What should go on a CPG merchandising checklist?
Whether you are a consumer packaged goods company starting a new merchandising program or a CPG, wholesaler or distributor with an existing program, we have prepared a list of best-practices, intentionally high-level, to help you create or improve your merchandising checklist and store visit workflow.
Think about the checklist’s “metadata”
Metadata is data about data, or, information about the store visit. Who is conducting the visit? Where is the visit? When is the visit? Customers who use paper and Excel-based forms typically expect user-entered fields such as store number, completed by, date, etc…
However, CPG field reps are busy visiting multiple stores each day. One way to save them time (and save the company money) is to automate metadata details with retail audit software. With retail audit software, the user information is derived from the login, the store pick-list is specific for each user and the user’s current location and the date is automated. Reps also have the option to create locations ad-hoc as they come across new stores.
Use clear, concise titles for checklist sections
Every store is different. Save your field reps time by titling sections clearly so that a rep can navigate easily to the appropriate set of questions as they move about the store.
Retail audit software makes it even easier for your fields reps to navigate the checklist. Using their mobile or tablet, reps have the option to “jump” easily to the section they need to review.
Think about “non-applicable” questions and sections
Certain sections or questions (items) may not be applicable to all locations. The “Floor displays” section may not be applicable to a small store format located in an urban center. Promotional signage in city centers may differ from signage in suburban areas.
If you are using retail audit software, there is no need to create multiple merchandising checklists, each one specific to a respective market/banner. Instead, you can disable entire sections and/or items at certain stores according to the store type, market or banner. Doing this saves time and is more intuitive. Your field reps won’t have to skip over or sort through items which are not applicable to their current location.
Make sure your merchandising checklist form has adequate coverage
While individual situations vary, you should address some or all of the following areas, each represented as its own section:
1. Shelves: shelf space, location, stocked, planograms, pricing, signage
2. In-store promotions: signage, promotional displays, bins, hotspots, gondoals, fixtures
3. Staff: training, product knowledge, customer service
4. Back room: stock level, proper storage, rotation
Looking for a sample CPG merchandising checklist?
Avoid large sections
Instead of creating a small number of large sections, consider creating a larger number of small sections. This helps with data-entry on mobile and tablet. It also renders the reporting more granular and meaningful.
Assign points according to importance
While it is easy to think of every question as important (and if a criterion is not important, it should not be on the form), some criterion is critical to the continued success of the business (lack of stock, incorrect pricing, expired product). Assign points accordingly.
Retail audit software allows you to mark such items as “Flagged” or “Critical,” drawing your field reps attention.
Be specific, descriptive and visual
Standards should be clear and unequivocal. Don’t use vague words like “recent” or “good”. For example instead of saying, “Product ordered recently”, consider using, “Product ordered less than 2 calendar days ago”. If referring to the number of product facings or lapsed times, give actual numbers. Clearly spell out what the standard is.
If you are using retail audit software, you can attach a best practice photo to an item to illustrate the standard. You can also attach supporting documents like planograms. Additionally, your field reps can attach their own photos to an item to demonstrate compliance with the standard or non-compliance that requires correction.
Think about visit frequency
The frequency of CPG field rep store visits vairs from one organization to the next: some organizations conduct as many as one visit every week, others may only conduct one visit per quarter. Some organizations use a hybrid model. They use a standard form to capture their core merchandising standards (say twice a year) and create a number of smaller forms for visits throughout the year, sometimes tying these visits to seasonal programs.
Retail audit software allows you to create any number of forms, each with its own start and end date. This means your fields reps will only see forms that are applicable to them, to their location, and to the current time period saving them time and creating a more intuative workflow.
Discuss the form/checklist with your merchandising and field team
Solicit feedback and input from your merchandisers, field reps and sales managers. We call this phase “calibration.” A CPG merchandising checklist is as much an audit tool as it is a vehicle for continuous improvement. A calibrated checklist reduces confusion and facilitates the dissemination of merchandising standards as well as adoption. This helps CPG brands meet standards and achieve sales goals.
Should you build your own merchandising checklist software from scratch or buy a ready-made package?
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. Read more on buy vs build: Retail Audit Software: Buy vs Build
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