Retail Audits: The Complete Guide to Improving your Retail Sales Audit Process

Retail Audits: The Complete Guide to Improving your Retail Sales Audit Process

08 November 2022

Employee experience

Retail audits enable retailers to check on the health of their stores and see how they’re operating. But the time and effort spent prepping for, carrying out, and following up on a store audit means that they come with a lot of admin-heavy baggage.

But audits will always be a key factor of successful retailing, and they don’t have to be time-consuming and labor-intensive. This guide will walk you through how to bring your retail store audits into the 21st century and make them as efficient and impactful as possible.


Retail audits are necessary for protection, evaluation, and planning

So, what is a store audit? Why are they necessary? 

Audits protect a retailer’s image by ensuring that every store is operating in alignment with guidelines and providing the right experience for customers and employees. They evaluate how customers experience a store and enable HQ to make more informed decisions and adjustments to their retail plan.

Audits are typically focused around a specific area of retailing. Types of audit include:

Merchandising audits

Ensuring that products are displayed correctly, the store is well presented and signage is correct.

Health and safety audits

Checking that health and safety processes and standards are upheld to protect employees and members of the public.

Loss prevention audits

Checking compliance with policies and processes around mimimizing theft, wastage and breaches of store security.

Competitive analysis audits

Analyzing the brand health of competitors and how they position themselves within the market.


The benefits of regular audits include:

  • Empowering store teams

Only 28% of millennial frontline employees find it easy to understand whether their work meets company standards. Audits show store teams how they’re doing, where they’re meeting targets and where they’re falling short. Knowing whether or not they’re meeting expectations builds confidence and highlights opportunities to learn or improve performance so employees can proactively contribute to business goals.

  • Protecting brand image

Audits ensure compliance with brand standards and policies so that customers have a consistent experience of the brand, no matter which store they visit. 

  • Identifying issues

Audits provide an opportunity to Identify any maintenance work that needs carrying out in a store, extra training needed for store employees or flaws in processes. This helps HQ to identify issues before they are noticed by customers.

  • Reviewing planograms

You need to know whether your store layouts are intuitive to navigate and encourage customers to buy the products on the shelves. Audits check that stores are complying with contracts with product brands and manufacturers and assess whether products are displayed most effectively.

  • Health and safety

Audits ensure that legal regulations such as health and safety laws and guidelines are being upheld. This protects the safety and wellbeing of customers, employees and the reputation of the brand as a whole.

  • Data-driven decision making

Retailers who regularly carry out audits are able to use up to date store data to guide decision-making and improve performance. Audit data can be used to assess which processes are most effective, which new equipment to invest in, and offer targeted training recommendations to store teams based on audit feedback.


What goes wrong with retail audits?

Without regular, effective audits, it’s impossible to be confident that customers are having the right experience in your stores. It puts brand reputation at risk and limits visibility into store activity, so business decisions won’t be as well-informed. 

Audits fall short because:

  • There is an over reliance on in-person audits. If auditors need to travel to and from each audit site this takes up time and energy and means that less audits can take place.

  • Putting managers or store employees in charge of auditing their own store - you can’t expect audits to be accurate when the auditor is grading their own work.

  • Using paper forms - these can get lost or damaged easily so are less likely to be referred back to by store teams. Also, when auditors use paper forms or email to report audit results to HQ, HQ teams have limited visibility as they don’t receive this information instantaneously and can’t track whether action points are being followed up on by stores in real-time.

    Related: It's Time to Go Paperless: 5 Reasons to Switch to Digital Checklists

  • Audits are admin-heavy. This stems not only from the time-consuming task of filling out paper forms, but also manual report compiling on a laptop or desktop computer which gives the auditor less time to spend coaching and training store teams and building relationships with them.

  • Often, retail audit report forms aren’t structured in the most efficient way. When forms aren’t standardized, it’s not possible for HQ to quickly scan a form or and comments can be vague and open to interpretation, so it’s tough for store teams to implement feedback.

  • HQ doesn’t use audit data in the most effective way to plan retail strategy. When HQ doesn’t have the ability to automatically integrate store audit data with other performance and sales data, it’s impossible to identify all potential issues and be agile in response to problems.

Related: Quality Audits: 5 Common Problems and How to Fix Them


How to get the most out of your retail sales audit process:

1. Define KPIs

Establish the goal of the store audit. What factors do you need to assess? Look at competitors and how they perform in the area you’re assessing and review where you want to position your brand. Then establish KPIs for targets stores should be meeting in relation to these expectations.

It’s also important to review store-specific targets. Look at the date of the store’s last audit and any comments, feedback and action points that were recorded, and ensure that these focus areas are reviewed as part of the audit.


2. Consider a remote audit

Remote store audits take less time and when done right can be as effective as an in-person audit. Although it can be important to catch up with store teams in person from time to time, remote audits mean that more audits can be completed in less time and makes it possible to check in with stores more regularly.

Related: Best Practices for Remote Store Visits & Audits in the COVID-19 Era


3. Find the right retail audit software to help you 

You need a tool which will help you carry out effective and efficient audits. An app on a mobile phone or tablet is perfect for this, as auditors can keep detailed records in a portable format which can be sent to HQ in just a few clicks. 

Ideally, you want an app which enables the user to attach photos to digital report forms which HQ can annotate and comment on to provide clear feedback. This capability is useful for loss-prevention, as HQ can see where commonly stolen or damaged products are placed within the store, and for merchandising to ensure that displays and signage are correctly set up.

Image recognition capabilities are also useful to recognize product labelling and packaging and see immediately if products are being displayed correctly.

The tool you choose should give you access to all audit data in one place.


3. Create standardized checklists and report forms

Use the chosen auditing tool to create standardized templates for report forms. Forms should include checklists, open questions and open spaces for general comments to give HQ a full picture of how a store is performing. It’s crucial that audit report forms are scannable but allow auditors to provide extra detail where necessary.

Reports should be digital, as paper forms are easily lost or damaged, whereas digital forms can be accessed by employees on multiple devices.

Related: How to Create the Perfect Retail Store Visit Report Template


4. Track progress in real-time

The right tool should allow the auditor to assign action plans and track completion directly through the app in real-time, sending automated reports to managers and relevant stakeholders.

It’s important to make the most of store data, so your chosen tool should make it easy to analyze audit data by store, region and country so HQ can evaluate compliance and performance and recognize patterns. It should be possible to integrate audit data with other KPIs like sales and training data.

Streamlining data in this way highlights recurring issues or consistently strong performers, making it possible to identify root-causes in order to put support plans in place or replicate successes.

Retail audit manager

Related: Why Retailers Need to Align Sales and Operational Data

The best way to re-vamp your retail audit process is with an all-in-one digital workplace app that provides HQ with full visibility across the store network in the most efficient possible way.

Find out more about how digitizing your retail audits with YOOBIC gives your field and area teams the tools they need to help each store perform its best.