Retail audits

An important application of the 'audit' method of observation research is in the field of trade research. An example of this is that organized by ACNielsen UK, Nielsen's Retail Measurement Services.

A representative sample of grocery shops is recruited to the panel. At each visit auditors record the amount of stock in the shop, and check computer records, invoices and delivery notes for deliveries made since the last visit. Sales in the intervening period can then be calculated. Where Nielsen is denied access to data, the interviewers will question customers outside those outlets about purchases made. In-home checks are also carried out to cover less frequently purchased products. ACNielsen measures and tracks sales volume, selling price, observed promotion and merchandising execution, encompassing an organization's own brands as well as competitive brands. A wide range of analyses can be derived from this data. Retail Measurement Services help to gauge product penetration, overall product performance, distribution, promotion effectiveness and price sensitivity

A similar method is employed by Nielsen, covering chemists, confectioners/tobacconists/newsagents (CTN), DIY, home appliances, sportswear, liquor and cash-and-carry trades. This is an important service for manufacturers of products covered, since it is one of the ways in which they can measure consumer sales reaction to advertising, price changes and other marketing tactics. Ex-factory sales do not provide this kind of feedback because of the length of the marketing channel, which may include stock buffers at both wholesale and retail outlets. This can mean that after leaving the factory it could be six weeks before a product reaches the retail outlet shelf. The introduction of direct electronic links from checkout points is improving the quality and speed of retail audit data. Increasingly, data is received electronically from the point-of-sale equipment installed in most major supermarket chains. Other research agencies also produce retail audit data and are listed in Section 4.3, since they are usually made available on a syndicated basis, as is Nielsen data. An example of results is shown in Figure 6.5.

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Figure 6.5: Source of purchase analysis. Source'. Nielsen

Figure 6.5: Source of purchase analysis. Source'. Nielsen

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