How the Mobile Workforce Transformed Retail Audits

By the Editors

The mobile platform is transforming mystery shopping and the way that retail services companies are conducting a variety of activities for retail clients – from mom and pop shops to giants like Target, Wal-Mart, and Best Buy. But since the average user may have a hard time envisioning how this could transform their marketing, today we wanted to take an inside look at designing a mobile retail audit.Retail audits are a fancy way of saying onsite surveys – using undercover shoppers to evaluate everything from customer service interactions, to product or service quality, to the cleanliness and condition of the facility, to whether displays and advertising meet guidelines. Some retails audits focus very specifically on evaluating one thing, but many more today integrate multiple aspects for increased efficiency.

A mobile retail audit starts with developing your survey’s research design. The content of the survey is based on your business and research priorities, which can be derived from a number of sources. Often, corporate guidelines outline specific areas of concern and offer benchmarks that must be hit. Usually these are accompanied by an evaluation schedule and require data collection according to a preset calendar. In this context, your research design process is easy.

In other situations, you’ve become aware of or suspect certain problems and want objective data to help inform your analysis and development of a solution. In still other cases, your brand may be closely tied with a very specific value or task – think Zappos and stellar customer service – and your top priority is ensuring that this value is consistently delivered to your clients or customers.

Once you’ve established the underlying theory that drives your research design, these points are translated into very concrete points that can be easily evaluated and measured. For example, the Retail Association has released interesting research citing cleanliness as a major issue for supermarkets. If shoppers don’t think your store is clean, they don’t want to buy their food there.

As you break down this set of priorities, you can start to outline specific factors that can be measured. Are the floors swept and washed regularly? Is the lighting bright enough to avoid a “dim” feeling? Are the restrooms clean? Are food displays organized and products properly faced? Does the produce look fresh and dewy? As you get clear on what a “clean store” means, it will quickly become obvious that you’ve got a list of points that a regular shopper could go in and look at.

Some questions may be yes or no: “Did a greeter meet you at the doors and welcome you to the store?” Others will function better on a scale: “On a scale of 1-5, how fresh is the produce?” But the core challenge is making each aspect of your bigger mission concrete. This helps in the evaluation process, and also makes solutions very straightforward. If the bathrooms are not up to standard, the solution may be as simple as an associate visiting each hour to make sure the floors are swept and paper products are restocked.