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Take the Guesswork Out of Retail Rollouts

Technology and training keep ER2 Image Group on the cutting edge.

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ONE OF THE BIGGEST challenges a retail store can experience is completing installations on time, especially when the installation crew is forced to operate without adequate reference materials. For a multi-location retail rollout, installations have to be consistent from store to store, but all too often, these critical support pieces are lackluster or missing altogether.

Now imagine the consistency required in a nationwide effort for a retailer. If it sounds like complete chaos, it can be for many installation companies.

Fortunately, our company was so tired of such a high level of guesswork in the installation process that it forever changed our approach to multi-location retail rollout efforts. Starting with one of the largest retailers in the country.

It wouldn’t happen overnight, but an investment in two key areas has proven to be very successful in retail rollouts thus far for us at ER2 Image Group in Chicago.

Investment #1: Technology That Brings Teams Together

For years, an install team that’s new to the project has typically relied on a resource guide to refer to. There’s just one major problem with that, as Chris Roe, ER2’s director of Sales and Business Development, explains: “Having a physical piece of resource material is usually tied to one person. That’s not very practical in one large store with multiple team members handling all kinds of elements and it’s definitely not sufficient for multi-location projects where teams have to share information.”

Without an appropriate point of reference, crews have had to do the impossible – assemble installations from one store to the next off memory or worse. The inefficiency can take its toll on an installation team, leading to crew members working 12 to 14-hour days.

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When we got the opportunity to provide nationwide installations for Sam’s Club, ER2 decided to explore and invest in the kind of specialized, cloud-based technologies that have since helped crews absorb a lot of install data efficiently, in real-time.

By digitizing support materials for team members to find easily in a central location online, we were able to not only keep our installations for Sam’s Club and other retailers consistent, but also change elements within a particular location as needed – while staying within the brand, of course.

“While we’re managing dozens of client installations every week, we also have to respect that each retail store brings its unique dimensions and expectations,” says ER2’s VP/Partner Gary Schellerer.

In using our enhanced technology platform – and insisting to clients that this platform must be used on every multi-location rollout, ER2 is better able to perform quality control for its installation program. This results in superior brand compliance across the board on every element while customizing to a store’s unique environment for customers, which could be very appealing to national and regional brands.

At ER2 Image Group, we’ve seen another investment in our retail rollouts pay off, perhaps even more so than the tech it brings into every project.

Investment #2: Bringing In-House Builders to Mastery Level

For Sam’s Club, we found ourselves responsible for more than 100 different retail locations, each location with 50 different graphic elements that needed to be installed in the exact same way.

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In the past, the installation team would be emailed a folder with a zip file. They’d unzip the file and see several photos taken. Somehow, from looking at all these photographs, the team was supposed to create a uniform installation from store to store.

Good luck with that.

Of course, relying on luck isn’t a good policy when aiming to scale your multi-location retail rollouts. Neither is relying on technology alone.

As Schellerer describes, “Having the most advanced tools and tech of the trade to manage and respond in real-time is excellent. But they’re still only as good as the people operating them. It also requires exceptional talent that understands retail installation work inside and out.”

To significantly decrease the likelihood of timing, workflow, and accuracy problems during a location update for Sam’s Club and other retailers, we’re thankful to have developed our own in-house installation team, one that we consider to be among the very best in the industry. Several of these installers have reached a level of mastery and new installers are being trained by those “best of the best” master installers through an apprentice program ER2 has established.

Why In-House Installers Vs. Outsourced Installers?

In Schellerer’s opinion and experience, hiring outside crew members who have never worked with the company can otherwise hurt its reputation, making it an unnecessary risk that he and the team at ER2 are unwilling to take.

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“If you don’t have your own installation crew working for you, putting 110 percent into the job, you may hire people who only focus on the scope of work before they move on to the next job. There’s not a lot of attachment or appreciation of the big picture of what you’re doing,” he says.

Conversely, having an in-house installation team and bringing them up to speed enables ER2 to avoid any orientation or learning curve on a store update. So, it can deploy its installers to hit the ground running virtually anywhere.

Investment #3: Creating a True Retail Rollout Program

You don’t manage a nationwide rollout without a program that takes all the people, equipment, existing store resources, locations, and estimated outcomes into full consideration.

That’s why, rather than any kind of one-size-fits-all process for a national rollout that could create bottlenecks and a domino effect of delays, ER2’s retail rollout program is designed around the client’s goals for the brand and customer experience first.

How Do We Do It?

ER2’s retail rollout program calls for an overarching plan for the national/regional effort – taking inventory of the tech and talent required to do each install right the first time and on time. ER2 also builds individualized deployment strategies for each store, so the proper tools are supplied, and the team is sufficiently staffed.

These strategies are complete with an entire step-by-step timeline with milestones. All of which can go a long way toward keeping the work on a retail rollout for brands like Sam’s Club moving forward and growing the customer relationship.

Dan Gershenson is the CMO of ER2 Image Group, directing the marketing efforts of the print and environmental graphics leader into a new, exciting era for its brand. Dan specializes in brand strategy, content, SEO, social media, e-marketing, and new business development. He has been in the advertising and marketing space for more than 25 years, frequently speaking on the subjects of marketing strategy, social selling, entrepreneurialism, and reputation management. He is the co-author of the best-selling book, “Content Marketing for Local Search: Create Content that Google Loves & Prospects Devour.”

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