Conducting a diagnostic store assessment is an excellent way to gain opportunistic perspectives for your location. Walking through and evaluating your store — from the eyes of the customer — can provide both strategic and tactical ideas for improvement. Whether it is the exterior appeal of your location to the interior product assortment, layout and merchandising, every aspect of your store should be evaluated. Here are some key items to consider and how they help you develop both short-term and long-term plans for your locations:
Know Thy Customer: Customers throughout your respective trade areas can vary greatly. The urban shopper — perhaps without a car — will shop your urban locations vastly differently than a rural customer. Not only will they shop differently, but also, they will be expecting targeted product assortments that make sense in their neighborhoods. In urban markets, there may be products geared toward more singles and younger audiences where in rural markets the assortment may be focused more on families.
Assign Store Attributes: Next on the list is to assign key store attributes for each of the store segmentations. Size of store, location and store type may all dictate whether the store carries a full array of SKUs or more of a limited offering. Larger stores with the appropriate demographic makeup may lend itself to more of a premier offering — both in quality and assortment — whereas smaller, transient locations may carry only a limited product assortment.
Identify Potential Signature Offerings: What do you want your store to be known for? Many stores carry a lot of the same inventory from brand-to-brand. A Pepsi in one convenience store is basically the same Pepsi in another convenience store. But creating a proprietary signature offering allows you to differentiate your store from your competition. If this is well-executed, customers will associate your brand with this signature offering.
Evaluate Where You are Compared to the Industry: One way to assist in developing a signature offering is to benchmark your stores against the industry that you are in. These benchmarks don’t necessarily need to be direct competitors but rather aspirational leaders in your industry. Seeing what others have created to generate customer interest in their locations may push you to “get out of your comfort zone” and push the envelope.
Establish Brand Attributes and Pillars: A diagnostic store assessment also helps to identify the attributes that make of your brand. By listing these independent attributes — i.e., fresh, healthy, speedy, etc. — you can bunch them together to form the core brand pillars for your outlet. These brand pillars should be used to filter all decisions related to your offering to see if it passes the test. For instance, if one of your brand pillars is “speedy service” and you introduce a product that slows down that service, then there is a conflicting message to the consumer. Use the brand pillar filter test to keep your brand consistent and on track.
Conducting a diagnostic store assessment helps provide short-term tactics for shoring up your overall customer experience as well as identifying longer-term strategic initiatives to continue to grow the business. Sometimes through another set of eyes and from an industry benchmark perspective, operators can get a crystallized view of their stores today and as importantly, where they should be in the future.
John Matthews is the founder and president of Gray Cat Enterprises Inc., a strategic planning, operations and marketing services firm. Matthews has recently written “Game-Changing Strategies for Retailers,” available on Amazon. His two step-by-step manuals, “Local Store Marketing for Retailers” and “How to Stage a Killer Grand Opening,” are available at GrayCatEnterprises.com.