No Paper, No Problem: How to Conduct a Better Merchandising Audit

It’s the middle of the week, and your field rep is in a slump. They’ve done audit after audit, and they’re exhausted from filling out paper forms and making phone calls, from checking prices and spending thirty minutes too long tracking orders in the retailer’s freezer. With a sigh, they scrawl something onto the audit form, get it signed, and leave to perform their next audit.

Hastily done audits can cause your business to miss out on major issues, often resulting in customer dissatisfaction and a loss in sales. There are three concerns that impact the quality of your merchandising audits: working conditions, price checks, and human error.

  1. Working Conditions: According to a study published in Educational Research International, the nature of the physical condition under which employees work is important to output. If your rep experiences something like the situation described above, they may omit parts of the audit in order to escape the less-than-ideal work condition. Working conditions are worsened by the time-consuming methods most companies currently use to perform audits- taking audits over the phone and/or filling out paper and Excel forms is frustrating for all parties involved.
  2. Price Checks: Many products are not easily distinguishable (like having 300 different types of greeting cards), and so it takes the field rep longer to go through all the products. In addition, if there is too much product to record onto one form, the field rep may not price check all of the items.
  3. Human Error: Miscommunication is easy when taking audits over the phone and physical forms can be misplaced, damaged, or hard to read due to the field rep’s handwriting.

The Solution?

Make the transition from paper, Excel, or phone to electronic/mobile forms.

Even though technology has progressed significantly, many companies are still using paper forms. Even a well-known company such as McCormick’s only recently switched to electronic forms. This change resulted in a far more streamlined process. There are a couple of applications for these forms, the most prominent ones being mobile apps that utilize Field Activity Management (FAM) software.

 The Benefits of Transitioning

  • Save Money. Paper forms are costly to print, file, and store. For example, if your business only has 15 reps, you will be spending $1,200 on paper alone and $2,165 on storage costs. This, however, is small compared to the time cost of paper forms- your business might be losing $15,067 per year because of inefficient use of time.
  • Save Time. Electronic forms eliminate the need for data re-entry, saving time for both the field rep and for their managers. They ensure that the reps will go in, perform the audit quickly and effectively, and go out. This allows for reps to perform more audits, increasing productivity.
  • Reduce the possibility of human error. By having field reps fill out a form on their mobile device, they no longer need to carry around stacks of papers that they could potentially misplace or damage. It also creates consistency in the auditing process.
  • Easier data analysis. All the data can be gathered and stored in the cloud, making it more accessible and allowing for quicker data analysis. This is vital because it gives you valuable retail insight. Check out next week’s blog post on how performing data analysis on audit data can positively impact your business.
  • Ability to take photos. With FAM software, your reps have the ability to take photos and send them directly via the app to the home office. These pictures can provide a clearer idea of what is going on in the store, pinpointing what and where the problems are in the store without the hassle of entering in a lot of data on the forms. They also provide photographic evidence that the rep did the audit, which pushes reps to put forth their best work.

This article was written by NANCY CHEN from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


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