Roadmap to Creating a Store Portal


Retailers using store portals are empowering store managers with the information needed to improve productivity and execution at the store level. Store managers and associates now have a single interface and access from anywhere to time-sensitive store information and business functions.


Store portals aggregate information from disparate systems, creating a single user interface and workflow for store managers and associates. Store portals can be integrated with POS systems to increase the speed of completing such tasks as shipment inquiries, transfers and requisitions. They can also be used to allow associates to view vendor information including case pack specs, current/upcoming prices, inventory levels and stock movement summaries. In this way, store orders and other product requests are responded to in real-time.

A more common use of a store portal is to provide access to store performance reports such as store sales, unit sales, year-to-year comparisons and margin reports, as well as being able to manage pricing at a localized level to respond to such factors as competitors' pricing.

"Store portals are especially useful to field management, as it provides a consistent experience for communicating and sharing information with the headquarters," says AMR research director, Rob Garf. "For example, it could be used to provide field management with a consolidated view of all the key information related to store promotion."


Retailers are constantly facing inconsistency in communications between store and field operations, and executives at headquarters often underutilize the information that stores can provide. Implementing a store portal is the key to creating a solid channel of communication from the store to the enterprise.

"Dollars are lost sorting through unclear priorities, which results in redundant or poor use of resources, the inability to meet customer expectations and frustration and turnover among field representatives," says Garf. "We see portals as a best practice to eliminate the communication problems between field management and headquarters."

Store managers and associates are the heart of what's happening in the stores, but are busier and working more hours than ever before. According to a Forrester Research study, "The State of the Store Manager," more than 90 percent of store managers are working more than 40 hours per week. However, leveraging technology, such as store portals, makes store employees' jobs easier and saves time while increasing the operational efficiency.

The study also states: "Eighty-three percent of store managers feel technology helps them do their jobs." Aspects of customer service, store execution management, sales, promotions, stock, training/staffing and reporting all run through the store manager. Retailers want to improve customers' experiences, compete effectively within the industry and increase store profits. By providing store employees with the necessary technology, jobs become easier, communication improves and these goals become more obtainable.


Several retailers have found that using store portals to facilitate targeted communications and provide information for specific job roles can drive increased sales while improving the customer experience. Relying heavily on e-mail to communicate with store managers, electronics retailer CompUSA reported that its Lotus Notes system was no longer working. For example, staff at headquarters used e-mail to communicate with people at the store level, but high employee turnover forced CompUSA to minimize the number of users who had access to Notes. This resulted in employees not knowing about promotions and other information, which in turn could lead to lost sales.

In addition, Lotus Notes added to the associates' and store managers' workload because managers had to sort through any directives or information sent by e-mail. The company also maintained a central database of company policies, procedures and promotions called the "Source" and sent links to information found there to managers in e-mail. However, this led to store managers being too overwhelmed with corporate communications, which slowed managers down in making quick business decisions.

CompUSA needed to manage the targeted e-mails sent to store managers and provide employees with better access to information. The retailer chose an integrated Microsoft-based messaging solution that includes Microsoft Exchange server enterprise edition for the e-mail system, Microsoft Office SharePoint portal server for creating a corporate intranet and customizable Web sites, and Windows server enterprise edition operating system. Cathy Witt, CIO of CompUSA, says: "The most significant benefit will be the ability for headquarters to streamline and target communications to permanent employees with e-mail accounts." In addition, through the company intranet, employees can locate promotions and company information more efficiently.

"For example, a cashier can log on and just see the information that affects what a cashier needs to know about a particular promotion," says Witt. "This information might be different in small but important ways from what a floor salesperson needs to know. Having this capability allows us to deliver precise, targeted information."

Similarly, Best Buy's corporate offices were communicating one-size-fits all, company-wide tasks and directives to its stores. Managers in individual stores would have to adapt tasks to fit each individual store. As a result, directives were not always implemented correctly. Best Buy is utilizing StorePerform to coordinate direct communications to employees through kiosk interfaces in each store.

The solution provides employees with access to individual Employee Tool kits via kiosks placed throughout the sales floor. The tool kits contain the employees' ongoing tasks, along with the status and deadline of each assigned task. Employees also can input the progress of the tasks, and the program uploads the information to the employees' files. The solution not only monitors the execution of tasks but eliminates the need for expensive and time-consuming follow-ups from corporate headquarters.

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