How to Audit Your In-store
“Audit time!” is a phrase many of you have rarely heard spoken with excitement. Perhaps you’ve even muttered it to yourself as you face the tedious business activity. But the fact is, audits are necessary. Today, we’d like to talk about a different type of an audit; one that is not necessarily considered mandatory by retailers but one that if completed can yield significant returns. We are referring to auditing your in-store marketing program. An in-store marketing audit can greatly benefit retailers in all categories including grocery stores, apparel retailers, big box retailers, specialty retailers, banks, restaurants and others.
A Quick Definition of In-Store Marketing
In Store Marketing is the process of providing communication to consumers to improve the shopping experience and also increase average checkout tickets (average sales per customer) for brick and mortar retailers. Experts in the field, invest in training and technology that will ensure your in-store marketing efforts are ahead of your competition. For example; we have invested in developing proprietary programs like our Path of Purchase®, our Hierarchy of Signage, and our cutting-edge G-Trax Technology.
This segment of the marketing mix also has the most room for improvement among other sales building segments or channels; says a study conducted by Accenture.
Audit Step 1: Change Your Perspective
Auditing your in-store marketing programs requires you to actively change your mindset when walking your store. Instead of viewing your merchandising as a Merchandising Manager or Marketing Manager, etc.; instead, assume the role of the consumer- your prospective customer.
Absorb the messages you experience beginning with your approach to your store. Before you walk in do you notice any window merchandising? What do they say to you? Do they inspire more interest or excitement than you originally had when you decided you wanted to go shopping? Do they make you want to go inside?
As soon as you walk in what are your impressions? Is it easy to get where you want to go? Do you get a sense of the store’s personality? Are you overwhelmed?
Audit Step 2: Evaluate Your Branding
Walk the store without a planned destination- just take in the experience. What is the store saying to you? Why? Do you feel a personality? What is it?
Next, consider the promotional messaging. Are your promotional messages consistent with your marketing objectives? Do they co-exist well with your branding? Are your promotional messages clear or overwhelming? Do they compete with or complement one another?
Audit Step 3: Merchandising Navigability and Persuasiveness
Ready, Set, Shop
Remaining in your consumer mindset, now imagine that you have specific items to buy and that you are in a hurry. Begin gathering the items you need, paying special attention to how in-store merchandising assists or does not assist you. Does the layout of the store and placement of merchandising allow easy and intuitive shopping? Stores that are easy to shop inspire higher brand loyalty than stores that are difficult to navigate; especially with Millennials, who appreciate a high-quality experience, and expect the store experience to be as good as the online experience.
Once you find items that you are looking for, does the merchandising encourage you to buy other items that make sense to purchase with or accompany your item? For example, you are grocery shopping and looking for ice-cream. Is fudge topping or whipped cream merchandised nearby? Successful cross-selling is the logical location of add-on items or an accompanying add-on item that is on sale.
Look for situations when you go to purchase an item and the proximal signage actually encourages you to buy the premium or larger version. Take note of the successful and unsuccessful merchandising elements in the store, in terms of whether they encourage you to spend more.
Gather your notes, date the walk and create a reference document.
Audit Step 4: Synthesize and Create and Action Plan
Review your notes and separate the comments and observations into what is working and what is not working. Identify an action step to each, intended to correct what needs improvement and replicate what is successful. Adapt your merchandising audit to new marketing initiatives you have corporately- the messages may change but the lessons of the audit should not.
Admittedly, auditing can be a time-consuming process, especially if you have a lean merchandising team. This is what we do at WMG. We are specialists and our mission is to increase our clients’ sales while making their jobs easier. So, give us a call – we not only can help audit and suggest improvements, we can create, produce and fulfill those improvements. We’ve been doing this for more than 40 years! Check out our approach here.
About the Author
Justin Lincoln – Digital Marketing Manager
Justin translates organizational objectives and business needs into marketing campaigns, social media strategies, and communication plans. When he’s not gathering insights from piles of analytical data, Justin is training soldiers on SATCOM equipment or reviewing commercials on Twitter. Connect with him on Linkedin!