Innovation: bright future in-store

It’s easy to see technology as a threat to bricks-and-mortar retailers. But innovation is proving the saviour of in-store implementation, says Chris Langford of CJ Services.



Modern retailing is complex and challenging right now. Everything is moving faster, multichannel is everywhere, budgets are becoming tighter and shopper behaviour is evolving. But when it comes to the tools needed to maximise sales performance in-store, retailers and brands have never had it so good. 

Today, retail marketers have the technology and expertise at their fingertips to turn retail problems they would have once dreaded, into real opportunities they can now grasp in both hands with confidence. Take store development, for example. 

There was a time when store refits, space swaps, full category relays (updating space and range within a specific category to a designated product layout for stock, point of sale and shelf edge labels) and even activating seasonal promotions would have all been monumental undertakings – often only achievable after many weeks of apprehension, project headaches and nervous anticipation. Then extended trading hours and 24-hour supermarkets came along. Not only did the window of opportunity suddenly become much smaller, but the commercial pressure to reduce costly downtime also became much greater. 

As leaders in retail implementation for almost 20 years, we have seen firsthand how much the demands have changed. We have also seen how innovative developments have made the whole process more informed, efficient and accurate, delivering a high-quality solution to retailers. 

Construction and fit-out

Historically, centralised information on fixturisation within store estates – the time that a landlord allows the retail tenant to access the store for construction and fit-out – has been a common issue for retailers and had a negative impact on their ability to plan pre-store development activity with any great precision. 

However, new innovations in technology enable store development programmes to be ‘completed’ within microscopic tolerances, long before the physical work in-store actually begins. Innovation is delivering valuable
savings too. 

Traditional methods of collecting store data to support development programmes were not only costly in terms of the financial investment and human resources needed, but also the time required to complete such tasks. At CJ Services, our sophisticated POPSysPRO data management system has reduced the time it takes to complete a typical retail audit process from a previously accepted industry standard of 16 weeks, to just seven weeks. 

Simple details that make a big difference can now be captured through real-time on-site surveys, providing in-depth retail critiques that give clarity on key issues and maximise effective decision-making, from greater visibility of fixture assets, to operational constraints and informing point-of-sale and equipment ordering. When approaching a store development brief, the technology we use and the data it provides us with is often ahead of questions that are being asked. 

But it doesn’t stop there. When the shutters come down at night, technology keeps working. While our teams are busy installing POS displays, gondola ends and signage, our 24/7 PDA web-based reporting is providing marketers with live updates on progress, in the comfort of their office. As in-store specialists, we’re constantly developing ever-more innovative intelligence and reporting systems to digitally record rollout activity. We provide regular, authoritative and trusted feedback on what is happening in-store, complete with live statistics, photography and benchmarking of retail standards. Being able to cascade information on in-store campaigns quickly and effectively across an organisation has never been easier. It makes you wonder how we coped without it.

Human approach

Reading all that, it would be natural to assume that innovation is exclusively linked to technology, but that is not the case as CJ Services StoreLinkPlus solution goes to prove. Its strength is based on a more human approach to improving retail sales performance. Using the principle of an outsourced sales force, its team of experts are dedicated to maximising return on investment for brands through initiatives such as sales blitz activity.

CJ Services is constantly developing innovative intelligence and reporting systems

A deeper understanding and knowledge of convenience, wholesale and cash and carry stores gives them a crucial insight into how to drive distribution and build stronger relationships. The results speak for themselves. At the same time, our innovative StoreLink service relies on a unique combination of telesales and direct mail communication to provide a direct route into retail decision-makers, supporting new line launches and filling store specific gaps in core ranges.

The challenge of controlling range and merchandising is obviously critical for retailers, big or small. Failure to successfully manage product availability, seasonal promotional activity and display compliance can present retailers with the reality of postponed purchases, at best, and the risk of total migration of shoppers to competitor stores, at worst. But almost certainly, reduced shopper loyalty.

Research by Symphony IRI warns that having the same items repeatedly out of stock could force some shoppers to migrate permanently from that store. Little wonder then that we’re also continuing to see a growth in demand for our forward-thinking merchandising and replenishment solutions that can make a big difference to range review activity, planogram compliance (making sure that products are where they are meant to be), availability auditing, as well as stock taking and discontinued stock uplift. Here too, the combination of human expertise and technology-driven insights can prove a critical partnership in attempts to unlock sales growth in-store.

There is no doubt that with the economic climate the way it is, coupled with the threat of growing online sales and new trends such as ‘showrooming’, the fight for a greater understanding and control of what happens in the retail environment, and the investments being made within them, is intensifying. But, by taking a more innovative approach to all aspects of retail implementation, retailers and brands can once again take back control, and begin to enjoy a more informed and assured retail future.

Chris Langford
Managing director

CJ Services 
Sarus Court
15 Stuart Road
Manor Park
WA7 1TS 

Telephone: 01928 597777