Last week we attended the 2016 Future Stores conference, hosted by WBR. The conference focused on retail technology and growing trends in omni-channel. We heard what most of us already know: Customers have more options available to them than ever before. To stand out, retailers need to focus on strategies that reduce friction between online and in-store. In order to do this successfully, they will need to rethink how they connect across the enterprise—from the corporate office to individual stores.

Read on to learn about the three biggest trends we observed during our time at the conference.

Brands Must Provide a Consistent Shopping Experience Across All Channels

Defined as a seamless shopping experience between multiple channels, retailers are using omni-channel strategies as a means to incorporate shopping events, such as purchasing online and delivering in-store. The coordination between the two can be difficult. As one speaker noted, mastering this can provide increased consistency, efficiency, and convenience, building a successful cross-channel experience. However, in a recent survey of Store Managers 40 percent said they did not believe their company’s in-store experience was consistent with the online experience.

Store Managers are essentially the boots on the ground in retail, as they are responsible for bringing a brand to life within the store. Omni-channel should make the connection between in-store and online experiences easier, not harder for store managers. If they are not bought in, the connection is lost. In order for stores and online shopping to be seen as one brand to consumers, the same level of customization and personalization needs to be observed at every level. With that known, retailers are still struggling with how to create a consistent experience and still meet customers increasing expectations.

High Tech Meets High Expectations

Accommodating shoppers expectations has become increasingly more complicated. They expect shopping experiences to carry a personal element. Furthermore, things that were considered innovative just a few years ago are now seen as necessary. For example, one speaker said a great store app is now considered a given from a customer’s perspective.

With the addition of new technologies and more expected from stores, the question of where to invest resources and how to train store managers starts to arise. Specifically, when an organization invests to meet new demands, how can they ensure success of the new initiatives? Should the company first invest resources in the customer’s experience, or in the internal team who executes on all corporate programs?

Incorporating High Tech and High Touch In-Store

With these new tools and technologies, there’s a risk Store Managers could become bogged down. Internal teams need to be prepared to execute new initiatives. It’s important to equip associates with tools that simplify ongoing tasks, which in turn allow for more focus on the customer. Support like this comes from the top of the enterprise. However, many Store Managers believe they aren’t getting what they need from the corporate office.

In our recent Store Manager Survey, we uncovered several findings that could make it difficult for stores to execute these news initiatives well, which puts customer experience at the bottom of the list. More specifically:

  • 63% of Store Managers reported they don’t get information they need from their corporate headquarters
  • 71% of Store Managers said they found training employees to be somewhat challenging
  • 51% of Store Managers said rolling out new initiatives and promotions to be at least somewhat challenging

The structure of retail can sometimes cause the relationship between corporate and stores to be strained. However, increasing communication and connection between the two could help bridge the gap. Namely, an investment in tools in technology that increase customer experience and improve internal operations could be the next step in retail innovation.

Internal strife and disorganization is always reflected externally to stores. Improving operations and connection within the retail chain may be the next direction for retail to focus, as it may help to execute omni-channel strategies better and increase the success of new customer technologies. Interested in learning how connecting Store Managers and the corporate office may be beneficial? Read our 2016 Store Manager Report to find out more.