Creating a strong, recognizable retail or hospitality brand takes a lot of work. You need to ideate, craft the right positioning, and ensure that it resonates with your target market. Equally important is maintaining brand consistency and brand standards, especially if you’re running multiple stores, hotels or sites. To build trust and loyalty, you must provide a superlative and consistent 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 or hospitality, 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 site’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, we will touch on six ways to protect your retail or hospitality brand with site visits.
Let’s dive in.
1. Ensure Programs and Standards are Executed
The fundamental purpose of an audit or inspection is to ensure programs and standards are executed at each site, in full and on time. Brands deploy their district managers to sites such as retail stores or hotels, who then assess the site and determine whether or not everything is on brand.
For instance, if a retail brand is running a promotion across their locations, the company may send district managers to visit participating stores so they can check whether or not each store has followed the merchandising guidelines, and used proper materials at the right time.
This is also true of signage and components that project the brand’s image onto customers and guests. Is the right signage used, from the right vendor? It is current, is is properly placed and functioning?
As such, inspectors need to be organized and systematic with their assessments. Retail stores and hotels 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.”
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.
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 branding, signage and promotions, but they are just as important.
Use Bindy to collect insurance certificates and details from your sites and franchisees. This will ensure they have sufficient coverage and that you have the information and documents on file in case of an accident or claim.
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.