Vera Bradley

Vera Bradley Flips the Script on Traditional Store and Workforce Management With Streamlined Tech Approach

Liz Dominguez
Managing Editor
Liz Dominguez profile picture
Kelly Brown
Kelly Brown, Vera Bradley’s VP of Stores; Image Credit: Vera Bradley

Retailer Vera Bradley has been a dominant name in the handbag and home accessories market for quite some time, with the idea for the company going back to 1982. 

Since that time, the retail industry has drastically changed, and so has Vera Bradley’s store operations in order to keep up with technological innovation and shifting consumer demands. As a result, the company has looked toward a streamlined solution to reduce workloads, increase productivity on the sales floor, and overall introduce a more efficient task management system for store leaders and associates. 

Kelly Brown, Vera Bradley’s vice president of stores, and an RIS Top Women in Retail Technology in 2022, manages sales and operations for over 130 full line and factory store locations and gives RIS a glimpse into its digital workforce and store transformation, which has yielded impressive results over the years.

In order to achieve a full-scale revamping, the company partnered with Zebra Technologies to implement its task management and scheduling resources. The tools have allowed the company to:

  • Streamline administrative tasks so store leaders can focus their attention on customers and coaching their teams. 
  • Utilize a scheduling tool to significantly reduce the time it takes for store managers to generate a schedule based on business and traffic trends
  • Improve automated management of associate availability and requests and remove reliance on manual input
  • Implement cross-functional task management with built-in messaging to the task creator, eliminating confusing back and forth communication

“This frees up time for the store operations team to focus on gatekeeping our stores’ workload to ensure we strike a balance between completing projects and delivering best-in-class customer service,” says Brown. 

Vera Bradley Storefront; Image Credit: Vera Bradley
Vera Bradley Storefront; Image Credit: Vera Bradley

Onboarding and Resulting Success

The technology has been onboarded for several years, but the company did encounter hiccups in the early stages due to store closures prompted by the pandemic. Despite the added challenge, Brown says the team’s adoption rate during those difficult times was “very quick” due to the user-friendly nature of the system. 

A best practice, recommends Brown, is really striving for accountability during tech implementations. 

“Once you have implemented technology to solve for business needs, you need to hold the team accountable to use the technology and to ensure the accuracy of the information it is built upon,” says Brown. “Make sure the team understands how the technology benefits them.”

Since the initial onboarding, Vera Bradley has had increased cross-functional visibility into workload impact across its stores, giving the enterprise the foresight to update the timing and scope of repeat store tasks to automate processes and increase efficiencies. 

From a scheduling perspective, in addition to significant time savings, there is a huge benefit for our field leaders to be able to remotely access any store’s schedule and efficiently address any concerns,” says Brown. “It also allows us to ensure stores are scheduling to our payroll forecast.”

The added capabilities have allowed Vera Bradley’s district managers and store operations teams to see how close a store’s schedule is to the system output, and how much editing is being done by managers. Additionally, the company can easily follow up with managers if they encounter issues or do not rely on the system to do its work. 

While much of the success from these initiatives has resulted in a general sentiment regarding increased ease across the workforce and more time on the sales floor, says Brown, Vera Bradley managers report that time spent on schedules decreased from 3-4 hours to 30-60 minutes when workforce management was implemented. 

A Look Into Vera Bradley’s Digital Timeline

Last year, the company announced it was elevating its planning, assortment and allocation processes, investing in technology that would impact its full-price stores, factory stores, e-commerce and wholesale business by optimizing omnichannel decisions via machine-learning and predictive analytics for improving revenue and profitability. Read more.

In 2021, Vera Bradley expanded its in-person and virtual customer service and experience capabilities, enabling consumers to book time slots on the Vera Bradley website to shop in-store or virtually from home. Additionally, the capability allowed them to schedule curbside pickup and join on-site queues for walk-in service. Read more.

RIS named Vera Bradley’s Adam Fox CIO of the Year in 2021 for his role in the company’s digital transformation amid the pandemic, adding tech capabilities while simultaneously navigating unprecedented challenges. Read more. 

More Digital Transformation News