It’s no secret that site visits are incredibly important to your retail operations. Store audits and inspections enable you to evaluate programs and initiatives, ensure compliance, and even connect with teams on the ground.
However, they can also take time. Between audit preparations, travel time, inspecting stores, and following up, site visits can take anywhere from a couple of hours to a full day, possibly longer. Not to mention that when conducted inefficiently, site visit procedures are drawn out even more, resulting in wasted time and effort.
This is the last thing any business wants, which is why you should continuously strive to have more productive site visits that save you time and money.
1. Have a clear objective well before the site visit takes place
As with pretty much any important task, having a clear objective is a must. Before conducting a site visit, first identify your purpose and goals. Specifically:
What type of audit or inspection are you conducting? Some audits focus on merchandising, while others are centered around security, or health and safety. In certain cases, an inspection is focused on a specific campaign or initiative.
What is the outcome you’d like to see? Identify the key outcomes that you’d like the audit to achieve. Is it simply to see how a campaign is executed? Are you looking to improve a district’s compliance score? Whatever the case, make sure you know what “success” looks like before conducting your inspections.
Use the answers to the above questions to guide your inspections. Identifying your objectives will help you determine which items to include in your checklists, what questions to ask, and what to prioritize. You’re less likely to get sidetracked, which means audits are conducted more efficiently.
2. Be systematic and map out your visit ahead of time
District managers often have to visit multiple stores, and traveling from one appointment to the next usually takes about 45 minutes (longer if the manager covers a large geographical area).
If you want to save time on inspections, it may be worth optimizing your schedule. Some pre-planning around which stores visit and in what order can go a long way. So, map out your visit in advance.
Using an actual map can be helpful here. Mark the points on the map that you need to visit, then identify which routes will save you the most time. Take into account factors such as time of day and traffic.
Google Maps has a useful feature that can estimate how long a trip will take based on the usual traffic conditions for a particular time of day. Simply enter your starting address and destination then indicate the date and time of the trip. Google will then display a travel time estimate, which you can use to plan your appointments.
Tools like Bindy offer a built-in map with a route feature between your stores to make it even easier.
It may also help to map out your route when you’re in the store. Which sections or departments will you inspect first? Where in the store are they located? Knowing these things ahead of time will allow you to hit the ground running once you’re on site.
3. Avoid using manual or paper-based tools like clipboards and paper checklists
Paper-based tools like physical clipboards and checklists are counter-productive in today’s increasingly digital landscape. Using pen and paper not only takes more time, it also makes you prone to errors. Plus, manual notes often have to be re-entered into another system in order for the information to be shared or analyzed.
Excel spreadsheets are a step up, but they can also be inefficient. While spreadsheets work well for recording and tabulating data, they’re not built for task management and collaboration — two tasks that are critical when conducting site visits.
You’re much better off digitizing your audits and inspections using a tool like Bindy, which lets you build checklists, schedule inspections, and manage tasks using an intuitive cloud-based platform.
Bindy streamlines site visits and inspections by eliminating manual work and double-entry. This means you can focus less on the tedious administrative tasks and devote more energy towards visiting stores and improving team performance.
4. Bring other team members into the same platform
Already using an audit solution? The next step is to bring other team members into the platform. This will make communication and collaboration a whole lot easier. Having everyone on a single platform keeps team members on the same page. Information is relayed quickly and accurately, and tasks are completed faster.
For instance, if corrective action is required after an audit, you can communicate with employees using the tool’s built-in action plan instead of having to do it via email or text. This benefit becomes even more pronounced when multiple team members are involved. Rather than tracking confusing email threads or sending multiple text messages, all communication takes place on a single platform so stakeholders are always in sync.
5. Repurpose information and materials from previous inspections
Don’t start your checklists or inspections from scratch. Have a template that you can repurpose to speed up audit preparations. For example, if you often conduct health and safety audits, create a template or form that’s pre-populated with commonly inspected items. Then when it’s time to prepare for your next inspection, you can pull up the template and customize it based on each store’s needs.
Use a similar approach for things like team communications. Instead of manually typing the same messages for things like corrective actions, use a form or template to save time.
6. Automate cumbersome tasks
Automate tedious tasks like capturing dates and times, notifying team members, or adding photos. This can all be done with a good audit platform. Bindy, for example, can automate corrective actions and populate the right date and time for recordkeeping. The system can also facilitate task follow-ups through automated notifications.
You can further streamline your processes by integrating your audit platform with other business solutions. Let’s say you want to eliminate manual calendar entries when scheduling audits. If your audit platform integrates with your calendar application, you can program it to automatically create a calendar entry whenever you schedule a new inspection.
Site visits can take time, but they don’t have to be inefficient or unproductive. With proper planning and the right tools, you can streamline your store inspections and audits, empower your team, and get more done in less time.
OTHER RETAIL Audit and Inspection RESOURCES
Refer to the Retail Audits and Inspections category for how-tos and best practices for retail audits and inspections.
About the author:
Francesca Nicasio is retail expert, B2B content strategist, and LinkedIn TopVoice. She writes about trends, tips, and best practices that enable retailers to increase sales and serve customers better. She’s also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores.