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Consistency is key: the science of delivering seamless retail store experiences

We’re all creatures of habit. 49% of people get stressed out by changes to their routine – preferring to stick to familiar fashion styles, order ‘the usual’ at the pub and put the same groceries on their shopping list. It’s no surprise that 45% of professionals eat the same lunch at least twice a week.

What has this got to do with retail store planning? Consumers’ desire for the dependable isn’t limited to home or work life.

When someone enters their favourite supermarket or retail store, they expect familiarity, whichever branch they visit. And it’s the job of design managers, specs and standards managers and project managers to deliver this home-from-home experience.

Whether you’re involved in the design or execution, it’s your responsibility to keep everyone on plan and deliver a high-quality result. But creating consistent store journeys is easier said than done.

Keep reading this blog post to learn:

  • What prevents retail project teams from creating consistent results
  • The benefits of using better tools to deliver store projects
  • Which information management software is retail’s best-kept secret

Why is inconsistency such a problem for retail design projects?

With consumer trends constantly changing, retailers can’t afford to stand still. The definition of “what good looks like” evolves – and your stores must reflect this.

But, at the moment, there’s a discrepancy between what consumers want and what they’re getting. 62% expect a consistent brand experience, but only 42% think retailers deliver it.

A poor store experience can damage a retailer’s reputation and create a competitive disadvantage. So why is inconsistency still such a problem for retail design projects?

The problem is that most retailers don’t have reliable documentation to deliver these changes at pace while maintaining brand consistency. All too often:

  • Project designs and plans are stored in multiple locations, so version control becomes an issue
  • There’s no central library for specifications and standards information
  • Communications are spread across documents, emails and verbal instructions, making it difficult to gain one version of the truth
  • Information is delivered piecemeal to contractors, so they make assumptions or go off-piste
  • New contractors and subcontractors find it difficult to get to grips with project deliverables

Add the fact that every store has its own footprint and design restrictions, and you can see how easily inconsistencies creep in.

This isn’t the fault of store designers, project managers or specs and standards managers. You’re doing the best job you can with the tools you’re given. But better tools are available to manage project information and documentation.

Specification management systems: a better way to run retail projects

Specs and standards software is retail’s best-kept secret. Rather than struggling to manage information spread across Excel documents, emails and notebooks, retailers can digitalise information to run smoother, more consistent projects.

There are massive benefits to managing all your specifications in one place. These include:

  • Greater efficiency. A digital information management system streamlines the process for controlling specifications and standards. You can create, update and manage specifications virtually, centralising information and reducing the risk of errors.
  • Greater accuracy. With a digital approach to retail design projects, there are no more version control issues. You can easily share architectural plans and details of equipment and finishes with your project teams, instantly updating them if specifications change. You can also build a library of pre-designed standards to reduce your admin burden and clearly brief new contractors.Some information management tools (like IconSystem by Elecosoft) even include a ‘model view’ feature, so you can help teams visualise plans for greater accuracy.
  • Better inventory management. If everyone works with the same templates, you can outline exactly what materials and components are required before starting any project. This makes it easier to manage inventory requirements and prevents out-of-stocks from delaying progress.
  • Closer collaboration. Specification management software gives your project teams the data they need to work closely together while remaining independent. Whether you’re using a main contractor or subcontracting work to multiple tradespeople, the technology enables your team to self-serve key information.
  • Greater cost control. Specs and standards software also enables you to make confident cost projections for every project. You know precisely what materials and resources are required – and nobody’s choosing more expensive components than you initially budgeted for. You can also track progress against those cost projections using built-in reporting and analytics tools.
  • Improved compliance. Document management software creates a clear audit trail for adhering to industry standards across every project. If an off-brand item appears or a component has been installed incorrectly, you can trace that issue back to the original specs and standards data to work out (and fix) what went wrong.
  • Increased scalability. Your company will be running multiple store design and development projects at any time. Digitising the systems and templates you’re using to manage these programmes can reduce complexity and create processes that scale with your business.
  • Less waste. Better material and resource planning will enable you to calculate exactly what’s needed for each project – and no more. You can develop best practices across your company that avoid reworks and reduce waste, helping you to increase the sustainability of your store designs.
  • Happier, more loyal customers. All the benefits we’ve listed contribute to your goal of giving customers a familiar experience wherever they shop, driving their brand affinity.

Retail leaders have unlocked the value of digital document management

Bottom line, the brand/customer relationship is emotional. When someone visits your store, they want it to feel like their local branch – even when they’re miles away. From the car park signage and store layout to the counters, customer facilities and checkouts.

While specs and standards software is still an emerging tool for retailers, some industry leaders are already using it to enhance the customer experience and improve operational efficiency.

For example, Asda, Boots, John Lewis, Primark, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose use IconSystem to increase collaboration and centralise their project data and documentation.

“Data is now infinitely more accurate. We can easily access granular detail that isn’t captured anywhere else, and we can be much smarter with the information we already have.”
Zoe Mitchell, Model Planner, Asda Retail Prototype, Specification and Design Team

Read Asda’s story in full.

It’s a mark of your skill and hard work that you’re currently delivering new retail projects using disjointed information. But to make those projects more repeatable, reliable and cost-effective, you need to unlock retail’s best-kept secret: IconSystem.

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