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7 Ways to Improve Your Retail Operations

With a perfect storm of pent-up consumer demand, labor shortages, material scarcity, and choked ports of passage, retailers are rewriting the rules for success this holiday season. Whether you run a small business or a large one, here are seven innovative and actionable insights on how to improve retail operations for your business.

#1 Diversify Your Suppliers

Although consumers are well aware of supply chain disruptions, they still expect their holiday gifts to arrive on time. As a result, diversifying your suppliers is paramount. After all, 80% of consumers expect faster and flexible shipping options from retailers1. This is one way of meeting consumer demand and retaining customer loyalty.

#2 Enhance Fulfillment Options

Is your physical inventory still fully stacked despite continuous sales? One of the reasons behind this might be a lack of inventory optimization. Bottlenecks in the distribution channel can translate into difficulty getting goods picked and sorted for either pickup or shipping. Best Buy, for example, recently converted its store layout to ensure 25% of floor space is dedicated to order fulfillment2.

#3 Automate to Reduce Reliance on Labor

The shortage of workers is real. Retail job openings hit 1.3 million in August 2021, and 50% of employers reported not hiring enough staff in September3. Target announced plans to hire 30,000 fewer workers for the 2021 holiday season, and Walmart recently announced that it’s raising its hourly pay by $1.00 per hour for its 565,000 store workers. The labor pressure makes automating tasks essential. From inventory to information, leveraging technology for automation is key. With automation,  there are fewer employees to monitor, freeing up the task load of key personnel, like the retail operations manager and even the store associate. Automating certain tasks can also boost operational efficiency because there are fewer margins of error. Operations that could be automated include inventory management.

#4 Boost the Customer Experience

Consumers are willing to open their wallets this holiday season. The National Retail Federation expects retailers to ring up sales of approximately $851 billion between November and December 2021, an increase of 9.5% from last year. The difference this year? Shoppers are seeking a seamless, personalized experience. In order for them to become loyal customers, they need to feel validated.

According to recent research, 63% of respondents state that they are more likely to shop with brands that customize and personalize the experience for the shopper4. As Alex Atzberger, CEO of Optimizely explains: “Retailers have a captive audience of consumers who are seeking relevant content, ideas and offers online. However, only the brands that have progressed their digital maturity through experimentation and personalization to become adaptive to consumer needs will differentiate and win over shoppers.” In short, one of the solutions to increase customer satisfaction is a customized shopping experience. Learn more about how you can improve the retail customer experience amidst COVID-19.

#5 Implement Buy Now, Pay Later

Buy Now, Pay Later (or BNPL) adoption is booming! Revenue skyrocketed 45% in 20205. And in a recent Adobe survey, 25% of respondents stated that they have used this shopping option within the last three months.

#6 Expand BOPIS Options

Target took a huge leap forward towards solving a shortcoming of curbside pickup by allowing buyers to designate another person to retrieve their order. Since last-mile delivery costs account for approximately 50% of shipping costs, getting customers to pick up their items in store is a significant cost savings. Further, according to research by PYMNTS, the number one draw for getting customers back into stores is Buy Online, Pick-up In-Store (BOPIS), accounting for 44% of respondents6. Consider revisiting your BOPIS strategy and finding ways to improve it.

#7 Install Retail Smart Lockers for Self-Service BOPIS

Retail parcel lockers are one way of expanding your BOPIS offerings to personalize the shopping experience for your customers. Here are just a few key performance indicators (or KPIs) that Buy Online, Pick-up in Locker (BOPIL®) can help you realize for your business:

  • Incremental Purchases and Sales – 61% of customers make an incremental purchase just by virtue of entering the store. Since customers whose wait times are two minutes and under are four times more likely to purchase again, smart lockers are a key retail store operations strategy. With BOPIL, pick-up takes less than 30 seconds. By comparison, traditional BOPIS can take 2-5 minutes, and the curbside pickup wait time hovers between 8-12 minutes.
  • Lower Labor Costs – Both curbside and BOPIL require retail employees to pick and pack the order. The key difference, however, is that once the order is placed into a locker, labor costs decrease significantly for BOPIL. Retailers that employ BOPIL saved an average of 45 hours per month versus managing BOPIS orders. 
  • Fast & Efficient Returns – Returns are a significant problem for retailers. The return rate in 2020 was 10.6% of sales and is expected to jump to 11.2% in 20217. Moreover, 67% of all consumers scrutinize the return policy before purchasing, emphasizing the importance of a fast and frictionless return experience. Since a return to the store is the lowest hit on margins, leveraging lockers for retailers is fast and efficient; it takes a shopper less than 30 seconds to process a return. And smart lockers can be configured so that only certain doors can be used for returns, allowing stores to balance capacity between pick-ups and returns. Couple these facts with the statistic that 92% of customers will buy a product again if the returns process is easy and the benefit of a locker returns system is clear.
  • Better Customer ExperienceShort wait times in terms of retrieving a package positively impact the customer experience. 73% of consumers say a good experience is key in influencing their brand loyalties and loyal customers are five times more likely to purchase again8,9.
  • Reinforced Branding – Custom wraps, tailored workflows and integrations, and consistent color and logo applications aid in creating a seamless continuation of your branded experience for shoppers.

The retail landscape has forever changed with COVID acting as the digital catalyst for innovation. As you plan your retail strategies for 2022, now is the time to embrace smart lockers and other tools that improve your retail operations. With these seven methods, you can strive for operational excellence with your retail business.

To talk to a Parcel Pending by Quadient sales representative about how our solutions can improve your retail operations and customer experience, contact us here.


  1. Cullen, Katherine. National Retail Federation. Consumers embrace physical retail as U.S. emerges from the pandemic. (2021, July 15).
  2. Retail Dive. 3 strategies that all retailers should do today. (2021, November 22).
  3. Rogers, Kate. CNBC. Retailers look to staff up ahead of holiday rush with workers in short supply. (2021, November 5).
  4. Optimizely. (2021, October 14). Optimizely Survey: Consumers Report Heightened Expectations for Digital Experiences this Holiday Season [Press release]. Retrieved from:
  5. Adobe. (2021, October 20). Adobe forecasts record $207 billion holiday season online (U.S.), $910 billion globally [Press release]. Retrieved from:
  6. PYMNTS. Retailers Push Curbside, In-Store Pickup to Fight Delivery Inefficiencies. (2021, October 27).
  7. Johnston, Chuck. Supply Chain Brain. How Retailers Are Bettering the Online Returns Experience. (2021, August 4).
  8. Puthiyamadam, Tom & Reyes, José. PWC. Experience is everything. Get it right. (2017).
  9. Dorsey, Moira. Qualtrics XM Institute. Research Recap: ROI of Customer Experience, 2020. (2020, September 17).