The retail industry in the UK today is a hotbed of competition. We have seen specialist operators put under ever increasing pressure from larger multiples, a huge rise in the popularity of shopping online and now also the emergence of mobile commerce. This, combined with the fact that over the last five years retailers in general have had to up the ante to try to prevent a landslide in sales, has made the industry a battleground on which there is a constant and fierce scuffle for shopper loyalty.
The upshot of this is that when it comes to physical stores, every inch of space is vital. This does not necessarily mean though that products have to be crammed into every available nook and cranny. Yes it’s important to maximise the space you have in which to display merchandise, but now equally vital is the look of the whole shopping environment. Consumers today have much higher expectations than ever before. They might not have the same level of disposable income as previously, but they want to be reassured that what they do buy is good value for money, and a large part of achieving this is paying attention to how your stores look.
For larger chains consistency is vital. But with hundreds of stores and different store managers how do you achieve this? Travelling round to each and every store and conducting a thorough audit of all fixtures and fittings, POS and window displays is a time consuming task that requires specialist knowledge. Retailers now understand that to safeguard their survival and fight off competition from web based and mobile retail, their stores have to draw customers in and provide an enjoyable environment in which to shop.
This is not just about what products they sell, but how they sell them. Physical stores are evolving to emphasise their points of difference from two-dimensional websites, where customers are often not provided with all the details they need to make an informed purchasing decision and have little chance to interact with the products in any way.
Audit teams help you to understand exactly what is and isn’t working in the retail environment and why. They are trained to undertake thorough investigations on a wide range of products and areas. For example, you might want to understand more about how customers behave at the point of purchase, or investigate category and competitor activity. Maybe you really want to challenge how a brand is performing in-store, and gain more visibility into how promotional campaigns are being implemented. Field auditors can achieve all of this and more.
On a more basic level auditors are also able to provide you with accurate data about each of your stores – data actually captured in real time on hand held devices that can be uploaded onto a bespoke Estate Management System. From the available floor space to the size of the windows, and / or identify what condition existing POP is in, a professional audit will provide you with the information you need to stay ahead of the competition.
With competition from pure-play and mobile retailers increasing all the time, it is now vital to know exactly what is happening in your stores. Only by having this knowledge can you understand where you are in relation to your competitors and gain the insight into your strengths and weaknesses that will secure your long-term survival.