Retail audits allow retailers to keep an eye on the health of their businesses and learn how they’re performing. However, the administrative effort and time necessary to plan for, execute, and follow up on audits often means weeks of sustained efforts.
Regular store visits and audits will always be a crucial aspect of profitable business, and they don’t have to be time-consuming or labor-intensive. This article will provide insights on ways to make your audits as efficient and impactful as possible.
What are the objectives of a retail audit?
So, why are retail audits and store inspections required in the first place?
Audits protect the brand reputation, by ensuring that every store operates according to internal guidelines, delivering the right experience for customers and employees. Store visits allow the Head Office to evaluate how customers experience a store. This in turn enables management to make more informed decisions and adjust their retail plan.
Audits are typically focused around a specific area of retailing, for example:
Mystery shopper visits
Collect data on the way visitors interact with and evaluate the brand, as well as their overall experience at the store.
Promotion and merchandising audits
Ensure that goods are displayed in line with guidelines, the store is clean and well presented, promotional signage is correct. Roll out new promotions and get feedback from the field quickly, adjusting them when required.
Loss prevention audits
Check compliance with policies and processes in order to minimize theft, waste and security breaches.
Food safety / Health and safety inspections
Check compliance with health and safety procedures and standards, in order to safeguard workers and members of the public.
Competitor audits / mystery visits
Understand how your competitors position themselves within the market, best practices and what it means for your business.
Benefits of regular retail audits and store visits
Why do brand conduct regular audits and store inspections? Some of the benefits include:
- Protecting your brand and identifying problems early on
Ensure compliance with brand standards and policies, so that customers receive the intended brand experience consistently, regardless of the store they visit. Store visits also allow management to spot issues before the customers notice: maintenance work required, training gaps, process flaws etc.
- Assessing the effectiveness of merchandising and planograms
See the the customer perspective: assess whether your store layouts are user-friendly and inspire customers to buy items on the shelves. Audits check store compliance with supplier and manufacturer contracts.
- Data-driven decisions
Retail businesses that conduct regular audits can tap into up-to-date store data to make better decisions and enhance performance. Are there recurring issues across one or many stores? What training areas should be prioritized? Which new equipment to invest in?
- Sync up management and store teams
Retail audits allow a two-way exchange of information between headquarters and store teams. Store visit reports show store teams how they’re doing. Measurable scores allow them to see good results as well as improvement areas.
- Health and safety
Audits ensure that legal requirements such as health and safety laws and standards are followed. These precautions ensure the safety and well-being of consumers, employees, and the overall brand reputation.
Digitising retail audits to save time
Many businesses still use very manual processes to conduct audits, and don’t optimize their data collection on the field to best empower management teams.
Paper forms, excel spreadsheets or shared documents are often still the preferred tools. This makes auditing an onerous process: forms may get lost, auditors create reports manually, seeing trends requires retrieving past audits and compiling data, then sharing it with management. This means that audits are not conducted very frequently due to resource constraints.
Head office doesn’t have the ability to automatically link up store audit data with other performance and sales data. It becomes impossible to quickly spot issues and respond in an agile manner. At the end of the day, it all means that Management ends up with a delayed, inaccurate or incomplete picture of retail operations.
Digitising retail auditing and store visits can be a great time-saver, enabling the improvement of retail operations.
Choose the right retail audit app/software
An app on a mobile phone or tablet is perfect for effective and efficient retail audits. Auditors can capture detailed information and photos while in the store, then send a complete digital report to HQ in just a few clicks.
Standardise your store audit checklists
Use the chosen auditing tool to develop standardized inspection template forms. Use smart tools to guide the user: mandatory questions or photos, If-Then logic to capture additional information based on answers, standardised and color-coded scores etc. Make your audit report forms easy to scan, while allowing auditors to provide extra detail where required.
Checklists as training opportunity
Provide extra information and guidance to the auditors and store managers by attaching instructions or guideline photos to each audit topic/question. For example, such enriched digital checklists can be used to roll out new promotions efficiently.
Leverage the data in real time
The tool you choose should give you access to all audit data in one place, presented in such a way that it’s easy to analyse over time, across different stores or regions, per topic etc. Furthermore, the tool should feed into your other data analysis tools.
Informing the right people
The auditing app should offer workflow tools to enable the auditor to create action plans and keep track of progress, sending regular reports to management and key stakeholders.