Published: June 28, 2022, Last Updated: February 2, 2024

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Writer: Anais Osipova
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Editor: Martha Pierson
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Reviewer: Michael Needham

Assessing your retail store’s performance is more than measuring conversion rates and in-store traffic. Instead, conducting a full retail store audit can offer more comprehensive insight into a store’s pricing, competition, inventory management, and visual merchandising strategies. As a result, retailers can lean on hard data from a store audit to improve operation, compliance, and branding.

Conducting a retail store audit is a thorough process; however, it is no longer reliant on old-school manual methods. We’ll walk you through the retail audit process, from how to conduct it to the software you’ll need.

What Is a Retail Audit?

Close up on professional looking at graphs.

A retail store audit is like a wellness check for your store or brand. This assessment relies heavily on quantitative and qualitative data to provide insight into successful strategies and shortcomings. There are several areas the audit can focus on, including:

  • Pricing policy
  • Shelves
  • Stock and inventory management
  • Customer service
  • Store location(s)
  • Sales volume and conversion rates
  • Competitor analysis
  • In-store displays and advertisements
  • Damaged goods

A retail store audit aims to determine the areas your brand is excelling in and some that may need a little extra work. Ultimately, retail audits can help you develop better strategies to increase the consumer experience, in turn promoting conversion rates and revenue.

Types of Retail Audits

You can conduct different types of retail audits depending on the area and strategies you want to focus on improving. The most common retail audit types include:

Market Audit

This focuses on your customers and competitors. Primarily, you want to know why consumers choose your brand over your competitors. Secondly, you need insight into why your business may lose customers. For instance, you can ask consumers to fill out a survey to receive a coupon.

A market audit can be very specific, focusing solely on your consumer’s buying behavior to determine how you can improve the shopping experience to encourage repeat buyers.

This affords you quantitative feedback about how customers and non-customers view your brand or store. In turn, you can address some of these expectations and shortcomings to increase traffic.

Merchandising Audit

Young adult shopping from the sale's rack

This audit focuses on your marketing and advertising efforts. You may look at historical sales data to determine which promotional or discount programs worked best. Additionally, you may review product displays to see which cross-merchandising strategies yielded more impulse purchases.

For instance, you may notice that discounted items sell better when placed next to higher ticket brand name items. Based on this information, your retail store can continue to utilize these brand positioning strategies that were most effective.

Retail Operations Audit

These audits focus on the in-store customer experience throughout the shopping process. Typically, these target customer service interactions, the checkout process, and returns. Consumers have high service expectations, with 56% reporting rising expectations. To keep up, retailers must ensure that the entire shopping experience is positive and keeps the consumer coming back.

The Benefits of Retail Audits

Primarily, retail audits help you gain in-depth insight into all the facets of your business. It takes the guesswork out of which area is causing diminished traffic or sales. With a comprehensive and regular retail audit, businesses can immediately and accurately pinpoint the areas that need addressing. Other benefits also include:

  • Maintaining the same standards across all stores
  • Maximizing sales and traffic
  • Optimizing customer experience
  • Staying up to date with market trends, customer feedback, and competitors

How to Do a Retail Store Audit

Close up on business professionals discussing audit strategy

There are several types of audits you may choose based on the area of your business you want to address specifically. Regardless of which retail store audit process you choose, many will follow the same general steps.

Step 1: Determine Goals

Thoroughly outline the questions you would like answered or the areas in which you hope to obtain more data. This can help guide you through the audit and ensure you gather data relevant to your goals. For instance, you may focus on your competition and measure customer loyalty.

Step 2: Pick Audit Strategy

Once you determine your goals and what area you want to improve, you need to choose the right audit strategy that will accomplish this. As previously mentioned, there are several types of audits you can implement. In this instance, if you are evaluating your competitors and consumer loyalty, you can utilize customer surveys to gather direct qualitative feedback.

Step 3: Thoroughly Gather Data

Develop the right questions for your survey to ensure you gather relevant and valuable data. Instead of simply asking consumers why they choose your competitor, get specific. You may ask if the competitor offers better prices, financing options, price matching, store layout, or customer service.

To further incentivize individuals to participate and provide useful feedback, you can provide them with a discount code for completing the survey.

Step 4: Evaluate Results

Based on your audit and competitor research, you may find that many consumers choose your competitor because they offer in-store buy now pay later options. Since you don’t offer this payment flexibility, consumers are incentivized to purchase from your retailer instead.

Step 5: Implement Changes

From the audit, you can now determine why your retail store experienced a loss of revenue and traffic. As a result, you won’t spend time and effort addressing areas that don’t have a direct effect on recapturing lost clientele. Instead, you may consider investing in point-of-sale lending software to stay up-to-date and competitive.

You can also find a complete retail store audit checklist at the end of this article.

Tips For Success

Conducting a retail store audit is the first step in improving business operations and strategies. However, you can also incorporate retail audit software to make the process smoother, as well as avoid some common pitfalls.

Use Retail Audit Software

Professional using auditing software

Traditional retail audit methods can be cumbersome, requiring a large team and a lot of time to conduct. Implementing retail audit software can significantly decrease the time and personnel it takes, as well as increase accuracy and real-time results. When choosing retail audit software, check to see if it includes the following functionalities:

  • Digital platforms can capture data in real-time and allow team members to access the information simultaneously and quickly. Additionally, the software can transform the data into graphs and charts, allowing easier visualization. This allows for faster analysis, strategy development, and implementation.
  • Photos can help convey how particular shelf layouts can increase consumer interest. Additionally, they can depict why a specific layout may be more appealing to customers.
  • If you have multiple retailers, you can utilize geotagging and time stamping to reveal patterns across locations.
  • Electronic signatures ensure accountability and a point of reference in cases of inaccuracies. 

Avoid These Mistakes

Too often, retailers make these blunders when attempting to run and analyze an audit.

Focusing on Too Many Factors

Although a retail audit is meant to be comprehensive, attempting to cover too many goals and factors may result in flawed data. Instead, focus your goals on one area and aim to address a handful of questions or concerns.

Failure to Prepare

Without proper software and personnel, you may rush through the audit, resulting in poor findings or skewed results. There are several consequences of improper planning, including lack of organization, repeated actions, or lost data.

Failure to Implement Changes

Even if you conduct a comprehensive retail store audit that yields valuable insights, if actionable strategies are not developed, implemented, and re-evaluated, the entire audit process might have been for naught.

Sum Up

Retail audits are like a wellness checkup or a report card for your business. By conducting a thorough analysis of your marketing strategies, store layout, promotions, and customer service, you can evaluate the areas that are successful and those that need updating. Retail audit software will be your most helpful tool to digitize and speed up this process. Make sure to set clearly defined goals and thoroughly gather data. The changes you implement will only be as good as the research you conduct.

Anais Osipova

Content ManagerAnais is the content manager at Finturf and is based in Los Angeles, CA. She has a background in finance writing and legal studies, with a curiosity for how tech solutions are revolutionizing business offerings and growth. She works hands-on with innovators in the point-of-sale and finance industries to create content that engages and informs her readers.

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