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“Freedom without rules does not work. And communities do not work unless they are regulated.”

                                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                             Judith Martin, American journalist
 

Recent studies have confirmed what Miss Manners columnist Judith Martin actually knew all along: Standard Operating Procedures or SOPs hold the key to retail success, guaranteeing regulatory, environmental and safety compliance, quality systems and processes in place. 

While no amount of good marketing can sell a bad product, knowing how to display your products and services to their best advantage is all about having established systems and processes in place.

Business Model Evaluation

The most well-known retail models have gone beyond the traditional retailer. The traditional retail model focuses on profits through products and services to buyers directly at markupsat a specific cost. While traditional retail business models translate seamlessly digital environments, the bricks-and-mortar model is different from e-commerce retail in many ways. 

Infrastructure, utility, real estate and staff overhead all undergo a paradigmatic shift depending on the retail model selected. Retailers no longer can wait for customers to decide to buy a product. 

Value chains are taking on new avatars and brands need to manage different routes to market. Opting for a consultation with an expert can boost your business prospects. For business model evaluations, hiring specialists with expertise and experience in the field can net your business profits, ROI, revenue and growth.

SOPs

This is where an SOP comes in. If you are approached by customers, your store needs to have a standard set of written rules regarding how to interact with the potential client. Written, step-by-step instructions describing how to perform routine retail activities is essential.

Consider whether a doctor should perform surgery without procedures in place or whether a pilot should fly a plane without systems and rules and you’ll understand why retailers need SOPs in place. SOPs save money, effort and time.

 They further ensure consistency, regardless of resignations, retrenchments or retirements.

Perhaps one of the greatest misconceptions about SOPs is that they cause retail units to become inflexible and rigid.

To understand why systems need to be in place to make businesses flexible, research from Harvard Business Review in 2013 shows us the way: 

Conclusive research establishes standard operating procedures are not a straitjacket that limits flexibility. In an increasingly complex world, with so many steps and decisions, correct use of SOPs can liberate making it easier to “tailor customer experiences at low cost.” 

For starting a successful retail business, the right SOP is as important as choosing a business model that is the best fit.

Store Layout & Infra Setup

Just as each store customer is unique, the store layout associated with each industry or brand is distinctive. SOPs for store layout and merchandising consider the semantics involved before laying out the rules and guidelines. Which items need the most playing rules? Are your products positioned to register for impulse purchases? These are the questions that need to be asked. 

So, for building the perfect retail store, merchandising and layout SOPs should decide how products are visually displayed, too. Your SOP should answer questions such as how items are displayed and what fixtures can be used, depending on the business model your retail outlet is following. 

SOPs also decide the size and imagery used in advertising signage. Location matters and, for this purpose, your SOP considers location costs and sales projections on the basis of where you are positioned. Display layouts are another area where SOPs play a crucial role. 

Changes in store layout, digitally or physically, impact what customers see and what kind of purchases they make. Avoiding clutter and organizing products is not the only reason store infrastructure and layout SOPs play a critical role in setting up your retail business

Staff Recruitment

It’s not just processes, but people that matter for the successful operation of your retail business.

Staff recruitment SOPs that are well drafted serve to delineate staffing requirements and augmenting manpower effectively. For any retail store prior to the launch, manpower and the right team are a real asset.

 Methods of advertising the job, job duties, job descriptions, roles and requirements as well as screening and training are clearer, with SOPs in place. After all, the only way individuals can deliver on customer experience is by hiring the right talent.

 So, standardize everything from hiring to the management of transfer, resignation, employee benefits, time scheduling, training requirements, employee performance, and optimal compensation structures. A well-formulated SOP yields ample benefits for hiring the top talent at retail stores and enables your business to score on employee productivity and profit margins.

Staff On-Boarding & training

On-boarding and training are just as important as hiring the right person. R Once the SOPs are in place and the staff has been recruited, training team members based on SOP procedures serves to highlight how to showcase products to their best advantage and give your business a winning edge. HR policies, induction procedures, grooming standards, training, sales incentives, and an appraisal are central to effective onboarding and training.

Marketing Plan: Launch & Ongoing

The biggest myth perpetuated in the marketing of retail products is “if you build it, they will come.” For broadening your reach and spreading the word, a retail marketing plan is simply invaluable in delineating sales and promotion strategies and branding and advertising. If customers don’t match target market characteristics, business models will fail. For example, if you are a large discount store, you need to widen your reach to make adequate profits. For a startup, targeting niche audiences that need specialized products or services is essential.

Visualization of marketing plans is essential to reaching target audiences, effectively. Your retail store will need a marketing plan in place prior to the launch for reaching the right customers at the correct time, in precisely the right way.

Ongoing Audits & Training

Last, but not least are the audits and training. This ranges across store appearance, staff, stock audit policies, storage, customer service, loss prevention and maintenance and housekeeping policies. Before opening the retail store, auditing systems and processes need to be in place, so the launch is executed flawlessly.

Further, audits ensure there is no variance or disparity in the SOPs being implemented. Auditing and training play a central role in evaluating the store, employees and store processes. Employee adherence to company standards, protocols, quality control measures, safety and secure plus emergency procedures and demonstrated product knowledge matter, too.

But to carry out the audit effectively, planning, strategizing and execution are mission-critical. Store audits focus on sales volume, stock levels, condition of products, assessment of in-store and visual merchandising displays, therefore.

All these steps carried out while setting up a retail store must be implemented at the right time for quality assurance and compliance with industry best practices. Put simply, these are tasks which must be carried out in the correct sequence. The store layout, recruitment, onboarding, training, and audits can only be effective once SOPs are in place.

The activities outlined for opening the retail store must follow this hierarchical sequence for success. One of the biggest concerns for retail store launch is adherence to the deadlines. Following these steps while setting up a retail store is crucial to meeting the timeline for the store launch. With training and continuous refinement, in line with the SOPs, employees deliver quality service that exceeds customer expectations.

It’s not products which sell, but people who make the purchase ultimately. So understanding the value of anticipating customer needs and organizing staff and company resources to meet this will help your retail business to thrive, not merely survive!

YRC Related Articles: How to Write SOPs for Marketing?, 6 Ways To Grow Your Business, How to Start a Retail Business in India, Business Expansion Plan for Small Entrepreneurs, Six Steps to Writing a Great SOP for Retail, How to write SOPs for an Apparel Brand?, How to Develop SOPs for Quick Service Restaurant?, How to write SOPs for Furniture Showroom

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Author Bio

Rupal Agarwal

Chief Strategy Officer

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.