Originally posted on Retail TouchPoints

The growth of e-Commerce and shifting demographics are requiring every retailer to adapt. Store closings are often the response, but retailers can’t shrink their way to success. Nor can they invest only in e-Commerce silos in an attempt to copy successful online-only models.

Retailers must invest in differentiating their stores and fixing the fundamentals of the in-store experience. Done right, retailers will succeed by creating immersive, memorable in-store experiences that online cannot match.

Target is on the right track. Last month at ShopTalk, Target announced a $7 billion plan to update their entire store format, develop smaller formats for urban areas and re-merchandise their stores to provide better grab-and-go and in-store experiences for shoppers. It is a huge bet, but one Target must take to adapt, evolve and thrive.

But in addition to store format updates and changes in merchandising strategy, retailers also need to address improving merchandising execution. Today, despite the fact that in-store merchandising execution is a core process for every physical retailer, there is a wide variance in process quality and efficiency.

As retailers look to increase the sophistication of their assortments and increase the frequency of new promotions, while at the same time simplifying tasks for their in-store associates, their merchandising execution practices need an overhaul.

The Power of Automation and the Associate

Resetting stores is hard work. It requires countless hours of planning and execution at HQ, but more importantly, it requires a huge time investment from store associates to execute. Increasing the frequency of resets in an effort to create fresh promotions and bring more customers into stores requires automating the process, especially when retailers have many stores with large footprints.

Retailers that can automate this process, enable tailored execution in each store and create clear guidance for store teams can drive significant lift in sales conversions, which translates to millions of dollars in same-store sales metrics. These retailers also increase efficiency, freeing up store associates to work with customers and create great experiences.

Returning to Target, as part of their store overhaul, store associates will be equipped with technology to search inventory, take payment from a mobile point-of-sale system, and arrange delivery, all from the sales floor. Target recognizes that the associate is a critical differentiator, and freeing them up to understand and interact with customers is critical to their success.

It’s time for retailers to stop playing defense, and go on offense with investments in technology that increase the efficiency of their merchandising processes, and maximize the impact of store associates on the customer experience.

By Tom Erskine, CMO and SVP Product, One Door.