Blog Post

Kicking Off 2020: Retailers Who Adapt Will Thrive

February 6, 2020 in Thought Leadership

In 2020, we continue to see how changes in consumer behavior and technology are affecting Specialty Retailers and their operations. As a retailer, understanding what these changes mean to your brand and your consumers, and how you can adapt to these new realities, is critical to helping you not just survive, but thrive.

What Has Changed in Specialty Retail?

Consumer behavior has changed considerably over the years. We all know consumers are now well-connected and informed. They now expect retailers to:

  • Seamlessly integrate all data (retailer and consumer data) to provide personalized experiences;
  • Deliver full, mobile experiences, with real-time information​;
  • Delight and awe in-store by presenting a physical store that inspires them;
  • Be channel agnostic, where they only feel brands and experiences, not channels.

Most importantly, consumers today have a clear vision of what they want from retailers. And what they want is both inspiration and convenience across all retail touchpoints when interacting with a brand and making purchasing decisions.

What Winning Retailers Are Striving for in 2020

Omnichannel is not a new concept, retailers have been slowly deploying their omnichannel strategies in a ‘test and learn’ mode over the last decade. Recognizing that customer experience (“CX”) and frictionless commerce – seamless experience between brick and mortar stores and digital purchases – ​are the hallmarks of success in retail. Over time, most retailers have been deploying tools, technologies, and training to build brand loyalty within their customer bases.

In 2020, we continue to see how demand generation and order fulfillment continue to separate and evolve – with consumers expecting more options and combinations within online and offline channels. (See graph below)

Evolution of demand generation, retail fulfillment, and returns in retail.

We also continue to see a trend in those retailers that are thriving and growing, versus those who are retracting and closing stores. Specialty retailers that are winning today understand the importance of physical stores, including the role that their store workforce plays in delivering CX. They recognize stores as the place where brands meet their customers and offer them what they cannot get online: human interactions. These winning retailers are looking today to:

  • Tackle the challenge of funding in-store digital transactions as well as traditional physical transactions while maintaining the necessary controls over labor spend;
  • Plan and optimize labor spend with a primary focus on driving sales and task optimization instead of cost control;
  • Drive and support employee engagement within their store teams, and in turn provide inspirational experiences to their customers.

What Winning Retailers Are Doing in 2020

A new decade in Specialty Retail comes with new challenges and new technologies. Therefore, to set the stage for success, you should start embracing your single most important brand touchpoint: your stores – with the right tools and the right workforce. Here are some guidelines on how you can thrive in 2020 and beyond:

  • Embrace top-down labor planning instead of bottom-up methodologyTop-down labor planning is only relevant in Specialty Retail. It uses your top-level goals and the data history of each store to create accurate and workable schedules that comply with your financial objectives – without the need for scenarios or (historically inaccurate) work standards;
  • Report on both physical and geo-located digital transactions at store level and share them with your stores. Combining each store’s brick and mortar sales with the digital sales transactions that are influenced by that store gives a more realistic view of how that store is delivering your brand. Treating stores as a total market is fundamental to understanding how in-store and online demand is being generated – and is the only method to properly fund labor according to the opportunities across both channels;
  • Make communication and task management easier and simpler for store leaders and associates to drive a consistent brand execution. Just think about the number of hours your retail leaders spend today to chase down communication from your HQ to associates – and vice versa. Deploy tools that allow you to get messages and tasks directly to the stores, and provide a mechanism for stores to provide feedback on programs;
  • Encourage store associates to be your brand advocates. Remember, brand advocacy starts at home and that great customer experiences are delivered by engaged associates. Ensure that you keep your associates engaged. Utilize pool labor and gamification across your stores to drive enthusiasm and embracement.

What Is Back in Retail in 2020 and Beyond?

A store associate happily showing the new collection in clothes in store to a customer.

While some say that we are already living in the era of the ‘new retail’, this statement might lead the reader to conclude that the changes are behind us and we now exist in a stable environment – nothing could be further from the truth. Change in Specialty Retail will continue at a frantic pace as technology and consumer demands continue to evolve.

The one constant that we have seen in the last few years is the migration back to the store. Digitally native retailers are opening physical stores to stay relevant with their customers, and great brands are rapidly expanding their DTC (Direct-To-Consumer) physical store presence to gain market share. Those traditional retailers who are thriving and driving CX across all channels have put a renewed emphasis on the store, as it remains as the primary venue to inspire customer loyalty and experience.


Dave Loat is the President and co-founder of StoreForce. Dave has over 25 years of experience working with some of the best-known brands in retail and has incorporated these learnings into the StoreForce’s solution. He is truly passionate about store operations. Prior to StoreForce, Dave was a founding partner of Karabus Management, which grew to become the second-largest retail-specific consulting firm in the world. While at Karabus, Dave had the experience of working with over 100 retailers.

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