For small businesses and entrepreneurs, even the slightest deviation from an established field merchandising strategy can spell disaster for the bottom line. If the retailers carrying your product are not complying with the agreements made at the beginning of the relationship, you risk confusing consumers and damaging your product’s reputation. Merchandising audits seek not to fix these situations, but to prevent them entirely.
Field representatives using a sales audit software likely already have the tools needed to perform merchandising audits during their normal schedule. Software applications that come with the ability to create custom forms allow field representatives to quickly input data as they see it into pre-made forms. Here are 10 of the most important things to have field reps take note of during a merchandising audit.
1. In-Store Location
The first thing you will want your reps to take note of is whether or not your product is in the agreed to location in-store. During initial negotiations with the retailer, it should have been specified where exactly in store the product would be sold from. Is it located way in the back where nobody can see it? Is it next to the magazines by the register? This information is even more useful when supplemented with a photo, something that many sales audit software applications offer.
2. Shelf Location
Just as important as the location on the floor, shelf location can have an enormous impact on sales, depending on the product. There is plenty of product-specific studies available such as this 2010 study by Jared M. Hansen, Sumit Raut, and Sanjeev Swami that show where most purchases are made, but as a general rule, being somewhere closer to the center of the aisle and eye-level on the shelf is usually the best position. If possible, ask field reps to get photos of this area as well.
The most important thing of all! Is there any of your product left on the shelf? Field reps can do this two ways. They can either go into great detail, recording exactly how many of each item need to be restocked, or they can simply take a quick glance and see if the product needs a re-order. Either way, stock is something that you cannot afford to miss out on recording if you want your product to continue to grow.
Along with stock, this is one of the most important things to track. If your product has the wrong price displayed, it means trouble for your sales predictions, bottom line, and customers who have come to expect a certain price from your brand. If the price is wrong, it should be addressed immediately, which is where having sales audit software with cloud integration comes in handy, allowing business owners to act in multiple locations as soon as reps report a price discrepancy.
5. Number of Facings
Another interesting metric to track, the number of facings can have an effect on product sales similar to that of shelf location. More facings generally means more sales, but there comes a point where the extra cost of purchasing more facings outweighs the gains made in sales.
6. Adjacent Products
This is one thing you’ll definitely want reps to snap a photo of. Being able to see exactly what products are positioned next to yours should give you a good indication of where industry leaders feel the best shelf location is. It also gives you a good chance to use targeted marketing when competing with those surrounding brands.
If your promotions aren’t being followed exactly as set up, it can make consumers pretty angry. It can also make it very difficult to track how your various promotions are performing. Our best practices guide to success on the shelf covers promotional KPI’s, and explains why they need to be tracked.
8. Marketing Materials
This means your promotional displays, floor stickers, posters, radio ads—anything that you have supplied the retailer with to promote your product. Oftentimes retailers will charge extra for promotional materials, so ensure that you are getting your money’s worth here with another photo.
9. Building Status
While this can be harder to change, ask field reps to check out the cleanliness and condition of the building. Believe it or not, the condition of the building can say a lot about the retailer and how they take care of the products they carry.
10. Employee Knowledge
Probably the most difficult of these 10 to track, employee knowledge is not always a necessary measurement to make. With CPG goods especially, employee knowledge about your product can be the difference between a sale to a satisfied customer, and a return from an annoyed customer. Make sure to ask the retailer if it is ok with them before questioning any employees.
While there are bound to be plenty of other points of information that you will want your field team to collect, just the data from the fields above will give managers and business owners a look at the bigger picture of how well their retail execution strategy is being complied with on average. To preserve the integrity of your product, and make sure that consumers only see the retail strategy that you originally planned, make sure that your field reps are performing regular field merchandising audits using sales audit software.