How Technology is Revamping Retail Surveys
By Marc van Gaalen | Senior Business Consultant at Visual Retailing
In the retail industry, store audits and compliance success rely heavily on communicating effectively and preserving brand integrity.
Traditionally, store evaluation surveys are done with a pen and paper, and employees use a physical sheet to tally up inventory, note fixture issues and state compliance level.
While this method can get the job done, paper-based collections are replete with inefficiency and error – not to mention being both time-consuming and redundant.
Turning hand-collected data into analysis often results in a substantial lag-time between the audit and sending finalised report findings to management. This results in missed opportunities to implement timely corrective actions.
Compliance Isn’t a Dirty Word
The retail industry is people-centric. As a result, people are the number one driver of retail risk. From employee conduct to loss prevention to safety standards, retailers need to be prepared to address these risks in a way that resonates with their employees and results in an effective and efficient compliance program.
However, according a study by US retail discount and industry research company RetailMeNot, roughly 48 percent of stores are noncompliant in a given year. Such a high number shows a lack of communication, and cumulates into a waste of time, resources, and – ultimately – money. Noncompliant stores have a potential negative impact on brand perception, leading to lost sales opportunities and customer engagement.
Factors such as insufficient monitoring, lack of responsibility and over complexity in the merchandising process contribute to this deficiency in compliance.
Head office should not be content with using store audit checklists merely as a measurement tool. In fact, fear sometimes keeps internal audit, loss prevention or store operation functions from venturing into the light of day.
Nobody wants to be liable for poor performance, especially when results would have been substantially better with a little proactiveness. By simplifying and unifying the compliance process, retailers increase their operational efficiency, as well as motivate personnel and promote ownership within individual stores.
A Better Questionnaire
Technological advancements have enabled the creation and implementation of a more efficient store evaluation program.
Retail audit software facilitates the use of quantitative and qualitative questions that are weighted appropriately for individual stores, and have an automated, real-time mechanism for data collection and scoring which can expedite the store audit process.
Cloud-based technology assists in all store evaluation functions, helping head office and regional store managers conduct consistent evaluations that can meet both operational and regulatory objectives. It enables an organisation to have a central repository for all relevant documentation, drive audit assessments, track noncompliant stores and manage corrective actions.
Five key areas where this new technology improves the retail audit process include:
Improve consistency: Consistent data collection from standardised checklists provides the most useful information. Automated evaluations enhance consistency via custom scoring models and predetermined response selections for specific questions. This enables collecting information in the field and communicating it back easier.
Eliminate redundancy and costs: Existing paper-based processes are slow and cumbersome – not to mention costly. With an electronic solution, data is entered only once at the store level and saved automatically. Without the added costs of printing, cloud-based store evaluations are a simple way to boost your business’s bottom line.
Refine action items and KPIs: Retail audit software allows management to assess key performance metrics in real-time. This information means management can assist retailers in identifying operational issues and implement a proactive approach to areas in need of extra attention. With all data centrally located and accessible from anywhere, teams can make informed decisions faster.
Increase compliance and store performance: Store evaluation technology provides insight into trends. Audit technology also allows management to rank stores and districts based on evaluations which can be used to motivate and reward compliance. With automatic change tracking, companies can confidently provide incentives without the added worry that store surveys are being manipulated.
Communicate better: Don’t just dictate your plans to your staff and expect them to follow through. Instead, actively involve them in planning and decision-making processes. Smart retail solutions provide the opportunity for employees to be heard by head office – especially staff on the front lines of the business with invaluable input and insights.
Whether it’s reducing shrink or complying with head office requirements, store evaluation surveys are critical to protecting and substantiating company assets.
Retail audit software significantly reduces the amount of human errors made during the store survey process. This cost-effective alternative gives management deeper insights into each location.
About Marc van Gaalen
Marc van Gaalen is Senior Business Consultant for Visual Retailing and lead project manager for all key accounts. As a retail business expert, Marc optimises client processes and organisations to address their current and future business challenges while simultaneously identifying opportunities for program functionality improvements.