‘We eat first with our eyes.’ – Apicius, Roman gourmand
Consumers are more actively shopping online. However, they still love in-store experience. They visit a store, experience products, and make a purchase decision – whether in-store or online. How you showcase your in-store merchandise influences the customer’s journey from entry to check-out. Visual merchandising plays an important role in driving sales. Visual merchandising is not a one-time activity. You need to perform regular visual merchandising audits to monitor its performance and enhance your strategies to boost revenue.
However, retailers are facing several challenges in executing visual merchandising audits. In this article, let’s discover what are the common challenges you face in retail audits and how you can overcome them to get a competitive advantage.
Major challenges in visual merchandising audits
Visual merchandisers often face some common challenges in executing successful audits. Typically, retail stores are spread across different locations at varying sizes. Managing field reps at all these stores, collecting information, analyzing it, and extracting insights is often a challenging task for merchandisers. Let’s discuss some of the most common challenges in visual merchandising audits.
Lacking clear objectives
When your field representatives go into a store to perform the visual merchandising audit, they should have clarity on the expected outcomes. They should align the audit with the objectives, expectations, and standards of your business. However, auditors often do not have a visual merchandising manual or checklists for auditing, which would help perform their job with their consistency.
Lacking a schedule to maintain regularity
Some retailers conduct visual merchandising audits only when there is a problem. However, you should remember that the purpose of these audits is also to gain a competitive advantage by improving customer experience and store performance. Customers nowadays have a lot of buying options on different channels. Should they have any dissatisfaction at your store, they will go with other options and it’s very hard to bring them back. It doesn’t end there. The word spreads and damages your brand reputation. You should wake up and correct the course before it’s too late. However, retailers struggle to maintain a proper schedule for retail audits considering market trends, season, and business needs.
Lacking innovative solutions
The world is moving fast in digital space. But some retailers are still stuck with manual processes. Paper-based processes in visual merchandising audits create inefficiencies and can lead to non-compliance with guidelines. Manual processes might seem to be convenient for field representatives. However, these processes consume a lot of their time, and can also cause errors. Disconnected from your tech stack, manual processes in retail auditing deprive you of real-time insights, delaying decision making and diminishing opportunities.
Lacking integration with marketing strategies
Visual merchandising is about attracting customers towards your merchandise, compelling them to buy, and enhancing their experience across all touchpoints. This should happen in alignment with your brand identity, positioning, value proposition, and targeting to deliver a consistent buyer journey. If this doesn’t happen, you may not be able to support your promotions and marketing campaigns with your retail audits. So, you need to connect your field representatives with your marketing organization through efficient digital solutions that will integrate retail audits with marketing strategies.
There are some common myths about visual merchandising in the retail industry. In our blog, we debunked those myths to help you go in the right direction. You can read the blog here.
Visual merchandising audit best practices
You can overcome the above discussed challenges by implementing some best practices for visual merchandising audits. Let us walk you through some of the best practices adopted by your competitors.
Make guidelines readily available for field reps
Educate your field representatives about your expectations from the visual merchandising audits before they start. Provide them with proper checklists and guidelines to enable them to perform audits with confidence. Ensure you have systems in place to establish real-time communication with the field reps to guide them when needed.
Optimize visual merchandising audit schedules
To achieve the objectives of your visual merchandising strategy, you must ensure your field reps perform audits regularly at optimized schedules. While scheduling audits, you need to consider a variety of factors, such as store location, last visit date, issues found in last visit, currently running and upcoming campaigns, arrival of new collections, etc. Make sure you have all this information readily available on the scheduler and plan your audits.
Standard checklists for consistency in data collection
Data collection is an important aspect of visual merchandising audits. Your filed reps should collect all the important and relevant information from the store, which will help you analyze the store’s performance. Provide your field reps with standard checklists for collecting this information. Your data needs might change as you implement new marketing strategies. You should update your checklists as per your needs and share the same with your field reps. Sometimes, your field reps might uncover some unique information. You should have systems in place to enable them to collect such information in real-time.
Access real-time information for faster and better decision-making
You need to take corrective measures in your merchandising strategy to prevent potential buyers from walking out empty-handed. For this, you need real-time information from visual merchandising audits. With manual processes, accessing real-time information is highly unlikely. Use digital solutions that can connect your field reps with your corporate office to collect qualitative and quantitative data in real-time.
Keep your teams up to date with trends
Your teams should be aware of industry trends, best practices, your marketing strategies, and what competition is doing. This information will empower them to be proactive in their visual merchandising audits. Create an intranet where you can share regular updates with your employees and keep them abreast of the latest information and industry trends. This will inspire them to come up with creative ideas and improve your visual merchandising.
Adopt a sophisticated retail management solution
To follow the above discussed best practices, all you need is a sophisticated retail management solution. If you are still using manual processes or siloed digital solutions, you are lagging behind your competition. Retail technologies have evolved over the decade and are now coming with AI capabilities. Use a robust retail management solution that breaks data silos in your organization and connects all your teams, from field to corporate office.
Looking for a comprehensive solution for visual merchandising audits and other retail operations?
Proceso App for visual merchandising audits
Proceso App is an AI-powered no-code process management solution that seamlessly connects your field reps and store associates with the corporate office. Using Proceso App, you can empower your frontline workers with visual merchandising audit checklists and guidelines to perform audits with more efficiency. Proceso App integrates with your existing line-of-business systems and offers you real-time insights, strengthening data-backed decision making.
Using Proceso App’s AI capabilities, you can analyze store images uploaded by field reps and extract actionable insights that will help you uncover hidden patterns. These insights will help you analyze and enhance current strategies and come up with innovative ideas. You can access Proceso App from Microsoft Teams and establish real-time communication with field reps for faster resolutions.