The term ‘audit’ is ubiquitous in the worlds of accounting and finance, but it’s also acquiring a little traction in the world of retail. If you’re familiar with the term, it might bring to mind the image of some hapless group trapped inside an office for hours on end, trying to translate reams of financial data into a coherent picture of a company’s health – and then trying to recommend ways in which that health might be improved upon.
A retail audit is a process which attempts much the same thing, but instead of analysing a company’s finance, it attempts to analyse the efficacy of a company’s shops. While it’s certainly possible to perform such an audit in-house, many companies prefer to put their hands into their pockets and bring in a specialist field marketing agency to come in and perform the audit on their behalf.
But, given that such organisations will charge for their services, why would any company do this? Wouldn’t it be easier to simply use staff who are already inside the company and familiar with the way that it works to do the audit without involving outsiders? Let’s examine some of the benefits that outsourcing a retail audit might confer.
Performing a task regularly is a great means of becoming proficient in it. Analysing the way that a task was performed and trying to practice new and better ways to perform it is a sure way to become an expert in it. The same principle holds true in the world of retail auditing. Specialist staff who devote every working hour to auditing retailers will be far better at it than non-specialist staff who perform the task only for a few hours out of every year.
Since specialist retail auditors are well-practiced in performing audits, they’re able to get them done far more easily and quickly. They’re also better able to anticipate problems which might occur during the procedure and circumvent them. Not only will they be able to get things done a great deal more quickly, they’ll also be a lot more effective – delivering a superior quality of information, which will in turn inform superior decision-making further down the line.
Specialist firms also have access to technology that’ll make their jobs easier. These technologies might consist of bespoke database software and tablet hardware. This will make it easier to conduct the audit in the first place – and it’ll also make it easier for them to present their findings to the person running the business.
The strength of a retail audit rests on the quality of data it delivers. By being able to access this data in the form of easily-digested graphs and charts, via e-mail, SMS, or whatever other medium you’d prefer, you’ll be able to make much better decisions later on.
Impartiality and Credibility
Since a specialist retail auditor comes from outside the company, they’ll have little incentive to lie about or exaggerate their findings. An in-house retailer, by contrast, might feel a subconscious need to misinterpret their findings, and might be influenced by long-established biases. Even the most trustworthy person is vulnerable to bias – which is why impartiality is such a valued trait.
For much the same reason, an internally-conducted audit won’t carry the same weight with outside parties – like potential suppliers, clients and buyers.In a negotiation with such an outsider, you’ll want to be able to point to evidence of your company’s credibility – and an independently-conducted retail audit will provide precisely that.
If you’re going to conduct an audit internally, then it follows that you’ll need to pull your staff away from the tasks they might otherwise be doing. You might even need to provide them with training to perform the audit properly. With an external auditor, this disadvantage is minimised; the outsiders will come in and perform the audit without getting in anyone’s way, allowing your business to continue to function unimpinged.
Not all retailers are created equally. There are subtle differences between them; and sometimes not-so-subtle ones, too. Adopting a one-size-fits-all approach is therefore unlikely to be an effective strategy – but an approach that’s precisely tailored to the business is likely to yield great benefits.
A quality specialist product recall agency will be able to tailor their service, offering recommendations which fit the retailer being audited. These ties in with the experience they’ve garnered; auditors who’ve examined a wide variety of different stores will be able to offer solutions which less-experienced ones might not have considered.