Striking a balance between brand consistency and localization can be tricky.
Running multiple stores requires balance. On one hand, you’ll need to maintain brand consistency across all your stores and provide the same great experience everywhere. But at the same time, you may also need to “localize” each store to cater to specific markets.
Here’s how to find the right balance:
Document your brand guidelines and company policies. Create the following materials:
Know what you stand for, and only hire employees who embody your brand and values.
Manage all your stores and channels from a single platform.
Give each store the freedom to incorporate certain elements specific to its location.
Example: Anthropologie. The clothing retailer enlists local employees and artists to create unique window displays for each store. Anthropologie’s corporate headquarters provides a concept and some creative direction, but it lets each store interpret and execute its own vision.
The result? Each Anthropologie store incorporates some local flavor in its window display while still adhering to the general theme the brand wants to convey.
Supervising multiple stores is no easy feat.
Managing multiple locations and sales channels may get more difficult as you grow. New challenges — especially when it comes to technology and staffing — will arise. Below are some recommendations to help you deal with this issue:
Run your business in the cloud. Since cloud-based solutions don’t “live” in any one machine, they allow you to access the tools and data you need from anywhere as long as you have an internet connection.
Consider hiring a retail manager who can work closely with individual store managers and employees. Have this person report to your company headquarters so he or she can keep everyone on the same page.
Example: Wine Direct. This NZ-based wine retailer employs a retail manager whose job is to coordinate across different locations.
“We’ve found that the physical separation of stores from HQ makes the job of keeping customer service really high and consistent that little bit harder. And that same separation makes it harder to keep staff engaged and motivated and with a feeling of central relevance to the company,” says owner Ryan Quinn.
“Our retail manager has been key to making this work with constant communication, visits, training, and reiteration of store-specific and company-wide goals.”
You can’t be as nimble as you once were.
Additional approval layers, regulations, and admin work all come with the territory when you’re growing a business. As a result, you may find that you’re not as nimble as you once were. Here’s how to avoid getting completely bogged down:
Review your policies and processes to ensure you’re not imposing unnecessary requirements or rules.
Give managers and associates the freedom to make certain judgment calls. You can accomplish this by:
It’s harder to keep track of your customers.
It’s easy to provide personalized and one-to-one customer service when you have a single store and a handful of patrons. But as your customer base grows, managing shopper relationships becomes much harder. Take the following steps to overcome this challenge:
Arm yourself with a good CRM that lets you track shopper behavior.
Set up a loyalty program so you can reward your best customers and treat them like VIPs.
Collect — and analyze — shopper data so you can get to know them better and personalize their experiences.
You might end up hiring the wrong people.
You can’t be in multiple locations at once, so you’ll have to make sure you leave each store in capable hands. And in addition to dealing with recruitment challenges, you’ll face training and management issues once you hire more people.
Trust can also become an issue here. It’s easier to know and manage your employees when you’re running a small business, but having several stores entails dealing with workers who you may not know or trust completely.
Overcome these issues by taking these steps:
Promote from within. If you have existing employees who’ve earned your trust and are doing a tremendous job, see if they’re willing to manage your other locations or channels.
Find new hires from your existing customer base, and encourage employee referrals.
Start training employees for new locations at your existing stores. Allow them to learn how things are accomplished in your current stores, then let them bring that knowledge to other locations.
Set the right user permissions to ensure that employees can only perform tasks assigned to them.
Example: You may want to restrict sales associates from processing refunds or returns, and leave this task to your managers. This helps ensure that all returns and refunds are legit. And if you want to keep your business financials private, you could limit people’s ability to view certain types of information (e.g. supply prices, margins, etc.).
Inventory management becomes immensely more complex.
How you manage your inventory when you go from a single store to multiple locations will change dramatically. Expect to deal with issues such as distributed warehousing, indent ordering, warehouse locations, online vs. offline inventory management, and more.
Here’s how to streamline your inventory management:
Use a single platform to manage all your products, stores, and channels. This makes it easier to transfer stock and track shipments across different locations or channels.
Manage your inventory in the cloud. In doing so, you’ll be able to carry out tasks like product ordering and transferring from anywhere. You can, for example, order products for store #2 even when you’re manning store #1.
Your finances are more complicated.
There’s a reason why the phrase “more money, more problems” has gained popularity; while increasing your revenue is great for business, having more funds can spell disaster if you don’t know how to manage your finances. Avoid money problems by:
Hiring a professional to handle your finances.
Investing in accounting software that simplifies the financial side of your business.
Integrating your point of sale system with your accounting program so financial information can flow smoothly from one system to the next.
You need to comply with different laws depending on where your stores are located.
Establishing new locations may require you to comply with different laws and regulations. This could easily complicate your operations. Stay on top of everything with the following steps:
Check (and double-check) the laws you’ll have to comply with, and recognize that regulations may vary from one location to the next.
Wise up on:
Communication issues may arise.
It can be difficult to get people on the same page when they’re spread across different locations. Take the following steps to avoid miscommunication:
Decide on the tools and communication methods that are right for you. (Some companies may require group-chat software and conference-call solutions.)
Catch up with key individuals regularly, and set the goals and KPIs you need to achieve.
You’ll run into technical difficulties.
Getting your “tech stack” right can be tricky. As a growing business, you need to a) find the right solutions for different areas of your company, and b) ensure that the right programs integrate with each other so you can run more efficiently. You can accomplish this by:
Opting for a cloud-based software. This will enable you to access the tools and data you need from anywhere — which is quite powerful, especially for growing retailers. Having up-to-the minute information on how your business is doing will enable you to get a more accurate view of store performance and help you better understand your business.
Ensure that your solutions can integrate with each other. You’ll want your systems to “talk” to each other and seamlessly transfer data from one program to the next, so you won’t have to worry about re-entering any information.
Are you looking for a retail management system for your growing retail business? Download the Vend Guide to Upgrading Your Retail Management System. Whether you have a couple of stores or are on your way to building a retail empire, this guide will show you everything you need to know to select and deploy a new retail management system.