Retail Experts Reveal Process Improvement Wisdom

retail graphic images over shopping aisle

In the world of retail, staying ahead requires more than just keeping up with the latest trends. It demands a commitment to continuous improvement. While process improvement frameworks abound, there’s immense value in learning from the real-world experiences of industry peers who have navigated the complexities of retail process improvement firsthand. 

Melinda Buffington, Project Manager at Vortex Optics, and Krista Dalton, Chief Digital Officer at Tecovas, have years of experience with process improvement. As featured panelists on the webinar Improving Processes in Retail: Four Focus Areas,” Melinda and Krista draw from their extensive experience to provide invaluable insights into their professional journeys with process improvement.  

What couldn’t be covered in the webinar they’ve graciously shared here. Read on for their insider tips for success and a glimpse into their real-world challenges and triumphs of implementing effective process improvement strategies in the retail landscape.  

Q: What are some of the specific retail business metrics that process improvement projects have helped to improve?  

In 2024, Vortex Optics wanted to try a new approach to reach a larger customer base with their catalog. The company streamlined its user information collection process by switching to an InstaPage. According to Melinda, that one process change resulted in a 300% increase in catalog requests. Melinda shares her story in the video below:


For Krista, she has seen the costs of goods sold improve and help profitability. Sales have also improved with both conversion and traffic increasing resulting in better performance on the website. Hear more from Krista in the video below.  

Q: What have been some of the biggest barriers that you’ve had to overcome? 

To automate or not to automate? That was Melinda’s challenge. “Coming from an IT background, one of the biggest barriers I’ve had to overcome is when to automate a process versus doing it manually,” she says.  

“With software, we’re so quick to automate things, but there are times when the flexibility of a manual process can come in handy. However, that manual process is then susceptible to human error and waste that wouldn’t have occurred if it had been done automatically.”  

“At the end of the day, you need to provide the teams with options, reflect back on the requirements, and use your best judgement to make a decision,” Melinda says.  

Getting people on board with change has been one of the barriers Krista has encountered. “As a more junior worker, I had to get buy-in and approval from higher ups to make changes. But even when they bought in, getting the larger organization to change was a challenge, and I failed multiple times,” she says.  


“I tried sharing the vision with them, creating reporting for accountability, meeting with everyone who didn’t perform correctly, rewarding those who did well, but the errors continued.”  

Automation and behind-the-scenes fixes that didn’t involve humans were the only way to ensure the correct assortment went to the correct stores. “And that was ok,” Krista adds. “We just had to build a fix that allowed us to achieve that. Sometimes, automation is the only solution. 

Q: Share a specific example of how process improvement was used to help make work better, reduce frustration, and help your organization meet its performance targets.  

In 2022, Vortex Optics went live in a new warehouse to encompass its new inventory. However, with the new location came new problems. Melinda shares her story on the successful process improvement in the video below. 


In 2020, Krista’s customer service team dealt with the challenges of the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. While sales increased, so did customer contacts. “We did not have the capability of keeping up with what was happening.” Hear how process improvement helped Krista and her team in the video below.  


Q: What are some pro-tips or techniques that have worked especially well in process improvement projects?  

“One tip I have is always have an owner or multiple owners of the process once it’s been agreed upon and finalized,” Melinda shares. “Be sure to document the process and have it in a knowledge base or location that employees or new hires can access for reference. Any changes to that process will then need a change request and approval from the owners before any type of modifications to the process or system are made.”  

“Ask for data, and find a way to collect it,” Krista adds. “Running a customer service organization, I heard a lot of complaints as anecdotes but could not understand the scale of the issue, and thus couldn’t prioritize it against other projects.”

“Once the team understood that, they documented all the instances of issues and shared that with me, which allowed me to prioritize. That was very helpful!” 

Melinda and Krista have experienced firsthand the challenges and benefits process improvement offers retail organizations. It can help streamline workflows, decrease wasted time, increase profits, and more. If you’re ready to evaluate your organizational processes and pinpoint where improvements and growth can be made, a partner like CPED can help you move your continous improvement efforts forward.  

Book a meeting with Kate Schlesinger, Retail Solutions Advisor, to learn more about custom process improvement solutions tailored to your organization’s specific needs.  

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Looking to earn your Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt Certificate? Enroll in Business Process Improvement Using Lean Six Sigma and Performance Metrics and earn your Yellow Belt.