Why are they essential?
Retail audits are sometimes overlooked in shopper research. We know that what shoppers ‘say’ is not always what shoppers ‘do’. In-store decisions are frequently instantaneous – shoppers often do not actually know and understand how and why they made a certain decision in regards to their purchase, or in some cases, lack of purchase. These important decisions are largely driven by what they see and experience whilst they move through the aisles.
Whilst face to face customer interviews capture valuable data from the shopper as they share their thoughts and attitudes towards certain brands and categories, their motivations and behaviours are often at odds when compared to the actual transaction. To uncover the actual path to purchase, retail audits are required to accompany the interview. This provides a holistic view of the customer experience, plans and perceptions. It also captures important insight into the environmental factors that can impact the interview results.
- Store entry and exit counts on the hour
- Merchandise category counts
- Aisle entry and exit counts
- Category, aisle and store mapping
- Shopper observations to capture a snapshot of that shopper’s movements. It can include recording information such as:
- Do they have a trolley, basket or nothing at all? This helps establish if this is a main grocery shop, top-up shop or quick pick-up?
- Do they have a shopping list
- Estimated age
- Gender counts
- Who they are shopping with
- Time of day
- Identifying any key items in the trolley or basket
The best way to approach a fully inclusive program is to ensure it is fully customised to meet your requirements. A suggested plan needs to be established to map out the best way to successfully achieve your objectives, budget and parameters. The goal is to capture the full shopper experience, which really should include full retail audits to accompany the interviews.
- Define key influencers to customer behaviour
- Identify the importance of store offerings
- Understand the impact of category and store layout
- Determine the impact of point of sale material and visual stimuli
- Provide you with a thorough understanding of your customer’s behaviour both in and out of the store environment
You need to utilise an innovative and up to date technology platform to capture this data, which removes the need for slow and inaccurate paper based observations and counts. Conducting the audits on a tablet with such a platform allows the interviewer to capture the data concisely and accurately and have it uploaded live. Features such as GPS geo tagging are an important aspect for programs like this to validate the data on the ground.
Consistency is key
To ensure a bespoke retail audit program is a success, there needs to be clear guidelines and structure around every hour in field. Random spot checks and validations are required to ensure the data collected is accurate and robust. Consistency is everything when working on these audits. The way in which the data is recorded, the times within each hour that each audit feature is recorded, as well as the way in which it is collected is critical to ensure the overall project is successful.
Don’t fall for inferior CX programs
The biggest and most fundamental mistake that researchers make when conducting shopper research is to ignore the retail audit. They are sometimes ignored because they can be complex, confusing and daunting in field. When the audits are not completed by experienced interviewers, they can actually detract from the research, rather than add to the insightfulness of the data. So the critical first step is to select the right partner to run your program.