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Using the Power of Retail Store Audits to Drive Sales

In order to stay competitive in today’s marketplace, it is imperative to design and implement a strong retail execution strategy. And utilising a retail store audit is one of the best ways for a merchandiser to capture critical field data that affects the health of their company and its products. By analysing longitudinal data, business owners and managers can prove what does and doesn’t work to make informed decisions or adjustments to their retail strategy. 

Retailers and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) brands spend huge amounts of time and money designing, planning, executing and evaluating in-store activity. However, in many campaigns, the actual execution element of the strategy is not always visible from the head office. Whether it is compliance, ongoing shelf performance, pricing levels or competitor analysis, they can give head offices and brand teams total visibility of the realities of the actual in-store execution.

What is a Retail Audit?

What happens at the actual point of purchase and on the shelf itself has a big impact on product availability and display compliance. Retail store audits provide vital insight to drive performance improvements as they provide critical business intelligence to eliminate inconsistency of information and empower retailers and FMCG brands to make positive decisions.

Determine Objectives

Implementing a retail store audit can be a daunting process – but by partnering with a trusted provider, the entire project can run seamlessly, resulting in incredibly insightful and valuable information. Stage one of the process involves determining the specific audit objectives such as:

  • Determine & improve on-shelf product availability, reducing ‘out-of-stock’
  • Drive retail channel management improvements
  • Identify lost sales opportunities
  • Promotional compliance issues
  • Analyse and benchmark activity against your competitors
  • Monitor ongoing shelf activity and prices
  • Ensure correct merchandising and P-O-P placement

And where you’re coming up with these objectives, you’ll also want to consider these questions to help centralise your strategy:

  • Who will manage the audit process internally?
  • What issues are you looking to identify or solve?
  • What will be the scope of the audit?
  • Who will drive the recommendations?
  • Are you willing to challenge current practices?

How Are They Used Today?

On-shelf availability and merchandising display compliance have been a hot topic across the FMCG sector for years, further exacerbated by the impact of Covid and supply chain challenges on the retail industry landscape. Retail marketing trade association POPAI UK & Ireland (Point of Purchase Advertising International) estimates that £1.3bn is spent annually on point-of-purchase (POP) advertising, much of it across FMCG brands. Despite this, compliance is running at around 50%, meaning that only half of the promotional material that is delivered to the store actually finds its way into the store area.

Research carried out by Blue Yonder found that failure to successfully manage product availability, promotional activity and display compliance is the biggest challenge facing retail and brand executives post-pandemic. If a product is displayed incorrectly or is out of stock, the shopper may opt for a cheaper alternative or even worse – not buy the product altogether and be lost completely.

Losing one shopper in one store is bad enough, but with most FMCG brands and retailers’ in-store activity operating nationally (and sometimes globally), the impact of losing sales has a colossal impact on revenue. Knowing this, to best utilise retail store audits to their full potential, ask yourself:

  • Are products properly priced and positioned on the shelf?
  • Are we out of stock?
  • How do we know if agreed trade promotions are being honoured?
  • What percentage of stores has the POP correctly installed?
  • How many stores in the north are selling the competitor’s new product?

Audit ideas

The Importance of Retail Store Audits

Retail Audits: Finance

Financial Efficiency

In today’s economic climate, carefully controlling financial investment is crucial. All too often, a lack of in-depth analysis of the retail estate results in the over-production of in-store equipment, or the supply of inappropriate equipment in stores. Both are an unnecessary financial cost to retailers. By conducting a detailed retail store audit and compiling an accurate database of store-specific information, retailers can ensure that equipment is always supplied to stores in the correct quantities, and is fit for purpose.

Retail Audits: Asset Management

Asset Management

There is a growing need for retailers to keep track of their valuable in-store assets. Tracking and retaining control over fixtures and fittings in-store is a continual challenge for head office when trying to plan in-store activity. Store teams will often move equipment around themselves, with the result that even similarly graded stores may sometimes not have the same fixtures within a specific category.

Retail Audits: Compliance

Improving Compliance

Whilst in the past, many in-store activation duties (including seasonal aisle and hanging signage changes, as well as fixtures and fittings management and maintenance) would have been carried out by retail teams; the pace of development and growing demands by retailers and shoppers on promotional cycles now makes this an increasingly difficult task. No matter how much time and effort retailers continue to put into creating policy and standards, the reality is that the focus of retail teams’ often has to be prioritised on customer service and sales.

Retail Audits: Channel Management

Channel and Category Management

Retail store audits also provide an opportunity to respond to what is happening within a channel or category. The resulting insight can often reduce out-of-stocks and identify new shelf fixtures and SKU opportunities in-store.

We Can Help You Achieve Your Goals

Insights from a retail store audit come from asking the right questions, looking in the right places and getting the right answers. These insights will enable you to understand what is working well, what is not and the reasons why. Furthermore, audits will give you total visibility into the execution of in-store marketing campaigns, valuable insights into key in-store performance matric and compliance trends in real-time and help identify operational issues and support the use of swift, corrective action.

Last year, we completed 55,000 audits and we’re ready to take on more. If you’re ready to get yours started, contact us today and a member of our team will be happy to help. Alternatively, you can send us an email at [email protected] 

Looking to expand your retail strategy further? Download our brochure and check out the other services we provide.