Retail Auditing:
How to Ensure Compliance and Operational Execution with Mobile Crowdsourcing

Is your merchandising execution compliant to brand guidelines? Did your brokers execute your in-store displays correctly? Did you get the ROI on that end cap you paid for? Are your store associates well-trained and knowledgeable?

You can’t fix what you can’t see.

The answers to these questions—and many more—can be elusive, but the underlying problems are certainly influencing consumer behavior. For example, roughly three-quarters of shoppers encounter empty shelves when visiting a store to specifically buy a product advertised in a promotion. A separate two-thirds of shoppers who sought help report being unable to find information inside a store.

That means shoppers may be wishing for a knowledgeable store associate, a well-stocked shelf, a more understandable display, or more attractive merchandising right now. And, they’re likely headed to a different store or buying another brand if they don’t find what they want.

Therefore, brands and retailers need eyes on the ground to get timely visibility into what’s really happening in stores and get answers to their brick-and-mortar questions quickly, accurately, and at scale.

Retail auditing provides these answers.

What is Retail Auditing?

Retail auditing is the act of data collection from brick-and-mortar store locations to gather information on merchandising compliance, adjacencies, inventory levels, store associate knowledge, and many more shelf-level metrics. Retail auditing can be conducted by brands’ and retailers’ in-house teams or third-party market research firms or data providers.

The Benefits of Retail Auditing

Retail auditing can uncover a wide variety of metrics relevant to your business. It can be the ideal solution whether you need data on store associates and consumer behavior or details on merchandising or any other in-store element.

For example, retail audits look at:

  • Inventory levels
  • Shelf space
  • Adjacencies
  • Display compliance
  • Item cannibalization
  • Store associate knowledge
  • Checkout experience
  • Product condition
  • Product prices and promotions
  • Store cleanliness
  • And much more!

The core benefits of retail audits are timely, cost-effective, and scalable data collection and data aggregation. By utilizing in-store audits, you can quickly gather large datasets that are tailored to your exact specifications. Have questions about merchandising compliance? Customize an audit around that. Unsure about store operational performance? Audit locations to get ahead of any potential issues, implement corrective actions, and ensure effective ops.

Furthermore, retail auditing doesn’t have to be conducted by someone related to your business, such as field merchandisers or contracted market research firms. One additional strategy is to employ mystery shoppers to get store data, as there is a larger pool of mystery shoppers than employees and data can be collected more quickly and across more store locations.

What is Mystery Shopping?

Mystery shopping is the strategy of deploying shoppers not known to the retailer into brick-and-mortar store locations to report on conditions. How mystery shopping is conducted has evolved over time, first completed with paper questionnaires or audio and video recordings. Today, mystery shopping is much more refined.

The reason is the proliferation of smartphones. Nearly every consumer is armed with a smartphone, and many already use them in stores to compare prices, read reviews, and find the best deals. Therefore, the next logical step in mystery shopping was to create a mobile application that brought your questions directly to consumers’ fingertips.

This is crowdsourcing, more specifically known as smartphone-enabled mystery shopping.

How Crowdsourced Mystery Shopping Benefits a Business

Crowdsourced mystery shopping and retail auditing go hand in hand. By crowdsourcing your retail audits, you gain access to a much larger network of shoppers than you’d otherwise have internally. That means more access, more data, and quicker results, plus a more cost-effective solution than using employees.

Best of all, crowdsourcing your retail audits allows you to be more proactive with your in-store research. You can have a questionnaire created that addresses all your needs, and then have those questions uploaded to a mystery shopping mobile app. Consumers across the U.S. can access that questionnaire on their own schedules, providing you around-the-clock and cross-country datasets. This approach is often preferred to reactive deployment of in-house teams upon learning of an in-store issue.

All in all, crowdsourced retail audits help identify problems before they impact sales, allowing you to quickly correct compliance or operational execution.

Get Started with Wiser’s Crowdsourced Retail Auditing

Diving into the world of crowdsourced retail auditing is relatively simple. That’s because, at Wiser, our smartphone application connects you to a nationwide network of secret shoppers, and we do the heavy lifting when it comes to deploying those shoppers, validating the data, and presenting it in an easy-to-use custom online dashboard.

Eager to get started? The first step is to identify what KPIs are most important to you. Let’s quickly recap part of what crowdsourced retail auditing can uncover:

  • Merchandising and display compliance
  • Shelf health
  • Planogram compliance
  • Adjacencies
  • Store associate knowledge
  • Checkout experience
  • Inventory levels
  • And much more!

How do your brick-and-mortar problems fit into these—or related—categories? Mystery shoppers can evaluate nearly every front-of-store feature, so there is no problem too big or too small to research. Once you know what you want to evaluate, we will help you:

No. 1

Determine Your Question Set

Wiser will work with you to draft a set of questions to help benchmark your in-store performance. Our in-house team will create the questions for our mystery shoppers in-line with your overall business objectives. Importantly, we make sure the questions get at the heart of the issues you face and target your ideal shopper profiles. This way, your data will be more relevant and valuable.

No. 2

Upload Questions to Crowdsourced Retail Auditing App

Once the question set is created, it will be uploaded to Wiser’s mobile mystery shopping app. We do all the heavy lifting with organizing the secret shopping, getting your questions in front of the right audience, and aggregating the results for your review and analysis. Once on the app, it will become available for app users in a predetermined demographic to access and complete, connecting you directly to your ideal shoppers out of Wiser’s network of hundreds of thousands of shoppers across the U.S., Canada, and U.K.

No. 3

Gather Data over Predetermined Time Period

Next, Wiser will conduct the mystery shopping—known on the mobile app as a mission—for a time period agreed upon by your business. It can be longer or shorter as needed. For example, many businesses conduct missions during key drive periods, such as Black Friday, or to coincide with the launch of a new product, promotion, or store location. It only takes a few days for the data to roll in, but longer time periods can lead to larger sample sizes.

No. 4

Validate the Data

Once shoppers provide their feedback via the mobile app, Wiser takes all that information and validates it for accuracy and relevancy. Our in-house team vets every survey response and eliminates any that don’t meet our data quality standards. Data can be rejected for a variety of reasons, including incomplete surveys, missing criteria such as photos of an in-store display, or answers that don’t relate to the questions. Once rejected, low-quality data never makes it to you. You only receive the best, most valuable data for your needs.

No. 5

Analyze and Act

What happens to all that excellent brick-and-mortar data before it gets into your hands? It goes into our Wiser dashboard!

The dashboard is a custom-built online portal for each mission, incorporating only the data most relevant to your objectives. At the top of the dashboard is a broad overview of the survey results, typically including the number of responses, participant demographics, and survey time period. As you scroll down, you get more granular results closer toward the bottom of the page, including responses to specific questions you asked. All of this is visualized in graphs, charts, and tables for easy analysis. Photos of store conditions are also included if collected, and you can download the dashboard or the raw data as needed.

What to Do with Crowdsourced Data

Now that you can see exactly what is going on inside brick-and-mortar stores, what can you do with all that data?

One of the more frustrating problems addressed by Wiser is a lack of proof of in-store issues. You may have a gut feeling—or have seen for yourself—broken in-store displays, out-of-stocks, missed activations, and other headaches, but can’t prove it later to your colleagues or superiors. And, you need that information to take corrective action.

Wiser is that proof. With our crowdsourced retail audits, you have data from thousands of mystery shoppers on your brand or retail locations. You can have pictures to accompany that data to show exactly what is wrong on the ground, plus visual charts and graphs to better illustrate your points.

Depending on the questions answered by our network of smartphone-enabled mystery shoppers, you can know:

  • What the conditions are in multiple store locations
  • What, if any, action has been taken by your teams, such as distributors, brokers, or store associates
  • How individual stores compare to each other so you can prioritize corrective action
  • How consumers behave in stores, from which product they’re likely to buy—and why—to how much they plan to spend, and more

Take corrective action once armed with this type of proof. Assign tasks to your relevant in-house party or schedule a fix for a later date. You can also use the data to influence your marketing campaigns, including future planograms, displays, promotions, and more. All the data you need to inspire positive change is at your fingertips.

Conclusion

Are your products displayed properly in stores? Are your brick-and-mortar features executed well? Are you getting the placements that you paid for? With retail auditing and mobile crowdsourcing, the answer is yes, yes, and yes.

Wiser Solutions’ retail auditing service provides actionable, real-time brick-and-mortar data to brands and retailers so they can:

  • Be proactive about brick-and-mortar merchandising and store conditions
  • Monitor and ensure in-store compliance
  • Identify and rectify any in-store blind spots
  • Uncover noncompliant brick-and-mortar retailers
  • Highlight and remedy store conditions that hurt the customer experience
  • Streamline data collection and analysis to save time and money

With Wiser, mystery shopping means measuring what’s important to you, not what’s important to the secret shoppers. Wiser works with you to decide on the questions to ask and the type of responses to receive, then Wiser validates all results so you can spend more time digging into your metrics and less time collecting data.

Modern, mobile crowdsourcing for retail audits also provide large sample sizes—much larger than your in-house teams or traditional mystery shopping could provide. Wiser’s smartphone-enabled shopper network is larger than 700,000 people in the U.S. alone, providing a cost-effective solution to your brick-and-mortar data needs.

Best of all, you can narrow down your data by demographics, including age, gender, or location, so your datasets match your desired shopper profiles. No more data from people who aren’t buying your brand or shopping your stores.

Why upgrade your brick-and-mortar retail audits with mobile crowdsourcing? Because you can’t fix what you can’t see. We’re ready to discuss how we can customize Wiser’s retail auditing service to your exact specifications.

Get a free consultation

Fix what you can finally see. Let’s brainstorm how our mystery shoppers will be your eyes and ears in stores.