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Choose a Retail Audit Software Vendor in Six Steps

Informing customers and offering options is part of the Compliantia culture. This is why we compared Excel and email to specialized retail audit software. This is why we discussed whether you should buy or build retail audit software. This is also why we compiled a list of retail audit software vendors! In this post, we discuss how to choose a retail audit software vendor, in six steps. Being a retail audit software vendor ourselves, it is arguably difficult not to be self-serving and biased. We will try to remain as neutral as possible in the general discussion while also laying out the “Compliantia way” throughout the post.

Step 1: Compile a list of must-have features

What business and functional features and workflows must the software accommodate?

Ask your operations, loss-prevention and/or merchandising groups (any group expected to use the data collection and retail audit software) to compile a list of needed features. Start with how you work today and layer on features that would address today’s pain points, increase productivity, reduce risks and/or cut costs.

The Compliantia way: Compliantia implements a complete retail audit workflow, including:
– Audit scheduling with Outlook™ support
– Email notifications and reminders
– Geolocation and maps
– Support for smartphones, tablets and laptops
– Online and offline
– Action plans (assign deficiencies for resolution)
– Electronic signatures with touch-screen
– Support for photos and attachments
– Graphical dashboard
– Goals and KPIs
– Import and export users and locations to Excel™
– Web and Excel™-based form builder
– Advanced analytics and reporting
– Automated scoring
– Permission-based access

What device(s) do you need the software to work on?

Are you satisfied with mobile devices only or do you want head office and store users to also be able to use the software on PCs?

The Compliantia way: The success of an in-store program, such as a merchandising campaign or health and safety audit, requires store-level participation. Audits are ineffective if the results are not shared with store management and staff and do not involve the stores, with the equipment on hand. Users and stores expect, and need to, connect with the devices they have, be it a smartphone, a tablet or a PC. Mobile-first does not mean mobile-only.

Do you need support for multiple languages?

Do you need to collect data in multiple languages, concurrently and run consolidated reports across languages?

The Compliantia way: Compliantia supports data entry in multiple languages concurrently and consolidated reporting.

Do you need to work online as well as offline?

Online, aka “real time” is the fastest and easiest way to work today. But it has limitations especially in remote areas and areas where reception is poor, intermittent or lacking.

The Compliantia way: Your ability to audit stores cannot be contingent on internet reception, reliant on best-case scenarios and ideal conditions. In the real world, internet access is expected, not guaranteed. For the sake of your retail execution programs and users, make sure your retail audit and store execution software is capable of working both online and offline.

Turnover in retail is high. Are you able to manage users and locations in bulk?

Managing users and locations using a web-based interface is handy. It is a core requirement and near universally available. But it does not scale. If you have 1,000 or more locations and users to enter, is your retail audit software automation-ready?

The Compliantia way: bulk import of locations and users, one-time and ongoing.

What reporting capabilities are available?

What type of reporting do you require to support the business requirements of the data collection program? Do you need both aggregated summaries and raw data? Can you export your data and feed it to a third-party analytics engine?

The Compliantia way: 25 built-in reports, both raw and aggregates. Trends, repeat unacceptable. Full export capabilities.

Step 2: Schedule a demonstration

Does the product have all must-have features?

The Compliantia way: Make sure your needs are addressed, all of them! Addressing 75% of your needs with a bare-bones solution will only create frustrations and will hold you back from reaping the benefits of automation. Go with the software that does what you need today, not the software that perhaps, one day, with considerable investments, could.

Is it easy to manage (and self-manage), easy to setup, easy to use?

The Compliantia way: Every screen, every prompt, every function is carefully and purposefully designed, field-tested and ongoingly reviewed to be clear, intuitive and cohesive with the rest of the system. If a user can use our software without being trained, in poor lighting condition, on a small device while standing up…we have done our job.

Step 3: Research the company

Is the company established and profitable?

– Is the company established, reputable and dependable? Have you spoken with some of their customers in the same category (comparable size and store count)?
– Are they profitable and financially healthy?
– Is the company a “startup”, backed by venture capital? To get this information, consult https://www.crunchbase.com/ and type the vendor name.
– How long have they been in business? In your estimation, will they still be in business in 5 years?

The Compliantia way: Compliantia was established in 2009. It is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Betterdot Systems Inc, established in 1999. We have been profitable every year since 1999, are self-financed, have no outside investors and are debt-free. We are registered with Dun & Bradstreet. Our parent company developed Compliantia by investing profits from its software consulting practice. Compliantia has been so successful, the consulting practice was discontinued years ago to focus on the product alone.

Step 4: Request pricing

Inquire about pricing.

Get a quote in writing. Note and compare any and all expenses, both upfront and ongoing. Make sure you are not charged for updates to the software. Make sure the service agreement can be cancelled within a reasonable period of time with no penalties.

The Compliantia way: Compliantia is quoted as an annual “all inclusive” fee. There is no setup fee, no per seat license, no hardware, software or maintenance cost or any other fee other than the annual all-inclusive fee quoted.

Step 5: Run a free trial

Are you able to trial the software with your locations, users, forms and devices? Is the trial free? Is support available during the trial?

The Compliantia way: We work closely with each customer during the free trial. We help you upload locations, users and forms and answer any questions you may have. You can reach us on our toll-free number or by email.

Step 6: Conduct technical due diligence

What measures does the vendor take to ensure the security of your data and the reliability of the service?

Ask your IT department to inspect the security measures taken by the vendor to ensure the security of your data and the reliability of the service.

The Compliantia way: Compliantia takes the security of your data and the reliability of the service very seriously. Some of the security and reliability measures we take (full details) include:
– Firewalls and Network Infrastructure
– Encryption in Transit
– Encryption in Storage
– Physical Security
– Backups
– Redundancy
– Monitoring

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Choosing Retail Growth

In business, as in life, we tend to seek and celebrate growth. The stories are varied but have a common theme. “We are scaling this business”. “We are expanding out west”. “We are opening 20 new stores”. Growth tends to be how retailers, analysts and shareholders judge performance and gauge the value of the business.

Growth is hard, sometimes risky, often costly

Yet growth is anything but easy. Growth is hard, sometimes risky, often costly. It stresses your processes, tools and teams. To successfully grow from 100 to 500 stores, 500 to 1,000 or 1,000 to 3,000 stores, growth-focused retailers must rethink…and retool.

Retailers who do not retool end up stagnating, or worse, collapsing. Momentum grows companies; it can also send them on a tail spin and destroy them. Retailers who do commit to rethinking and retooling, end up breaking the glass ceiling, this artificial barrier that has been holding them back.  These retailers become national and international retail concepts.

With the cloud, growth is now a matter of resolve

Thankfully, cloud technologies have evened out the odds in the retail execution space. Putting the right processes in place is not for those retailers that can afford it but for those willing to make it happen. It is not a matter of affordability, it is a matter of resolve, of commitment to in-store execution.

So the 100-store retailer can operate like a 500-store retailer, efficiently and cost-effectively.  The 500-store retailer can operate like a 1,000 store chain, control quality, rise above the paperwork and focus on what really matters like seasonal program execution, merchandising and in-store experience. The 1,000-store retailer can plan for the future, leverage automation to control quality and minimize risks, at scale.

The cloud, mobility and retail audit software help retailers and consumer packaged goods companies grow. These technologies cut costs and support strategic growth initiatives like merchandising promotions, in-store communication and operations.

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Every Merchandising Program Deserves an Executive Summary

Consumer packaged goods companies spend considerable resources on merchandising programs and in-store execution.  Are these programs deployed on time, in full, in all locations?  Not sure?  Keep reading.

Data has no value…in and of itself.  Value is created when the data is mined, aggregated and visualized.

Every CPG and retail executive expects a high-level summary of the program as well as aggregates of the program’s individual parts.  Know what worked and what didn’t.  Know what, where and when. Align your investment with performance and returns. Every merchandising program deserves an executive summary.

Merchandising dashboard

Merchandising dashboard

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Case Study: How a CPG used Field Software to Implement a Merchandising Conversion at 3,200 Restaurants

Problem

In 2015 one of the world’s largest consumer packaged goods company (henceforth referred to as “CPG”) approached Compliantia with a problem. They had reached an agreement with a major quick service restaurant group (henceforth referred to as “QSR”) to have their products listed at 3,200 restaurants, in place of a key competitor’s products. They needed to manage a merchandising conversion at 3,200 restaurants, in a matter of  weeks. How could they collect information at store level ahead of time, implement the conversion then inspect all stores again when done? How could they ensure that every store got converted and every merchandising activity took place, in time, in full, in all locations?

Requirements

Time to market was critical to the success of the program. The CPG was particularly interested in deploying a field-ready solution, within days, using their own team and their existing equipment (a mix of bring-your-own and company-owned smartphones, tablets and laptops). It had to work and scale right out of the gate, across 6 time zones and 3,200 stores. While “in-house” solutions (Excel, email) and generic survey solutions (SurveyMonkey™) had been contemplated, they were deemed too slow, too labor-intensive and too error-prone to meet the business requirements around speed and accuracy of merchandising execution.

Solution setup

Upon receiving the CPG’s registration, the Compliantia team scheduled a web conference to demo the software and workflow to the project’s stakeholders. Based on the demo, the CPG determined that the solution was a good fit for their needs. Compliantia provided a yearly “all-inclusive” quote which came within budget. CPG asked for a free 30-day trial. Within hours, the CPG had, largely on their own:

1. Uploaded over 3,200 locations to the system using Compliantia’s built-in upload capabilities. The locations were automatically geo-coded.

2. Created a complete national hierarchy of regional managers and field sales representatives assigned to specific locations and ready to sign-in to their Compliantia accounts.

3. Implemented their own business rules, workflows and labels.

Solution execution

CPG proceeded to create a number of forms to collect store-level information, at various phases of the program. The program consisted of 3 phases:

Phase one
In-store survey and fact-finding in each of the 3,200 locations. The objective was to collect data ahead of the conversion. This consisted in verifying the store’s staff contact information, equipment, parking and delivery options. Tens of thousands of photos were taken and attached to each visit to document each location’s environment and merchandising setup. This phase was aided by Compliantia’s built-in maps, geo-location and the ability to zero-in on nearby stores that haven’t been visited yet.

Phase two
Phone survey by head-office sales representatives to each of the 3,200 locations. Based on the data collected in phase one, the objective of phase two was to confirm the details of the upcoming conversion, such as the equipment to be swapped and the actual date of the conversion.

Phase three
Post-implementation survey at each of the 3,200 locations. The objective was to gain feedback and insights into how the conversion process went. Was the conversion done well, on time and in the least disruptive manner possible? CPG was able to use the built-in reports to find out what worked and what didn’t work, where and when, in both raw and aggregated form.

Conclusion

Using a mature, modern and field-ready software tool made it easy for a large consumer packaged goods company to prepare for, and analyse the results of a key merchandising program at 3,200 stores in 6 time zones. They visited thousands of locations, conducted thousands of audits, captured tens of thousands of photos and had this up and running in hours and days, not weeks and months. The cost was nominal. Results came in immediately. It allowed the CPG to bring a key merchandising program to market in record time and with great accuracy.

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Five Steps to Implementing a Retail Data Collection Program

Retail data collection consists of capturing, storing and reporting on data about the state and performance of retail stores at a certain point in time and over time.  This post presents several guidelines and best practices for setting up a successful program, especially in the context of multi-unit retail.

Step 1: Define the scope of the data collection program

What store data are you collecting?  Are you interested in merchandising audits or customer-service checklists?  Are you interested in collecting sales numbers or in capturing the store’s compliance with human resources best-practices or the company’s loss prevention policy?  Different data “buckets” may involve similar tools (often applications running on PCs, tablets and smartphones) but will probably involve different teams, using different workflows, at different times of the year.  For each “bucket” of data, pose the following questions:

  1. What data are we collecting?
  2. Where are we collecting it? Some stores only, all stores? Why?
  3. Who collects it?
  4. When is the data collected? At what frequency?  Is the data collected on a fixed schedule or ad-hoc?
  5. Who looks at the data being collected?
  6. Is the collected data actionable? Does it or should it trigger a process or response when certain conditions are met?
  7. In what format (raw or aggregated) does the data collected need to be to add value to the store and to the organization?

Step 2: Implement “checklists” and other data collection forms

In its most basic form, a checklist is a collection of best practices to uphold, for a given data “bucket”.  A data collection form is simply a form that specifies which data needs to be collected, when, where and by whom.  For information on building checklists for multi-unit retail, please refer to How to Build a Retail Audit Checklist.

Step 3: Is the data actionable?  Do you need an action plan?

Are you simply “collecting” data or are you making it actionable?  While you may initially be only interested in collecting the data, over time the organization may expect non-compliant issues and deficiencies to be assigned and resolved.  In many cases, data collection is a means to an end, not an end in itself. If you are interested in tracking deficiencies through completion, consider the benefits of an action plan.  For more information about retail action plans, please refer to Retail Audit Best Practice #5: Close the Loop with the Action Plan.

Step 4: Run a trial, calibrate your forms and the team involved

At the heart of any successful data collection program lies some well thought-out, field-tested forms and a field-team well aligned with the objective and contents of these forms. Multi-unit retailers often carefully build, vet and “calibrate” forms with a sample group of users and stores prior to general launch.   For more information on the purpose and benefits of form and field team calibration, refer to Retail Audit Calibration – Purpose and Best Practices.

Step 5: Decide if you need to buy or build your retail data collection software

Should you buy or build your data collection software?  The factors that need to drive your decision are your costs, your return on investment, your time-to-market and the value and benefits that you will derive from the software you chose.   A complete discussion on the economics of buying vs building your data collection tool is available at Retail Audit Software: Buy vs Build.

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Five Questions for Every Retail Professional

1. How important is accurate and quick communication about standards, policies and programs to the success of our stores?

2. How important is knowing whether deficiencies have been fixed, where and when?

3. How much time do district managers spend aggregating and summarizing the data they collect in store (at the expense of helping the stores)?

4. Is our in-store data collection efficient, strategic and conducive to the growth of the business?

5. Are our current processes preventative or reactionary?  Bonus questions: Are we driving the business forward or just “fighting fires”?  Are we as fast, as informed and as efficient as we need to be?

Not sure?  Take action.