Creating a strong, recognizable brand takes a ton of work. You need to ideate, craft the right messaging, and ensure that it resonates with your target market. Equally important is maintaining brand consistency, especially if you’re running multiple stores. To build trust and loyalty, you must provide the same brand experience across all customer touchpoints.
Research shows that consistent presentation of a brand can increase revenue by 33%. “Consistency” is also one of the top 4 terms that consumers use when describing brands they love (preceded by “experience,” “quality,” and “cost”).
All this to say that protecting your brand must be a top priority. And if you’re in retail, the best way to ensure that your standards are consistently met is to conduct site visits.
Photos, videos, and written reports will only go so far. To truly evaluate a store’s adherence to your brand standards, a qualified individual (like a district manager or brand representative) must see and feel it first-hand.
In this article, you’ll learn why retail store inspections are essential to protecting your brand. We’ll also shed light on how to implement site audits more effectively to ensure that you and your team get the most out of them.
Let’s dive in.
1. Ensure compliance with brand standards
The fundamental purpose of a retail audit or inspection is to ensure compliance. Brands deploy inspectors into retail stores, who then evaluate the location and determine whether or not everything is on brand.
For instance, if a business is running a promotion across multiple locations, the company may send a district manager to visit participating stores so they can check whether or not each store has followed the brand guidelines.
As such, inspectors need to be organized and systematic with their audits. Retail stores have plenty of moving parts, so you simply cannot afford to be “all over the place” with your audits.
To stay on point, you first need to clarify your objectives, as doing so will tell you and your team what to prioritize and focus on during the audit.
Brands “should articulate their goals, as to what is the objective of conducting the inspection of their stores. These objectives should also be passed on to their staff members to ensure high quality,” says Cale Loken Chief Executive Officer at 301 Madison Consulting.
From there, map out a checklist of what specific components to inspect. This checklist should contain “all the crucial aspects that you wish to remain consistent across all stores,” says Jessica Kats, an ecommerce and retail expert at Soxy.
Items on the checklist may include things like:
- Proper in-store signage
- Correct pricing
- Correct product placements
- Staff knowledge and demeanor
“Once you create a checklist with these items, it becomes easy to conduct store inspections,” adds Kats. “You can visit multiple branches of your store and check off each aspect one by one. This will also help you quickly identify if anything is out of place and not in line with other branches. In essence, the entire inspection process will become more streamlined.”
Pro tip: Need help creating checklists for your inspections? Bindy’s form builder lets you set up multi-lingual checklists right from your phone or computer. You can also upload checklists from Excel, as well as clone existing checklists for multiple inspections.
2. Reduce risks and liabilities
It only takes one scandal or lawsuit to ruin a brand. For this reason, it’s essential that you set and monitor your standards when it comes to health, safety, and security.
Regular inspections can protect your brand from risks and liabilities by helping your team spot and address issues before they land you in legal hot water.
For example, an on-site visit may surface problems like expired fire extinguishers or malfunctioning fire alarms. Left unchecked, these things can lead to safety incidents, lawsuits, and brand backlash.
So, ensure that your site inspections cover safety and security. These aspects may not be as flashy as customer-facing components like logos and promotions, but they are just as important.
3. Evaluate performance and KPIs
Site inspections can help you evaluate the metrics and KPIs you’ve set for your brand. While most metrics can be tracked remotely through cloud-based reporting and analytics, conducting site visits will enable you to dig deeper into performance issues.
Let’s say you’re looking to increase brand awareness within Gen Z in a specific city. If you’re not meeting the targets you’ve set, conducting a site visit will give you a closer look at what’s happening in-store, so you can figure out how you can improve.
Site visits, when done regularly, can also provide historical information so you can track and compare performance. Are your stores better off today compared to a year ago? Do you have a positive outlook for the brand in the coming months? Historical site visit data can contribute valuable insights to help you answer these questions.
4. Identify staff training opportunities
Strong branding isn’t just about visual elements. While factors like signage and packaging certainly matter, the people representing your brand also play a major role in shaping the perception of your customers.
This is why it’s critical to evaluate your staff’s brand knowledge and demeanor when conducting site audits. Pay attention to:
How well they know your brand. This includes knowledge of your products and their features, as well as the teams’ familiarity with the key messaging and talking points you want to promote.
How they embody the brand. Evaluate the demeanor of your employees and ensure that their behaviors are in line with the image you’d like to convey. For example, if they’re representing a friendly and outgoing brand, then associates must act accordingly.
By taking note of these things during your retail inspections, you’ll be able to identify coaching opportunities for your team. If there are associates who aren’t meeting your brand standards, you’ll be able to see them first-hand and recommend corrective action.
5. Obtain feedback
Site audits give you the opportunity to get feedback from your employees. Your team members can relay information about how the brand is performing, as well as what they’ve seen from retail customers.
Take the time to gather qualitative feedback from in-store teams. What comments do they typically hear when customers talk about your brand? How do they feel about this recent offer or promotion? Do they have any suggestions for improvement?
The answers to these questions can give you the intel you need to improve your branding efforts.
6. Promote accountability and better output
It’s a known fact that humans perform better when they know someone is watching. As the Harvard Business Review points out, “When they are observed, people run faster, are more creative, and think harder about problems.”
This same principle can be applied to retail audits. You may not be able to observe employees 100% of the time, but conducting in-person visits communicates that the business is paying attention.
When employees know that their work will be evaluated, they’re more likely to bring to A-game and stay on brand.
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.