As a retailer, your goal of providing the right products, at the right price, to the right audience may not always go according to plan. You can have the best intentions, but a long list of daily activities is enough to distract many business owners from the fundamentals of price, product, and planning.
In order to meet the needs of your customers, it's important to conduct regular retail store evaluations. These objective assessments of your retail outlet can help you measure whether or not your customers' expectations are being met and how you can better serve their needs.
The Benefits of Regular Assessments
The primary reason you should conduct regular retail store evaluations is that you need to appreciate the view of your store from the perspective of your customers.
A third-party evaluation can:
- Identify areas that are not working at peak efficiency
- Pinpoint overlooked problems
- Help differentiate your store from competitors
- Provide context for consumer behaviors
- Increase your sales volume and margins
How to Conduct an Assessment
When creating a list of questions for store evaluations, objectivity and neutrality are the key points to keep in mind. Evaluations can be performed by a mystery shopper service or you can conduct your own store assessment. A mystery shopper is an "undercover shopper" hired to observe and report on employee and customer behavior. Mystery shoppers are not hired to give their opinions but to objectively collect data on your store. This can be a huge eye opener on how employees behave when the boss is not around, or how customers interact with your store or products.
Other assessment methods include encouraging your staff to provide feedback at group meetings (or anonymously) and soliciting customer feedback in the form of in-store and/or online surveys.
Appropriate Questions for Mystery Shoppers
Feel free to use all of the following questions to conduct a comprehensive store analysis:
- Is the store conveniently located?
- Are the store hours convenient for the customer’s shopping needs?
Exterior Store Appearance
- Is the parking lot and sidewalk clean and well-lit?
- Are the windows clean?
- Are there miscellaneous fliers posted on the storefront?
- Do signs convey the correct image?
- Can the business be easily identified from the road?
Interior Store Appearance
- Is the store atmosphere and décor appealing to consumers?
- Is the floor free of debris and does it appear clean?
- Are all light fixtures working properly?
- Does the store appear well-lit?
- Are interior signs consistent with the font and color on the outside of the store?
- Does the store look like it's full of inventory?
- Are customers greeted by a member of the staff upon entering the store?
- Are employees easily identifiable by either uniforms or name tags?
- Do employees seem knowledgeable about the products they're selling?
- Do employees handle customer complaints, returns, and other customer service issues directly and promptly without incident?
- Do employees consistently treat customers with courtesy and respect?
- Are products well-identified and labeled with prices?
- Is merchandise neatly displayed?
- Is there a good variety and selection of products?
- Are the prices competitive with other retailers in the area?
- Is the quality of merchandise the highest available for the price?
- Does the store layout make it easy for customers to navigate?
- Is each department in the store clearly defined?
- Are the aisles wide enough and free of boxes and clutter?
Tally the answers after a set period of time, or after a desired sample size of responses has been reached. Evaluate the evidence honestly with your team and keep your feedback channels open, but don't draw conclusions yet. Instead, consider how you can ask courteous follow-up questions of your stakeholders, and reward them for taking their time to help.