Store audits might not sound like one of the most important points of contact between retailers and stores, but they are.

Every store visit might not be a full operational store audit, but a visit is always an audit in some way. Previously, we looked at 5 of the biggest problems area managers run into during store visits.

This week we’ll take this one step further by examining the risks retailers expose themselves to by keeping audit procedures in the past.

Audits don’t just fix issues related to store aesthetics and customer experience. They also touch on everything from customer complaints to health & safety.

And when retailers slip up, it impacts more than just sales, as we can see here and here.

Store audits are an important tool for risk assessment and avoidance. And for a procedure with risk avoidance as a goal, the processes most retailers use for are shockingly obsolete.

Here’s how typical store audit procedures harm your brand’s operational standards and what to do about it.

Store audits are too important to have field teams wasting time on checklists and manual reporting.

Typical audit procedures have field teams using paper checklists and collating data manually. Even when checking window displays, this is tedious.

But what about when something else is posing a health and safety risk to staff and customers? This is more important than anything else.

Field reps have no way to prioritize what needs to fix first because they’re burdened with administrative tasks.

Paper checklists and manual reporting processes are also fraught with human error. What if a field rep were to lose a checklist, accidentally delete a file, or a shopper with a tray full of Starbucks spilled coffee all over everything? That means more work when the field reps have to do everything again. Issues take longer to get fixed.

Field reps need a quick and painless way to make sure everything in the store is compliant with brand standards. Paper trails and spreadsheets aren’t the way to achieve this.

Retail HQ is stuck in the dark when it comes to what’s being carried out in-store, until it’s too late.

What do your field teams use to deliver completed checklists and audit reports to HQ?

If HQ has no way to access either of these in real-time, they might as well be using carrier pigeons. Days could go by before serious operational issues are uncovered. This makes it difficult for HQ to monitor the operational health of all their stores.

A hidden goldmine of insight into your stores could be hiding in all those emails, photos and checklists. Maybe several of your store managers need better training on health & safety policy.

Unless HQ has a real-time view into what’s going on operationally, these risks will remain hidden.

And in an age where customer complaints can be made in an instant and seriously damage a retailer’s credibility, HQ can’t afford to wait for field teams to send over checklists whenever they have time.

There can’t be any gaps in knowledge as to whether company policy is being upheld in all areas. Audit procedures need a digital upgrade so stores and HQ can be on the same page.

HQ can’t track store progress after an audit, and stores can’t get what they need from HQ.

Store managers already deal with hundreds of calls, texts and emails from customers, field teams and HQ. If there’s no clear action plan that walks them through how to fix what they need to, chances are nothing will get done.

No action plan means no way to track progress and trends across stores and regions.

No progress tracking means that the audit procedures themselves are a bureaucratic exercise rather than a compliance one that maintains customer trust.

Typical store audit procedures are only focused on identifying issues rather than fixing them.

Typical store audit procedures are also a one-way street - there’s no room for stores to ask for what they need, before they’re told they should have it.

To perform their best, stores shouldn’t have to wait for weeks to hear back about the inventory or POS material they need, or have repairs done in-store.

Audit follow up procedures should be a two-way street, so stores can get the help they need before it’s time for an audit.

Retailers need a digitised audit procedure that makes it easy for field teams to do their jobs and HQ to get the data they need to avoid risk.

YOOBIC can help your brand make store audits faster, more transparent and more productive.

I'm ready to make store audits less painful