Visual Merchandising

Retail: Visual Merchandising Management Made Simpler

Author: Poornima Mohandas

Time to read: 2 minutes


How often do you change your Visual Merchandising (VM)? If you are an apparel or footwear brand, chances are you change it once a week or at least once a fortnight to keep those walk-ins coming. How do you manage and monitor if the window displays, wall panels, and centre tables are well arranged in keeping with your guidelines? When you have 10 stores this might be easy to do. But when you have 500+ stores, it becomes physically impossible to travel to all stores and ensure that they have a consistent look and feel, especially given the speed of new product launches and seasonal offers. Your VM team may travel to the stores in tier I cities, but what about your tier II and tier III stores?

Most retailers now manage this process through a series of emails, PowerPoint presentations, and Whatsapp messages, which means:

  • A lot of back and forth to gather store-level information
  • Plenty of manual effort to compile the pictures for management review
  • At least 2 man-days to conduct the review if you have >50 stores
  • Vulnerable to fraud and errors
  • Little to no reporting on trends and non-compliance


Here are some tips to speed up and streamline your Visual Merchandising changes:


1. Share Your VM Guidelines Through a Secure App

When you send your guidelines out over email, you get little visibility on whether your staff saw it, understood it, and acted on it. Moreover, when you operate on email there is little control over it, an employee who leaves your company can easily take your planograms and give it to the competition across the street. Through an operations app, you can safely share your VM guidelines with all your 500 stores instantaneously. A dedicated operations app will allow you to:


  • Keep your data safe
  • Track how many employees consumed the guidelines
  • Run a quiz to see if employees understood the guidelines
  • Cut off access when an employee leaves your organization


2. Make Your Visual Merchandising Audits Fraud-proof 

Do you ever wonder if your store staff are sending you dated pictures or pictures from a neighbouring store? Firstly, how will you know? Secondly, how will you curb such behaviour when operating on email and Whatsapp? Consumer messaging apps cannot give you the kind of structure and tracking mechanisms that you need to manage your retail store operations. 


An operations app can ensure your staff can only submit live pictures and not pictures previously clicked from their phone gallery. Moreover, the pictures will be date, time, and location stamped to ensure the VM audits actually happen in your stores, giving you credible data.


3. Compare Sample Pictures Versus Actuals Side by Side

Every VM review need not be a chore wherein VM managers spend days collecting and collating pictures from all their stores to present for management review. What if you could auto-generate the PowerPoint in seconds instead of two days?


The advantages are three-fold: 

  • Spare your VM team lots of manual effort
  • Easily compare images, samples versus actuals, side by side 
  • Easily spot discrepancies and take corrective action in a matter of minutes. 


4. Review and Compare Scores Across Retail Stores at a Glance

Email and Whatsapp do not give you a sense of how many stores have complied with your guidelines. From a VM perspective, which are your poorly performing stores? Does it correlate to poor SSPD? An operations app with in-built reporting will allow you to easily compare VM scores across stores in a single pane of glass. 


We all know that VM is directly proportional to walk-ins so don’t leave it to chance with poor and unstructured monitoring mechanisms. Email and Whatsapp cannot give you the visibility and control that you need to get your VM spot on. A mobile-enabled retail operations app will make your Visual Merchandising audits fast, secure, fraud-proof, and give you the visibility to deliver every retailer’s nirvana consistent customer experiences.


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Is Your Store Assistant Knowledgeable About Your Products?

Author: Poornima Mohandas

Time to read: 2 minutes


The training manager at Bangalore-based high-end retailer of fine writing instruments and lifestyle accessories, William Penn, was having a tough week at work. She had just travelled across Bangalore, Kochi, and Mysore to conduct training and competency tests for the newly recruited store assistant. At the end of the week, she was totally spent. She realized she spent way too much time on travel rather than on talent attraction and employee retention. 


She decided to take some action. She moved her company from classroom training to online training with Wooqer and the results were overwhelming! She could now:

  • Minimize her travel and spend more time with her family
  • Free up time wasted in delivering training and grading assignments
  • Better assess training consumption and effectiveness
  • Have time to work on new training content


Training your store staff is directly proportional to your sales. We find that retailers who recognize that and are willing to invest in training are far ahead of their peers. 



According to PwC, 40% of consumers feel that sales associates with deep and extensive product knowledge improve their shopping experiences considerably




Here’s a quick test to see if you need to invest more in training your store assistants: 

  • Are your store staff in tier II and III cities able to articulate the value of your products? 
  • Are they able to direct customers to appropriate sections of the store?
  • Do they speak confidently about the latest promotions and offers?

If you said no to any of the above, read on. We’ll tell you about the many advantages of online training.


1. Make Training Convenient and Engaging

Training needs to be convenient not just for the trainee but also for the trainer. Online training can significantly lift the burden on the trainer. 


Says Sunil Sadagopal, General Manager – Operations at Home Centre, “Earlier every time a bulk of new employees joined, Home Centre would arrange classroom training for them. We had to print all the training material.” But now Home Centre, –which is part of the $6 billion Landmark group and has 49 stores and 1,500 employees across India– uses Wooqer to train new employees. “Now we give new joiners login credentials and they can learn and take assessments at their own pace.”


Let your training be easy to consume anytime, anywhere, using any device. Store staff should be able to consume training when they are riding the bus to work. Make training engaging with explainer videos, images, contests, and interactive sessions.


2. Offer Bite-Sized Learning and Reinforcement to Improve Retention

According to German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus’ landmark research in the 1880s, we forget 75% of what we were taught in six days without any reinforcement. 

So what can you do to make training stick:

  • Serve up bite-sized training that people can snack on
  • Reinforce training with tests, quizzes, and contests
  • Provide different formats of training to appeal to visual learners
  • Make your staff repeat the same online course periodically


3. Increase SSPD from Tier II & Tier III Stores

Classroom training is not scalable. Your trainers may visit and train the stores in tier I cities but what about your tier II and tier III stores? The only way to make training scalable is to switch to online training. This way, training becomes democratic and you can increase SSPD (sales per square foot) from your tier II and tier III stores. 


4. Get Better Visibility of Training Effectiveness

So you have delivered your training, now what? You want to know if your training was effective. In online training you should be able to:

  • Monitor and drive training consumption
  • Assess training effectiveness
  • Gauge feedback easily


5. Cut Down Travel and Printing Costs

Once you switch to online training you can have savings on two fronts: travel costs and paper and printing costs. Say goodbye to printing training material for your staff. 


“The biggest saving is on paper and printing costs,” says Sadagopal from Home Centre after switching to Wooqer for training. 


What’s more, you can market your company as an environmentally conscious retailer and appeal to the discerning millennial customer. 


6. Allow Your Trainers To Be More Effective

Once you move to online training you can allow your trainers to be more strategic. Suddenly there is an effort shift from content delivery to content creation. It also frees up time for other initiatives around attracting new talent and employee retention.


To sum up, conducting classroom training sessions is not convenient and neither is it scalable. Your coverage tends to be patchy at best. Online training can help you cut down on travel and paper costs and gives you real-time visibility into training consumption and effectiveness. Invest in training today to increase your SSPD. The first-mover advantage will solidly lie with the early technology adopters. 


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Paper-based retail store audits are inefficient

Store Audits: The Story of Broken Mannequins and Missing Area Managers

Author: Poornima Mohandas

Time to read: 2 minutes


  • Are there broken mannequins in your window display?
  • Are your area managers doing store audits from the comfort of their homes? 
  • Were the issues discovered in the last store audit resolved? 

These are some things we commonly hear from our retail customers as they put pen to paper to run periodic store audits. 


What if you could allow your regional managers to conduct retail store audits on their smartphones using a dedicated operations app. Not only will this put information at their fingertips, but it will also ensure that broken mannequins discovered in the audit are resolved quickly without the endless back and forth of follow up, emails and phone calls. 


Let’s dive a little deeper into what advantages digital audits would give your organization:


1. Conduct Audits in 1/4th the Time


Designer eyewear retailer, Magrabi that retails brands like Chanel, Burberry, and Emporio Armani across the Middle East, used to do paper-based audits across their 160 stores. 

  • Audits used to take 4 days to complete and involved plenty of paperwork. 
  • For each audit, the area manager had to print out 10 pages with 170 questions. 
  • At head office, it took days to compile the papers to get a comprehensive view. 
  • Store-level issues such as a broken light bulb, a crack in the ceiling or stock replenishments were reported and fixed late.


Things are much faster once they decided to go digital. Using a dedicated operations app, the audits are completely paperless and take just one day to complete. It has also meant faster decision making and faster issue resolution. 


“I do my audit reports in 1/4th the time now,” says Mariz Zakhary, Operations Administrator at Magrabi. Mariz automated store audits using Wooqer saving time for herself and her area managers. She and her team resolve store-level issues much faster now thanks to real-time visibility and reporting.


2. Make Store Audits Convenient For Your Regional Managers

Your regional manager goes to the Koramangala store in Bangalore for an audit. But he cannot remember the open issues from last month or what corrective action he had suggested. And how can he? He is only human, he has 15 stores under him. 

With an operations app on his smartphone he can easily: 

  • See the previous month’s open issues
  • Look up the suggested corrective action
  • View the current status
  • Gather image evidence of issues that need to be escalated to head office in real time


Digital retail store audits


3. Make Your Audits Fraud Proof

It is impossible to track the daily activities of each one of your area and regional managers. How would you know if your regional manager in the East hasn’t been visiting many of the stores under him? Automation can help track the geographical coordinates of the auditor, while doing the store visit thus keeping your audits fraud proof. 


4. Faster Issue Resolution

Slow audits lead to slow issue resolution and ultimately poor customer experiences. A broken light bulb in your retail store is just not acceptable and needs to be fixed asap.  

Digital audits can give you:

  • Automated workflow to escalate issues to the relevant people
  • Automated reminders and notifications to ensure people complete their tasks
  • Visibility into all issues, time taken to resolve them, and much more


5. Comprehensive Reporting for Real-Time Visibility 

When your audits are paper based it is cumbersome and challenging to get a historical view of audit compliance and spot trends over time. But if all this information is recorded in a secure and dedicated app:

  • It is available to you today, tomorrow, and forever to slice and dice
  • You can present the reports and trends in the quarterly review 
  • Compare different stores and reward the best-performing ones


Digital audits are not just easier to do, they help you quickly resolve broken mannequins and take care of missing area managers promptly. They give you a real-time, quality barometer on all your stores and ultimately help you deliver consistent customer experiences.


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SOP for Quick Service Restaurant or QSR Chains

How to Improve the SOP Process in Your QSR Chain

Author: Poornima Mohandas

Time to read: 2 minutes


Recently, we were at the headquarters of a QSR or quick-service restaurant chain to discuss their operational processes and how we could help them drive efficiencies. After some discussions, the COO explained, “We have 12 different applications and all our restaurant operations be it SOPs, checklists, and audits are all digital.” Having lost the wind from our sails, the meeting quickly concluded. Nevertheless, we sought permission to visit one of their restaurants. 

The next day, we walked into one of their restaurants, not too far from our office. What we saw was pretty shocking, yet typical. The SOP was a bunch of posters and checklists stuck on the kitchen wall! The restaurant staff were busy with customers and delivery boys, paying little attention to the writing on the wall. This could very well be your situation. 


The price you pay:

  • Poor visibility of SOP or Standard Operating Procedure adherence
  • Inconsistent customer experiences


Here are some ways to improve the SOP process across your QSR chain:


Educate Your Staff on Your Standard Operating Procedure

Very often we see that QSRs don’t spend enough time to educate their restaurant staff on the importance of the SOP. This document incorporates every aspect that needs to be monitored to keep your restaurant customer ready.

It covers everything, right from:  

  • Is the restaurant’s glass front door smudge free
  • How should a customer be greeted 
  • How many slices of banana should be served along with a pancake. 


Tell your staff the story behind it. How was it conceived? Why it matters?  

Train and certify your staff on the SOP using an operations app that is secure and exclusive to your organization. Let your staff absorb it, ask questions, clarify doubts, and have discussions on it.


Make It Easy to Adopt

Digitalize the SOP. Roll out daily checklists and set cut off times so your staff fill it out on time everyday. Have them attach photographs of the open restaurant with a date and time stamp. This way, you can ensure your staff have actually opened the restaurant at the stipulated 10:30 am and are not taking you for a ride. Easily see how many stores fill up the daily opening checklist on time. Automatic reminders will follow up with stores that are late and ensure compliance.  


Enforce Adherence to the SOP

When the SOP is a paper-based, daily opening and closing checklist there is poor adherence and little tracking. How do you sit in head office and know what is happening in the stores? You don’t. If the SOP is digitalized, real-time reporting can give you a comprehensive and comparative view of adherence. When restaurants don’t open on time or have dirty floors repeatedly, escalate it to the regional manager who can visit the store and get to the bottom of the problem. As the tracking of operational processes becomes more rigorous, you can improve the number of stores that complete it and reduce the number of compliance issues that come up.


Act on Your SOP Data to Drive Cost Savings

SOP needn’t be a passive monitoring exercise. You can actually uncover actionable data and powerful insights. 

Let’s take the example of a restaurant. As per the standard guidelines, the restaurant staff is supposed to switch on the air conditioner at 9:30 am so that the restaurant is cool and ready for customers by 10 am when it opens. With historical SOP compliance data at your fingertips, you notice that in more than half of your restaurants, the staff switches on the air conditioner half an hour early at 9 am everyday. You can instruct your staff to stick to the standard 9:30 am and save on electricity bills. Do this for a month across your restaurant chain and you can see the savings quickly add up.  


In summary, educate your staff on why the Standard Operating Procedure matters, make it easy to adopt, monitor adherence through robust real-time reporting, and uncover actionable data to drive cost savings. The SOP is your holy grail. It is what keeps your restaurants customer ready. Don’t let it be just a poster on the wall. 


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Deliver consistent customer experience

5 Steps to Deliver Consistent Customer Experiences Across Your 500+ Stores

Author: Poornima Mohandas

Time to read: 3 minutes


Despite the economic slowdown, Indian retailers are eager to expand their footprint. And why not, after a smart uptick in sales during Diwali.  

A lot of the retail action is set to be in Tier II and Tier III cities in India. Lifestyle brand, Fabindia plans to add 10 new stores in eastern India. Japanese retailer, Miniso is looking at 800 stores by 2020. Sketchers plans to be in every Indian city with 500 stores. And at a macro level, McKinsey predicts over 300 international fashion brands will open stores in India in the next two years.

So how do you keep growing your footprint with quality in check? 

Here are 5 steps to effectively deliver a consistent customer experience across your 500+ stores:


1. Train, Certify, and Monitor Adherence to SOPs

Let’s do a quick exercise:

  • Do you know what time your store at Dibrugarh opens?
  • Is the signage of your Darjeeling store as per your brand guidelines?
  • Is your storefront in Dharwad free of street hawkers?

This is tough to monitor on a daily basis in real-time. You probably do it today with pen-and-paper methods, a maze of phone calls, and Whatsapp messages. This quickly becomes hard to track and offers little to no reports to track historical trends and problem areas. 

How about a more structured approach? 

Step 1: Educate your store staff on the importance of the SOP 

Step 2: Assess their knowledge on it. Certify them 

Step 3: Let them fill out the daily checklists on an easy-to-use, retail operations app

Step 4: Have automatic reminders for stores that miss filling it out on time 

Step 5: From the head office, you can easily monitor SOP compliance across your entire network.  


2. Conduct Effective Store Audits

How does your regional manager conduct store audits? Let’s take the case of Rahul, a regional manager at a men’s clothing retailer. He goes to the HSR store in Bangalore to conduct a store audit, but he cannot remember the open issues from the previous audit. Who can blame Rahul? He has 15 stores under him. He recorded his findings in his notebook but the all-important notebook has gone missing. Plus, Rahul has only been in his new role for two months so he has little to go by. Rahul has a clean slate for the HSR store audit, which is unfortunately not a good thing.  

Store audits help spot issues and ensure they get resolved promptly. Equip Rahul with a retail operations app so he can easily conduct audits on his smartphone. This will save him time and give him a historical perspective of how the HSR store has performed over time. For the head office, automation will help you get a bird’s eye view quickly. Easily consolidate audit reports from across your 500 stores and ensure all open issues are automatically tracked and followed up with till resolution. 


3. Ensure a Consistent Look and Feel for Your Stores

“It was never an easy task to roll out new campaigns to 500+ stores and check how the execution has fared,” says Priyesh Bhagat, the visual merchandising manager at Adidas, a customer of Wooqer. With multiple Visual Merchandising (VM) changes per year, including new season guidelines, festive changes, End of Season Sales (EoSS), and in-store product communication, VM implementation and tracking meant visits to top 50 stores. Stores in tier 3 and tier 4 cities were hard to cover; they sent in their pictures over email and Whatsapp. And yet, the whole effort took time to complete and significant follow up effort. So what did Adidas do?

They digitized their VM guidelines and implementation. As a result:

  • Store VM champs could easily access the guidelines on a mobile app, for easy reference during on-floor execution
  • Store VM champs could easily click and submit date and time-stamped, pictures for review through the app
  • Regional VM Managers got real-time access to the pictures 
  • Non-compliant store managers got automatic reminders to comply
  • The VM team saved on time and travel

Digitalization not only smoothes out the execution piece but also offers monitoring. The head office can easily track activities and progress to ensure that all stores have the latest collection and a consistent look and feel.  


4. Provide Structured Training for Your Store Staff

High attrition and frequent product launches make it hard to uniformly train all your store staff. Classroom training is expensive and often does not cover all stores. Plus your store staff have no material to refer back to. They quickly forget what was taught in the classroom. When 40% of customers say sales associates with deep product knowledge improve their shopping experience you have to invest in staff training heavily.  

  • Allow your store staff to consume training anytime, anywhere on any device.
  • Give them byte-sized, multimedia courses 
  • Do assessments to measure training effectiveness

Online training will not only help you save on travel costs but will also be more engaging, convenient, and effective. 


5. Conduct Periodic Customer Surveys

How do you hear from your customers now? Do you have to depend on a third-party agency to hear your customer’s voice? Use technology to smoothen out the customer feedback loop. QR code-enabled surveys make it convenient for customers to easily give you feedback on their smartphones. Don’t let qualitative feedback bog you down. Easily decipher it using survey analytics. Absorb the feedback, make changes, and keep your customers happy. 

These are five ways we have seen our customers use technology to deliver consistent customer experiences even as they grow their retail operations. We will discuss each of these in more detail in upcoming posts, so make sure you check this space for updates.


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    How to Maximize SSPD this festive season?

    Author: Poornima Mohandas

    Time to read: 2 minutes

    With customers ready to spend and retailers offering attractive discounts, this festive season has been a crucial time for all retail chains to make their numbers in a sluggish economy. From Maruti cars, Xiaomi smartphones, to Flipkart and Amazon, all retailers are counting on their September and October sales numbers.  

    So what are you doing this season to maximize your SSPD or sales per square foot? Here are some ideas.


    Get Your VM Spot On

    Visual Merchandising (VM) is directly proportional to sales. It is essential to ensure that all your stores have the festive purple collection out in the window display and on the store’s centre table for maximum visibility. The purple collection will draw customers into your store. Once in the door, half the battle is won. Now your store staff have to know the rich and interesting story behind the purple collection to convert walk-ins into customers. 
    Here are some things to keep in mind:

    • Collect image evidence of the window display and centre table from all your stores to ensure a consistent look and feel
    • Have a methodical follow-up process and a point person in charge to take care of any stores that haven’t complied
    • Resolve issues around stock availability promptly
    • Train and assess your store staff on the festive pitch

    Additional checks and balances to ensure a consistent customer experience:

    • Are all your lights functioning properly?
    • Is your festival signage and decoration in place?
    • Are your offers and discounts clearly visible to customers?
    • Are your store staff trained to handle heavy traffic?
    • Are all your check out counters manned during the high-traffic period?
    • Are the cleaning staff instructed to clean the floors and bathrooms more often?


    Pump up Your Employee Morale With Sales Contests

    Nothing works better than incentives to drive sales and salespeople. One of our customers, a large department store is running sales contests among its staff this season. The first salesperson to close Rs 5 lakhs of business wins an all-expenses-paid trip to Singapore. Run an interesting contest with an enticing prize and watch the stock fly off your shelves! In addition, have your sales managers give a pep talk to the store staff every morning before they start the day. Remember, your store staff’s confidence and morale is a reflection of your brand. 


    Invest in Staff Training

    There is no such thing as too much training. Allow your store staff to consume byte-sized training content as per their convenience on any device. Whether they are commuting on the bus or on the metro they should be able to learn the festive pitch on their smartphone. Assess them to ensure learning retention. Ensure your staff knows:

    • The pitch behind the new collection
    • The pricing
    • Details such as fabric, colours, care details etc. 
    • Festive offers and discounts 
    • Overview of the entire product line

    This way your store staff can easily answer all your customers’ questions. Today’s customers expect a premium experience when they take the trouble to step out of the comfort of their homes, drive through snarling traffic and come to your store. Well-trained employees with sound product knowledge are a must-have.


    Create Excitement in the Store

    When a person takes the trouble to come to your store, give them an experience they will remember. This Diwali, why not organize a treasure hunt in your store? If you are women’s ethnic wear brand, run a contest to spot the glass slipper in your store and win a free lehenga! If you are a toy retailer, come Christmas, you can get kids to spot a reindeer in your store. The first one to find it gets to take home the stuffed toy for free! Be sure to click pictures of the winners and post it on your brand’s official social media pages. Your brand could very well be trending on Instagram this festive season. What’s more, the excitement will ensure customers keep coming back to your store for more.


    Create a memorable experience for your customers this Diwali. Don’t just give away freebies, combine it with a premium, experiential shopping experience and see your customers return for more. Write to us with the ideas you are trying out this season to increase your sales per square foot.


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      How to Ensure a Consistent Customer Experience Across Your Restaurant Outlets

      Author: Poornima Mohandas

      Time to read: 5 minutes

      What is the secret sauce for a successful fast food chain? Quick, predictable, and consistent food and service delivery each time, every time.


      Fast food chains with a large and growing footprint have to get their restaurant operations spot on. Let’s take a look at how a leading global quick service restaurant chain partnered with Wooqer to ensure consistent customer experience across all its Middle East outlets.


      Digitize Audits to Improve Service Delivery

      Traditionally, restaurant audits were conducted using paper checklists with findings being shared through disparate channels like email and Whatsapp with little to no reporting and no issue resolution. With Wooqer the customer was able to:

      • Create and share audit checklists to all outlets via the mobile app
      • Track, escalate, and resolve issues in real-time 
      • Increase the frequency of audits from weekly to daily 
      • Analyze comprehensive store-level reporting 
      • Easily compare different outlets to ensure consistency of service delivery


      Ensure Smooth Product Launches

      Fast food outlets struggle to launch products across their outlets in a simultaneous manner. While some outlets don’t have the recipe to the new item others are not trained to talk about the new dish. With Wooqer the customer can launch new products across outlets simultaneously, ensure staff readiness and brand consistency. Here’s how:

      • Restaurant managers get launch checklists to fill out on their mobile phone.
      • Critical issues are escalated and tackled on the spot through a workflow.
      • Marketing teams communicate how to display promotional material 
      • Staff are trained on how to position the new item

      And all of this through a secure private network that connects you to your outlets. 


      Improve Sales With Leaderboards and Contests

      How do you improve sales and let your employees have fun with it? Our customer did just that using Wooqer. They set up a sales contest to promote a particular menu item through suggestive selling and fed the daily sales numbers into a digital leaderboard. By the end of the month it became a win-win for all:

      • The sales of the menu item went up.
      • The restaurant staff were motivated. 
      • The fast food chain laughed all the way to the bank. 


      Faster Customer Surveys

      Paper-based customer surveys leads to poor analysis and little follow up action. With Wooqer the franchise owner created and launched customer surveys lightning fast. Restaurant managers collected customer feedback on their smartphones. Once the survey responses were in, the franchise owner got comprehensive drillable reports with detailed survey analytics to help him decipher the customer psyche. Replacing the pen and paper method made for faster turnaround time and quick responses to customer feedback.


      Consistent service delivery is a make or break for large quick service restaurants. Working with a partner like Wooqer to automate restaurant operations can help you ensure customers get the same experience each time, every time.


      For more information, visit QSR solutions page. 

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