Over the past few decades, there has been a low-rumbling buzz about the future of online shopping and how it might affect the brick-and-mortar model. The online shopping model grew steadily for the first 20 years of the new millennium as marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, Walmart, and Shopify have found ways to add more convenience to customers’ lives.
Over the last five years, technological, operational, and logistical advancements have caused more concern about the future of brick-and-mortar stores as the world turns its attention to browsing online marketplaces. Customers can find just about anything they need with the click of a button and await a convenient delivery to their door.
As merchants improved the process, from the availability of desired merchandise and customer service to last-mile delivery on a global scale, it seemed quietly inevitable that the world would slowly turn toward an online retail store model.
In 2020, the pandemic shifted online retail industry shopping from convenient to necessary, leaving everyone wondering about the future of traditional, in-person retail management. If you are considering a career in retail management, you might also wonder about the future of the retail industry and how you might fit into it as a professional.
Let’s explore this crucial industry and how you can become a part of it, including the right educational certificate or degree you might decide to pursue.
What Is Retail Management?
If you have recently started your exploration of this industry, you might have regarded retail management as the purview of the business owner and the store manager. It’s an easy assumption to make until you begin studying this area.
Retail management focuses on a broad range of customer experience considerations. With a degree in this area, your goal will be to help customers find products in your shop and ensure customer satisfaction from their first contact with your store to long after their purchase. Your knowledge, experience, and courtesy will help turn them into repeat customers, happy to share their experience with friends, families, and review forums.
As a store manager trained in retail management, you would be responsible for the following duties:
- Motivating employees with things like verbal praise, awards, gift certificates, and bringing in regular treats, such as donuts or pizza.
- Developing strategies to increase the customer pool, such as greeting customers and helping them find what they need, offering discounts on floor models or damaged items, and promoting the store’s website on social media.
- Growing store traffic by studying retail analytics and through displays like sandwich boards, sales and discounts, and free gifts.
- Meeting sales goals by targeting sales quotas and sharing goals with staff members.
- Ensuring customer satisfaction with optimal staffing decisions by ensuring everyone welcomes customers proactively and remains helpful throughout their visit. Additionally, maintaining stock is critical to ensuring customer satisfaction.
- Improving profitability by providing some online options, staying ahead of each season with proper planning, and finding ways to reduce operating expenses.
- Preventing shoplifting by balancing vigilance with respecting the customer experience.
Why Is Retail Management So Important?
Many might assume that since online retail business has gained so much traction in the last few years, brick-and-mortar stores are falling behind. However, brick-and-mortar stores experienced faster growth than e-commerce stores in 2021 for the first time since e-commerce stores came into existence.
The fact is that people still sometimes need goods on the same day, so they can’t afford to wait for shipping, even if it can arrive the next day. That means that conventional stores aren’t disappearing, but it also means that university students, business owners, and industry leaders must look at the retail industry through a larger lens.
In both online and brick-and-mortar stores, it is crucial to give customers what they want as quickly as possible, providing unparalleled shopping experiences to remain competitive and successful in retail. And that’s why retail management is so important.
Retail Management Process
The retail business has always been complex. Long before e-commerce came into the picture, successful stores would open branches nationally and eventually worldwide. It is important for retailers to have a process to follow to help ensure success during an expansion, since business owners and leadership might not always have a formal business background or education.
By following a proven process, business leaders and their employees can refer to tried and true concepts and practices.The retail management process now includes brick-and-mortar spaces locally and far afield, as well as online marketplaces and virtual shops.The process entails multiple concepts in business administration, finance, and marketing.
Here is a breakdown of the retail management process to help you understand your future industry better.
Most successful businesses set out to solve a problem or series of problems for prospective and existing customers. One key area that marketing experts focus on is selling benefits rather than features, letting customers know how a product will help them resolve an issue.
Many businesses employ the ‘5 Whys Method’ to understand the cause-and-effect of their target audience’s problem. Through research, data collection, and analysis, retail business leaders can help customers understand how their product will solve their problems.
Conduct Market Research
Market research helps businesses understand their customer personas to ensure they are targeting the right prospective audience. It’s the next logical step after identifying the problem since it helps pinpoint the customer’s needs and preferences.
This part of the process helps verify the impact and value the retailer can offer the people they purport to help. Conducting market research helps develop a better understanding and practice empathy mapping. Ideally, retailers will be able to create a customer journey map to help guide the customer toward making a purchase and becoming a loyal customer.
Develop and Test Product/Service
Before beginning mass production and distribution, businesses need to know that their product will work in the way they envision. It’s important to understand supply chain management, such as sourcing and procurement of high-quality but affordable materials, to drive this part of the process.
Testing the products lets leadership know whether the product is ready for the next phases, including sales and distribution.
Address Monetary and Legal Issues
Business owners rely on legal counsel to help ensure their product is safe and hasn’t infringed on any patents or any other legal matters. The last thing a company wants to do is release a product that does not comply with federal regulations and incur fines and penalties.
At this stage, businesses need to manage issues such as safety inspections, quality assurance certifications, compliance audits for cybersecurity, and more.
Financial concerns include adhering to the following:
- Listing the product at the suggested retail price
- Paying sales tax on products sold in different states
Promote Product/Service and Brand
Businesses need to get the word to the public about their solutions. Therefore, the marketing team must create and develop product messaging that helps prospective customers understand the brand and its offerings.
Here are a few ways businesses handle this important step:
- Organize retail logistics to guide customers to the right solution.
- Merchandise visually, creating displays for conventional stores and banners for websites.
- Report metrics, including average transaction value, units per transaction, sales per category of products, and gross profit versus net profit.
Additional promotional strategies include planning retail collaborations, pop-up shops, and special in-store events.
The best businesses and retail store managers focus on continuous improvement to remain competitive and increase profits. Customers want to feel that businesses strive to improve their products and make the buying process run more smoothly.
By listening to customer feedback and conducting research, retail managers can take steps toward improvement, like expanding their products and services or re-examining and focusing on a different audience.
Retail Manager Responsibilities
Now that you understand the process involved with managing retail, here are some key responsibilities you will perform regularly as a retail manager.
As a retail store manager, employee management is an integral part of your responsibilities. For most businesses, you will do the following:
- Hire, onboard, train, coach, and supervise your staff according to your company’s policies.
- Instruct them about your company’s definition and value of customer satisfaction and how they can ensure they provide it every shift.
- Train employees on workplace cleanliness and safety to avoid customer or employee injury or illness.
- Recognize employees’ achievements with verbal praise and rewards.
- Identify employees experiencing problems, and coach them to succeed.
- Address issues such as excessive absenteeism, poor attitude, and performance.
Each of these tasks can be done in an online shop environment too. Any time you have employees, these steps are crucial.
As a manager, you must continually reinforce your store’s focus on providing sterling customer service that keeps shoppers returning. And if you work on the sales floor, you must also provide customer service. Even if you don’t spend time in a direct customer-facing environment, you need to stay on top of your staff’s commitment to customer service.
Further, if your employees are not handling customer issues well, you will need to intervene to smooth out the situation and keep the customer satisfied.
Once you have a well-informed and committed staff who provide optimal support, you can focus on store performance by analyzing sales figures and revenue reports to determine areas you need to adjust, such as reducing prices or planning in-store promotions.
Skills Needed in Retail Management
Working in retail management requires a desire to manage employees to serve a business’s goals, along with the right education, personality, and skills to thrive.
Here are some top skills needed in retail management:
- Product/service knowledge
- Work ethic
What Is the Projected Growth and Current Salary for Retail Managers?
Retail Management Future
As a retail manager in the 21st century, you might find your responsibilities expanding and changing to sync up with the massive technological changes and trends that never stop these days.
Between the need to protect customer data and monitor social media platforms and websites, the future of the retail industry is changing visibly in real-time.
Let’s look at some specific future-focused news on the horizon.
Your store might start looking toward incorporating virtual reality (VR) shopping to provide a more highly personalized experience for customers that mimics the brick-and-mortar experience. Ideally, you will be able to offer VR customers a comparable experience, inspiring sales and loyalty.
So much of your work as a retail manager will entail interacting with customers and prospects via multiple touchpoints. The omnichannel allows you to tap into digital technologies, mobile devices, and social media to reach customers and guide them to your brand and products to achieve hyper-personalization.
Experiential shopping, or experiential retail, is partially an extension of the omnichannel and different ways to express how the omnichannel works in practical ways.
Here are a few things experiential retail does while taking an omnichannel approach:
- Focuses on customer engagement versus strictly sales
- Fosters community supported by the brand
- Inspires new approaches to the retail experience
- Stimulates customers’ senses
- Creates an immersive and shareable experience
- Defies and exceeds customer expectations
Learn More About Retail Management in the Digital Age at JWU
If you find yourself wondering, ‘What is retail management in the digital age?’ you can find out more in one of our many programs. Start by exploring our micro-certificate in Foundations of Retail Management.
If you want to take things to the next level, a JWU BS in Fashion Merchandising and Retailing will give you the tools you need to thrive. You’ll gain in-depth insights to obtain a desirable position in merchandising, management, marketing, or public relations in retail.
Our BS in Digital Marketing offers you a chance to learn about the current state of the online marketplace and find ways to forecast its future or help businesses adjust to new technologies and trends.
Finally, our MBA in Marketing is the perfect fit for student professionals who want to add to their undergraduate studies and current professional life in retail and marketing. In this program, you will learn about the latest digital marketing strategies to help retail business owners adjust their brands and operations to thrive through each new change in the industry and marketplace.