Your business has a great product, and after much hard work, you’ve been able to get it on retail shelves. While it’s important to have a presence in the retail market, it’s critical to monitor how your product is performing at various retail outlets in order to sustain success. To help ensure profitability of your product, we’ve compiled a complete Retail Audit Checklist which includes a comprehensive list of the data that field representatives should be gathering when making visits to retail locations.
Read on to see a detailed explanation of each field you should use in a retail audit checklist, or click the link below to jump right to the infographic.
|Demographic||Product Condition||Trade Promotion Compliance||Competition||Process & Efficiency|
|Name of Outlet||Before & After Photos of Merchandising on Shelf||Photos of Compliance||Photos of Competing Products||Time of Rep Arrival at Store|
|Type of Outlet||Stock Levels||Product Promotions||List of Competing Brands Nearby||Interaction With Store Manager|
|Type of Neighborhood||Backstock Levels||Price Promotions||SKU’s on Sale||Interaction With Customers|
|Economic Group||Planogram Compliance||Promotional Materials||Competitor Pricing||Completion of On-Site Forms|
|Sales Territory||Adjacent Products||Product Location||Competing Promotions||Time of Rep Departure from Store|
|General Condition of Store During Visit||Retail Price||Promotion References||Stock Levels of Competing Products|
|Shelf Tag Presence||Fully Stocked Display Arrangements||New SKU’s From Previous Visit|
|Location of Product in Store||Feedback on Promo Display||Feedback on Competitors|
Name of Outlet: Record the name of the store, alongside location information such as address, zip code, phone numbers, etc.
Type of Outlet: Is this a convenience store, grocery store, retail chain, etc? Each store has different qualities, so it’s important to note the type of store you’re visiting.
Type of Neighborhood: Urban area, suburban, or rural? Get more granular if you’d like, but keeping track of different areas can help when you’re deciding on what promotions to run in the future.
Economic Group: What’s the average income in this area? What does the area look like?
Sales Territory: Which territory does this area fall under? Organize your data in a way that enables you to record sales, promotions, and individual product performance, and then break it down by territory to see where you’re under-performing.
General Condition of Store During Visit: Check for cleanliness, broken shelves, clutter, lighting, etc. A disheveled store can leave consumers with a bad taste in their mouth, and you may not want your brand associated with that.
2) Product Condition
Photos on Shelf: Before & after photos of all merchandising activities that the rep did at the store during this visit.
Stock Level on the Shelf: Highlight out of stock situations (OOS) to help curb missing products across multiple locations. One of the worst situations a CPG company can find themselves in is losing a customer because a product is out of stock. For the most part, rather than go search for the product at another location, the buyer will simply purchase a competing product.
Backstock Level: Simply knowing stock levels for the product on the shelf is not enough. Take the time to check stock levels in the backroom and see if it’s time to place another order. Most retailers have so much on their plate that they’re not overly-concerned with your brand’s stock levels–especially what they have in reserve.
Planogram Compliance: Has the person in charge of merchandising adhered to the planogram specifications? Is your product on the correct shelf, in the right part of the store? Has the product been slotted correctly, with exactly the right amount of facings? Checking for planogram compliance is the first step in maintaining a professional looking brand image.
Adjacent Products: Who are your neighbors? Even if they’re not competitors (though it’s more likely than no that they are) you should always know what kinds of products are near yours. There may be opportunities for cross-merchandising and co-marketing with some of these companies if there’s no conflict.
Retail Price: Is your product selling for the agreed upon price? This is fairly straightforward, but you might be surprised how many merchandisers fail to note the listed retail price at each store.
Shelf Tag Presence: Customers don’t like hauling a product over to a price-scanner, or even worse, all the way up to the front register. Make sure that each of your products on the shelf has a tag indicating price, and decrease the risk of losing a customer due to unknown prices.
Location of Product: Is your product prominently displayed in the front of the store, or tucked away in the back left corner next to the clearance DVD’s? You more than likely discussed product location with a store manager at some point, and if you’ve since been moved, it’s important to take note.
Product Damage: Shattered bottles, dented boxes, and torn packaging are all sure-fire ways to turn a potential buyer off from your product. If you record damage to products and notice a significant percentage of all damage coming from a select few stores, it may be worth your while to investigate distribution to those stores, or handling practices within the store itself.
Consumer Feedback: It never hurts to ask! If your rep is in a retail location during regular store hours, and there are consumers near your product, get some feedback from them on packaging, purchasing history, etc.
3) Trade Promotion Compliance
Photos: If your marketing displays (floor stickers, endcaps, etc) are not set-up correctly, you should take a photo to help alleviate the problem, and show your team how to do setups correctly. If the display is set up correctly–still take the photo! Let whoever has set up the display showcase their work to the rest of the team.
Product Promotions: If you’re running specific product promotions, ensure that those products are in fact being promoted at each location. If you’ve run an ad, a targeted email campaign, or done any other kind of advertising direct to consumers, they won’t be thrilled to go into a store and find your product special isn’t being run.
Promoted Price: A staple of most traditional retail merchandising audits, marking promoted price is vital to measuring the success of limited-time promotions.
Promotional Materials: Fliers by the register, full-window posters, in-store announcements…whatever it is that you’re using to promote your product, you should ensure that those elements are all present and displayed prominently.
Product Locations: Similar to the product condition metrics above, finding product location during a promotion period is incredibly important. If part of your promotional strategy involves getting the product in front of more consumers than normally, you should perform your due diligence, and note whether or not the product has been moved to the new location.
Promotion Preferences: Are you referenced in the retail location’s circular? Are you promoted on their site, or within the other marketing channels that they have at their disposal?
Fully Stocked Displays: It becomes even more important to keep stock levels up when you’re promoting a product. Unless your promotion involves some limited-quantity aspect, you’ll want to ensure that as many consumers as possible can take advantage of your fantastic offers.
Feedback on Promotions: Ask customers near your product if the promotion makes any difference in whether or not they’ll purchase your product, check whether or not they’ve ever purchased your product before, and take note of what other items they’re purchasing, if you can tell.
Competitive Photos: Know your enemy. OK, maybe it doesn’t need to sound so sinister, but doing the proper competitive analysis is incredibly important when it comes to retaining your position and stock levels in retail locations. Taking photos of competing products let’s you see how well they’ve been merchandising their product, and keeps you in-the-know about competitor changes to packaging, flavors, and more.
List of Brands: Even if competitors are not directly next to your product, keep a running list of all the competing products that are available at the same retail store as your brand.
SKU’s on Sale: Which competitor SKU’s are being sold? If your competitor suddenly suddenly swaps out 5 SKU’s for completely new ones, it may be a sign that they’re pivoting, and you will want to take note.
Pricing: Money talks, and customer loyalty and brand preference will only get you so far if your competition is consistently beating you on price. Even if your strategy is to price your products above competitors, keeping track of everyone’s price helps paint a clearer picture of the competitive landscape.
Promotions: Competitive promotions can help to give you new ideas, and may explain why your sales in a specific location have dropped recently, don’t ignore competitor’s actions, as they will have direct impact on your bottom-line at some point.
Stock Level: Are your competitors preventing OOS situations? If their shelves are looking barren, it may mean that their merchandising team isn’t carrying their weight. Look at this as an opportunity to outshine your biggest competitors, and leave a lasting impression on consumers unfamiliar with your brand.
New SKU’s: If you’re using the ‘SKU’s on sale’ field above, this should be easy! Just take note of which SKU’s weren’t available in the previous visit, and you’ve got a time and location of where new competing products were first seen. When this data is collected over multiple locations it can help give you an early-peek at a competitor’s distribution strategy.
Feedback on Competitors: This can be tough to get, but is so valuable that it’s worth the struggle. If consumers are buying up your competitor’s products while you’re reps are in store, they should make it a priority to find out why.
5) Team Efficiency Info
Time of Arrival: When did your rep get to the store? If you have integrated scheduling software that allows reps to check in at retail locations, you can make sure that your team is always on-time and on-site.
Interaction With Store Manager: Building a rapport with the point of contact at each retail location your team visits may seem laborious, but it may end up being the difference between you and your competitor filling the shelf in a prime location. Relationships go a long way in the CPG industry, and you should emphasize the importance of this to all the merchandisers and auditors in your organization.
Interaction With Customers: Separate from the feedback section, maintaining a good brand image should extend to your reps when they’re on-site. Give your team coupons to give out to consumers they chat with, and you’ll leave many people pleasantly surprised, with a great story to pass on to their friends.
Completion of On-Site Forms: Look at all the fields above…Did the rep complete whichever fields you’ve chosen? Instituting a new auditing system doesn’t have to be difficult, and the first step in a smooth transition to a transparent auditing system is seeing which reps are doing their jobs.
Time of Departure: When did the rep leave? Managers will have expectations about how quickly a rep can perform a full store audit. If your team is taking ages at a specific location, it’s worth your time to explore the cause.