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6 Best Practices for Successful Visual Merchandising Audits

March 2, 2019 By Stacey Woods

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You want consumers to be able to locate your products easily in stores, and when they do find them, that they are presented appealingly. This is the purpose of visual merchandising — using and manipulating retail displays and shelves to attract customers by drawing attention to the product's best features and benefits — with the ultimate goal of boosting sales.

In order to ascertain that your brand is being promoted as agreed— both in pricing and the way products are displayed— here are six useful best practices to follow when your field sales reps conduct visual merchandising activities at customer locations.

1. Smart planning: Field merchandisers should visit retail stores on a regular basis to ensure that products are always displayed in a manner that maximizes sales. Determine and set the optimal schedule for your field reps based on criteria such as last visit date, retail store product sales, store location, and audit issues captured in prior visits. This will ensure that your reps visit and audit the right customers at the right time.

2. Stockout audits: Inspect inventory levels everywhere within the store. Field reps should focus on taking count of your company’s key items – those items that are most strategic to your marketing and sales. Beyond the stock on the shelves, take count of stock stored in boxes or bins above and below the shelves, as well as stock in the store’s storage room. By accurately capturing the in-store stock levels you will predict and minimize stockouts, which account for 4% of a retails store’s lost sales.

Worldwide consumer response to stockout

worldwide consumer responseFrom a study by Emory University

3. Optimal product conditionYour products, as well as packaging, shelving and any fixtures nearby should be clean, fresh and undamaged to ensure that they are attractive to the potential buyer.  Anything that looks worn, broken or dirty reflects on the quality and reputation of your brand. The store manager should be informed promptly.

4. Keep an eye on the competition: Enlist your sales reps and visual merchandisers as scouts on your competitors.  Equipped with a mobile merchandising app, they can compile comprehensive reports using structured surveys concerning competitor products, to include POS advertising, positioning within the store and on the shelf, pricing, and promotional materials. These reports are automatically geo-tagged and categorized for subsequent mining by managers.

5. Maintain visual records: Enable your merchandisers to snap pictures of displays and automatically tag by them by account and geo-location. This enables operations managers to monitor a location’s compliance with display planograms and contractual terms.

6. Keep data collection consistent: To enable easy business intelligence reporting, ensure that the audit data collected during customer visits is consistently recorded using structured, configurable data collection forms. In-store surveys should be maintained as consistent as possible to facilitate reporting that elevates trends and issues.

By leveraging the above best practices, you can maximize your visual marketing efforts and make them a key factor in your business success.