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Relief for 4 Pain Points in Retail Operations

Do you, the retailer, suffer from chronic pain? Organizational, operational and systemic pain? This pain hurts your sales, increases your costs and damages your brand. It hurts you financially, slows you down operationally, puts your business at risk. Do you need relief?  Read on.

Pain point #1: Relying on “theory”.

Theory is what head office envisions, in terms of merchandising initiatives and operational programs, to produce a certain outcome such as higher sales, lower costs and/or higher customer satisfaction. Theory is the new signage that marketing has developed, training that “ought to be delivered” and operations/merchandising/loss prevention standards that “need to be followed”. Theory is the combination of all those things that retail brands work hard, and spend considerable time and money, to develop. Practice is what actually happens at store level. In practice, signage is not always put up, staff is not always trained and seasonal programs are not always executed consistently and on time.

The relief: in-store execution.

In-store execution reconciles the theory with the practice. In-store execution makes it happen. With it, you have a store environment that delivers on the brand’s vision and promise. Without it, you have wishful thinking and a false sense of security.

Pain point #2: Not “calibrating” in-store programs.

In-store programs fail to reach their full potential if they are launched before they are implementation and field-ready.

The relief: calibration.

There are two facets of calibration: calibrating the form and calibrating the team.

Calibrating the form entails selecting, grouping and ordering what goes on the form (the collection of store and program standards). Form items should be sufficiently clear and detailed while avoiding repetition. The form should provide a good coverage of all areas of interest and be laid out in such a manner as to optimize the district manager’s time doing the visit. While a lot of this can be done at head office, there is simply no substitute for “hands-on” time in the field. Giving a select group of district managers access to the form, even if unfinished, allows head office to fine tune and calibrate the form with real-world feedback. It is often at this stage that unclear copy, repetitive standards or inadequate ordering are noted and addressed.

Calibrating the team is a type of audit-related training that ensures all standards are evaluated using a consistent and fair scale. While the judgment of a district manager is tremendously important to the success of the store program, consistency in the rating and grading are equally important. Calibrating the team entails giving operations personnel a shared understanding of the operating standards and how to rate and handle deficiencies.

Pain point #3: Sending district managers to stores to record “deficiencies” but not actually addressing them.

Recording deficiencies is not an end in itself. In fact, it can be both expensive and futile unless deficiencies are addressed. The point is not to record deficiencies but to close the loop on execution so deficiencies are assigned and addressed.

The relief: the action plan.

The action plan is an opportunity to apply corrective actions to problem areas. It designates an individual responsible for rectifying each problem (anything deemed substandard or non-compliant by the district manager during the audit) and a target date for resolution. By doing this, the action plan fosters ownership and accountability at store level.

At its core, the action plan is a vehicle for improvement. Success in retail hinges largely on execution. The action plan is, by design, execution.

If each problem area is an ailment, the action plan is the cure. Don’t leave the store without one!

Pain point #4: Putting up with inefficient processes that compromise your growth plans.

Growth is hard, sometimes risky, often costly. It stresses your processes, tools and teams. 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.

The relief: retool and automate.

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 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.

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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Why the 4th Quarter is Critical to Retail

The 4th quarter is, unsurprisingly, the biggest quarter for retail sales in the United States.  As such, the 4th quarter is not important to a retailer’s bottom line, it is critical.  The months between October and December, aka “the holiday season”, include Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Christmas. In the 4th quarter, customers not only want to spend, they effectively have to (can’t leave those stockings empty, can you?).

How do you, the retailer, make the 4th quarter a success?

Are you thinking product selection and great merchandising? You will absolutely need both.  But to have the desired effect on sales and profitability, your programs need to be executed, in time, in full, in all stores.

The success of a retailer’s merchandising, operations and loss-prevention programs hinges on store execution.  In-store execution reconciles the theory at head-office with the reality on the ground.  In-store execution is the piece that “makes it happen”.  With it, you have a store environment that delivers on the brand’s vision, sales and profits targets.  Without it, you have wishful thinking and a false sense of security.

This 4th quarter, make sure every in-store program is executed in time, in full, in all locations and deploy the store audit and store-execution software your business needs to thrive.

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10 Reasons Why Retailers Use Store Audit Software

We couldn’t think of one reason why retailers, particularly franchise-based retailers, use (or ought to use) store audit software, we thought of ten.

1. Your customers and employees’ health and safety

When serving customers, compliance with standards and regulations is not simply a matter of building a positive customer experience; your customers and employees’ health and safety depend on it. It shouldn’t take a tragedy to take action. Protect your customers. Protect your employees. Protect the brand.

2. Customer retention

Studies have demonstrated that it is a lot more expensive to gain or regain a customer than it is to keep an existing customer satisfied. Customers have a way of thanking stores that are well run: they come back. Don’t spend money fighting fires. Prevent problems before they happen, deal with them expediently when they do.

3. The pitfalls of inconsistent execution

When dealing with a large number of franchisees and store managers, some will invariably execute better than others. A store audit system helps spot repeat unacceptables, execution laggards and downward trends quickly.

4. Compliance affects the bottom line

Failure to execute on in-store merchandising programs alone has been shown to cost the industry between 1% and 4% of sales. Compliance is not a feel-good initiative. Compliance drives your bottom line. Also, automation saves time and money. The organisation saves $84 for every store audit done with store audit software.

5. You don’t need to spend more

You don’t need to spend more. You may need to spend better. A good store audit system pays for itself. Paper-based processes are expensive, needlessly expensive.

6. Engage your franchisees and store staff

To motivate your franchisees and operations staff, you need to engage them. The benefits of the store audit platform should permeate through the entire organisation.

7. Inspect what you expect

You can publish standards and train your staff but only when you measure compliance do you achieve it. Trust but verify.

8. Training is necessary but not sufficient

Training is essential but training alone does not guarantee your standards are followed. Store staff may be trained, answer the quiz and pass the test, but are they applying their learned skills where it matters, enhancing the customer experience?  Measure what you communicate so the standard is communicated, reinforced and measured using a consistent set of parameters.

9. Technology is an enabler, not an end in itself

Store audit software gives you the best possible tools to manage your operations. The software manages your infrastructure so you can focus on what you do best: running your business.

10. Try before you buy

With a cloud-based store audit platform, there is no setup fee, no hardware to procure, no software to purchase and no IT investment to speak of.

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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