunity is lucrative to invest time, energy & effort. Business Plan creates cash flow understanding i.e. building inflow & outflow cash projections from Week zero to week 60 i.e. 05 year projection. Business Plan calculates the capital investment, operating costs, one-time costs, recurring costs & all the other numbers relevant to obtain the breakeven sales, return on investment, return on capital, internal rate of return & several other ratios. Business Plan is also one of the important requirements if you are targeting the “Investor Route”. Fund raising becomes extremely transparent & channelized. With business plan panned out clearly, the business will know until what point must it be stretched & where to stop, which reduces the probability of unplanned investments.

      MARKET RESEARCH

      Starting the concept of Ecommerce Fashion brand with Market Research ensures we get detailed understanding of the industry & this research report also acts as a social confirmation for your concept. Market Research helps in understanding the target locations, their population, potential online buyers for your product, competitors for each category, and top selling products of the competitors, competitors’ price range, offers & their responses & much more. Market Research helps in thorough understanding of your brand position as compared to our competitors. It helps in identifying gaps in the market, in your category along with the scope of the said product in the desired market. This will help in validation of your concept & prevents you from making the same mistakes as your fellow brands, eventually saving your time, energy & efforts. This phase is also a make or a break phase, as the market research study may at-times come up with some eye-popping numbers & statistics which might compel you to re-think on your product or category that you are planning to sell or alter your entire concept itself!! Market Research Reports analyse the competitors’ webstore for their traffic, conversion & sales. This is extremely valuable information to derive our inventory budgets & projections, which takes us to our next phase.