Customer experience determines whether shoppers who enter your store leave with a purchase. A variety of factors influence that experience, among them your inventory, staff and pricing. However, without the right store atmospherics -- how you stage your business to make shopping a unique, inviting and pleasant event -- traffic and sales inevitably drop. Looking at your store with a customer's critical eye can identify where your atmospherics fall short. Regular walk-through audits give you a reading on shopper reactions to your store that translate into customer satisfaction and loyalty.
A checklist allows you to organize your walk-through. Listing what you want to study in a sequence that mimics how a customer travels through the building makes your evaluation efficient. For example, the exterior and entrance come first, followed by the aisles and then the back of the store. The Compliantia.com website recommends dividing the areas being critiqued into subsections. The exterior, for example, might include subsections for parking, windows, sidewalks and signage. The desired characteristics for each line item serve as your measurement. A simple four-point system -- with ratings from poor to outstanding -- suffices to grade important characteristics. The window subsection of the exterior checklist area might grade these characteristics: Clean, Well-lit, Appealing Display.
The store's appearance, floor plan and amenities such as fitting rooms, seating and bathroom facilities work together to welcome shoppers. Your walk-through might devote a section to each to rate accessibility, cleanliness and general appeal. A walk-through can draw attention to frayed or dirty carpets, cracked or smudged mirrors and burned-out light bulbs. The Retail Owners Institute includes image-supporting factors such as music, scent, lighting and signs on its recommended walk-through checklist. These present your store's personality and tap into a shopper's emotions. During your evaluation, ask if the music reflects your target customer's taste and if the volume allows for conversation, identify any foreign odors and confirm that existing fragrances don't overwhelm or offend, and pay attention to spotlight placement and overall store brightness.
Your walk-through gives you an opportunity to review your visual merchandising, a key component in enticing shoppers to buy. You can rate basic display tools, such as fixtures and hangers, for compatibility with the store’s image. For example, do location, color use, theme and size of displays used to showcase select products discreetly create an enjoyable shopping environment? Your walk-through also should highlight instances where marked-down merchandise detracts from higher-priced new arrivals and could project an undesired bargain-basement image. Alternatively, empty or bare shelves may send a wrong signal about your financial stability. Signs throughout the store also merit a place on your checklist. They represent your silent sales staff. The merchandise itself deserves a place on your checklist so that you can take a fresh look at the overall impression your selection gives shoppers as they browse.
Walk-through audits work well to evaluate loss-prevention preparedness and store safety. Separate checklists would apply, but the concept remains the same. For a loss-prevention walk-through, suggested audit points include adequate lighting, security tags, price tags and locked cases. A safety audit would check for items such as clear aisles, sturdy shelving, electrical cords, adequate spacing between fixtures and debris-free floors. These audits, combined with your general walk-through, can lead to improvements that customers will reward through returned visits.