It’s no secret that today’s consumer is in the driver’s seat and has high expectations from retailers. The second annual JDA Voice of the Store Manager Survey revealed that instead of shutting doors, successful retailers are evolving the store into a place to solve customer problems, relying on the speed and convenience of in-store fulfillment to compete in today’s unified commerce environment. Enabling store managers and their teams to satisfy customers in this environment is critical to retailer success.

The Frustrations and Challenges Store Managers Encounter

As customer fulfillment options, such as buy online, ship from store and buy online, pickup in store (BOPIS) have become more common, execution and staffing have become even bigger issues for store managers.  According to the JDA Voice of the Store Manager Survey, the biggest challenges store managers are facing are order fulfillment (29 percent), limited staffing (29 percent) and inventory visibility (24 percent). Addressing these challenges will require investment in people and technology, with dedicated staff trained to execute in-store customer fulfillment tasks and systems providing visibility to inventory within and across stores and distribution centers (DCs).

When asked specifically about store inventory challenges, respondents said that inaccurate data (31 percent) and limited stock and slow replenishment (31 percent) were the biggest challenge for operations. However, the majority of store managers (64 percent) reported using technology in some capacity to check store inventory availability, whether it be real-time inventory visibility via mobile or wearable devices (33 percent) or a central computer system (31 percent).

The Evolution of Fulfillment Services

New fulfillment options are offering ways for retail stores to provide ease and convenience to meet high customer expectations, while driving traffic back into stores. Forty-four percent of respondents said their stores offer buy online ship from store services. Additionally, 41 percent offer BOPIS, 40 percent offer buy in-store, ship to home and 38 percent offer buy online, return in-store (BORIS).

Store Associates Want More Flexibility When It Comes to Staffing

Store associates want more flexibility when it comes to staffing. Fifty-two percent of respondents said greater flexibility in scheduling is their employees’ most popular request, which was also the top response in 2016 (45 percent).

The results of the survey indicate many retailers lack the scheduling technology and self-service capabilities to allow staffing flexibility. Less than half (44 percent) use workforce management technology in their staff scheduling, where as 38 percent still incorporate some form of manual scheduling (pen and paper or whiteboard) as part of their staff scheduling program. The results clearly point to a need for greater adoption of workforce management technology that will enable employee friendly scheduling practices.

Overall, the survey results indicate that retailers are making progress to better handle operations in today’s retail environment, but inventory and staffing needs have proven to be a bottleneck. To gain insight into the rest of the JDA Voice of the Store Manager Survey results, download the executive summary, view the infographic or listen to the podcast.