How to Implement and Verify a Planogram

By Vladik Rikhter


Congratulations! You’ve perfected your retail planograms – the visual representations of where you intend to position products in the store or on the shelf.

You’ve studied your stores’ demographics and have fine-tuned your merchandise selection. It’s a job well done but truthfully, it’s only one-third of the battle in maximizing your revenue.

Two Challenges Remain: Implementing and Verifying Your Planogram

Achieving 100-percent compliance is very difficult. It’s even more challenging when you don’t have the right tools that help you respond quickly to a problem.

A planogram – no matter how well designed – doesn’t account for real-life situations that require employee response.

Here are three instances where compliance gets complicated, and what you can do to get a handle on changing conditions:

1. There’s a disconnect between corporate and store data

The merchandise planner at corporate headquarters didn’t account for a local buying pattern that results in out of stocks or poor use of shelf-space.

Take action: Gathering feedback from your partners – store managers, employees and vendors – is crucial to maintaining your planogram. Have employees report exceptions in real time using their mobile device. Scan bar codes and use a QR reader to gather as much product information as you can. Immediately notify vendors of out-of-stocks.

2. Your store has maintenance challenges

The number of shelves and peg hooks has been miscalculated. Shelves should have been cleaned and there are some broken fixtures. Employees are not performing daily recovery to maintain the display’s appearance.

Take action: Before implementing the planogram, have store managers verify the setup by taking photos or video. Schedule a store audit when a new product rolls out to ensure that shelves are neat and all fixtures are in working condition. Implementing and verifying a planogram are team efforts. Make sure you have the capability to track employee tasks.

3. Store personnel are making errors placing product

Mistakes happen. Busy store personnel fill an empty space with a product not specified in the planogram. The consumer looking for the right product may think it’s out of stock even if it’s not. Additionally, shelf tags aren’t printed clearly and the wrong price is listed.

Take action: Conduct retail sales audits on a regular basis, and especially if a new or seasonal promotion is underway. Human error is bound to occur, but routinely verifying your merchandise through survey and image data will help you learn from mistakes that impact your bottom line.

Photo via Caden Crawford

Topics: Business Operations, Retail

Going Paperless is Worthless Without a Process

By Brian Harris


“One of the advantages of being disorganized is that one is always having surprising discoveries.”
A.A. Milne
Author of “The Winnie-the-Pooh” series

Perhaps being disorganized is an advantage when you’re writing about the fictional adventures of a teddy bear. But when you’re operating a business, surprising discoveries that impact your bottom line are not fun. Staying organized is imperative to your success.

Going paperless is a great way to get organized and is widely considered the way of the future. Before you make the transition, however, you should ask yourself how a paperless system will directly benefit your business. If you’re making the switch just to save a few thousand dollars in paper, ink and man hours, it’s most likely trivial to your bottom line.

A paperless system is worthless if you can’t easily analyze the data and more importantly, gain actionable insights. Furthermore, it will not fix underlying inefficiencies in your organization.

These inefficiencies may include:

  • Lack of a uniform reporting system that collects and organizes data
  • Lack of ability to quickly take action when retail exceptions are detected
  • Ongoing maintenance problems that are neither reported nor addressed
  • Lack of executive or managerial oversight in the form of audits
  • Lack of employee accountability

So, how can you address inefficiencies while moving to a paperless operation?

Reevaluate your process

Consider how paper forms are currently being used in your business. Revisit your goals. If you use surveys or checklists to maintain your operation, are you asking the right questions? If you identify an inefficiency, don’t settle for the explanation “it’s just how we’ve always done it.” It might be time for your process to change.

Evaluate Software

Choose mobile software that allows you to easily create forms to collect data. The same forms must be used across the organization, so that data analysis is accurate.

A superior solution will provide a timestamp and GPS locator to improve reporting accuracy. It will also have helpful tools like bar code readers, QR code readers and photo/video sharing.

Make auditing a regular part of your operation

Equipped with the right tools, an employee at any location can access a standardized form using his or her mobile device, and report data for analysis.

Having the ability to track results in real time improves accountability and communication, making everyone’s job a bit easier.

As Winnie-the-Pooh’s friend Eeyore once said, “A little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference.”

5 Steps for Conducting a Retail Sales Audit

By Vladik Rikhter

retail-sales-auditPhoto via derrickcollins, Flickr

How are your stores performing? If you are a retail executive, you ask yourself this every day. But, if you were asked how your stores are performing at this very minute, would you know the answer?

The report sitting on your filing cabinet won’t help you, but a real-time software solution will.

Gain Real-Time Retail Insight

Collect and analyze data from your retail sales audit by using a mobile app on your smartphone or tablet.

Before you begin your audit, consider your objectives. They may include:

  • Monitoring your products in relation to what your competitors offer
  • Making sure your stores are in compliance with your organization’s procedures and standards, as well as those mandated by law

Once your objectives are clear, here are five steps to follow:

1. Decide which device to use

Will managers use a smartphone or tablet to complete the survey? Is there WiFi at the store, is the location in a cellular black hole?

2. Create survey questions and decide values

The quality of the data you collect is crucial. Brevity is key, so don’t make the questions too long or complicated. Consider using a mix of “yes” and “no” questions, along with multiple choice questions that have assigned, measurable values. Although retail execution is abig focus of your audit, don’t forget to ask about your store’s curb appeal.

3. Take photos and videos as part of the routine

When you ask your managers to conduct an audit, you are asking them to be your eyes and ears in the field. Provide a way for them to easily share photos and videos with you. Photoscan helps you understand everything from product displays to maintenance needs.

4. Scan bar codes and QR codes

Gather definitive information about products quickly. If promotional materials aren’t correct or stock is running low, you can notify your vendors right away.

5. Be consistent

Inconsistent collection methods can compromise the quality of your data. Make sure employees who conduct the audits understand the industry and retail environment. Provide training so that employees are comfortable navigating the mobile app and using it to collect information.

A time-saving mobile solution will make the auditing process easier not only for your managers, but also for executives analyzing the data collected.

Topics: Retail, Sales Success

Why Real-Time Exception Reporting is Critical to Your Business

By Vladik Rikhter


We live in an amazing time. A colleague forwards a report that appears in your inbox within seconds. Your competitor announces a promotion, and you receive a Google news alert moments after it hits the wire.

Thanks to technology, the world moves in the blink of an eye.

So, why are you still waiting a week or longer to learn there’s a problem with your sales?

Often times, you’re waiting for a weekly report to arrive on your desk. You can’t address an issue without factual support. But, what if you had the ability to identify exceptions in real time, access supporting data and take immediate action?

Consider these two limitations in your current system:

  1. What good is having a ton of data without the ability to quickly identify exceptions?
  2. Similarly, what good is finding an exception without having tools that allow you to quickly address the problem?

That’s why real-time exception reporting can make a huge difference in your operation.

Take, for instance, this scenario:

The #EpicFail

Your stores have a new high-margin foodservice item that has been widely promoted. At the start of the day, a highly trafficked store is reporting an equipment failure. The store manager reports the problem, initiating the chain of command. A phone call to the district manager may result in a voicemail if he or she is in a meeting. Once this manager receives the message, there may be another message left for executives.

Too much time has passed. You are losing product sales in multiple dayparts, and the course of action for repairing the equipment remains unclear.

Take action sooner

Skip the game of telephone and make upper management aware of this problem immediately. If it’s a visible issue, have the employee take a photo with their cell phone. Executives will receive an exception notification on their mobile devices, along with the GPS location, time and date stamp of the submitted issue. They review the information and assign a member of the maintenance staff. Faster action results in faster recovery.

Don’t miss the big picture

An easy-to-use reporting system that identifies exceptions in real time is crucial to your success as a convenience store operator. You know that failure to respond quickly to maintenance issues can cause permanent damage to your brand.

Don’t allow such problems to undermine the quality that makes shopping at your store a memorable and positive experience.

Topics: Business Operations

10 Ways to Use Zenput In Retail Stores

By Brian Harris


1. Vendor Relations

  • Maintain positive relations with your vendors by abiding by your contracts.
  • See that your vendors’ products are displayed according to the contract.
  • Pass on exceptions in real-time to vendors.

2. Asset Surveys

  • Regularly implement asset surveys to keep track of new soda machines, roller grills, and other important assets inside your stores.
  • Ensure that important items have been delivered and properly set up.

3. Capture Best Practices

  • Implement best practices by identifying exceptional aspects of a particular store’s operation and applying those practices across all locations.
  • Share best practices in real-time within your organization.

4. Cleanliness

  • Ensure your stores are meeting the standards of your organization.
  • Take pictures of areas that need addressing.
  • Use historical tracking & trending to see what stores are consistently performing well and which stores need addressing.

5. Price Accuracy

  • Track pricing execution in real-time.
  • Track rollout of promotional pricing across the country.

6. Maintenance Management

  • Identify and notify responsibilities parties of maintenance issue.
  • Use photos to capture issues for team members.
  • Lower unnecessary travel to stores by accurately communicating issue at hand.

7. Food Safety

  • Maintain the safety of food prepared on location.
  • Take temperatures of heated/cooled products.
  • Check that food preparation stations are clean and sanitary.

8. Location Appearance

  • Attract customers by presenting your locations well.
  • Capture photos for problems like graffiti, unkept lawns, and dirty storefronts.

9. Brand Standards

  • Maintain a high brand standard by ensuring that locations positively present your brand.
  • Make sure employees’ performance is up to standard, brand signs are properly displayed, and brand products are of good quality.

10. Workspace Safety

  • Ensure workplace safety guidelines are being followed.
  • Walkways maintained, Emergency exits clearly identified, and Anti-slip mats and flooring used where appropriate.

Topics: How to be Successful with Zenput

5 Reasons Why Your Retail Sales Are Down

By Vladik Rikhter

bad retail sales promotion

If your retail sales are slumping, do you know why before the weekly report arrives? Real-time data tracking closes the gap between first learning of a problem and taking corrective action. 

Here are five reasons your retail sales may be down and how to be proactive:  

1. Your retail promotions are missing your actual promotion

Signage is missing in your store or inventory wasn’t placed in the right section. Customers simply aren’t aware of the product promotion.

Action: Instruct your team to take photos of displays as soon as promotional materials are set up. When employees share these images, management can ensure that displays are optimized and vendors provided the correct materials.



2. Shelves are missing product for too long

A shortage of product is a quick way to lose sales. Make sure product is readily available for customers who are making fast purchase decisions. 

Action: Notify vendors of exceptions in real time. Classify exceptions by category and track them by region, team or district. Keep everyone up to date with a mobile solution that has built-in barcode and QR code readers, as well as exception analysis.



3. Your beverage machines are broken for too long

Compared to other retailers, c-stores have a competitive advantage in offering a variety of dispensed beverages. However, you must consistently deliver quality in order to make your store a beverage destination.

Action: Using mobile reporting tools, managers can document broken or damaged beverage machines in real time. The reporting system’s advanced search function filters submissions and pinpoints problems, allowing executives to respond faster.



4. Your bathrooms make customers want to run out of your store

Dirty restrooms can negatively impact sales, especially in the foodservice category. Customers will also remember if your restrooms weren’t clean and might not return for this reason.

Action: Create custom surveys for store cleanliness. Are bathroom floors clean and trash containers empty? Keep employees accountable by tracking tasks. 



5. Your curbside appeal isn’t inviting to customers

How does your store look from the street? Has trash been picked up and have fuel dispensers been wiped down? Is the landscaping neat? At night, is your store brightly lit so that customers feel safe? 

Action: In addition to filling out electronic surveys, district managers can take photos and write captions from their mobile devices. This will help prepare maintenance staff before they arrive on site. Improving communication leads to more actionable plans.  

Retail Form Examples

Topics: Business Operations

Zenput at the NACS Show 2014

By Brian Harris

While at the NACS Show 2014 in Las Vegas, we decided to visit local convenience store chains to see how they were performing. Here is a high level overview of what we found.

Las Vegas Convenience Store Endcaps

Las Vegas Convenience Store Cold Boxes

Topics: Infographics

Walmart, Conveniently Set to Fail

By Julia Burnett


For years Walmart has lead the discount retail market space promising and delivering on “Every Day Low Prices”. But, despite their success and ability to operate on razor-thin margins, Walmart is not doing as well as they once were. But why? What has changed?

Increased Lateral Pressure

Target has always been a tough competitor for Walmart, although the two have slightly different consumers. Walmart focuses on offering the lowest prices to provide goods to lower/middle class consumers. Target on the other hand, provides slightly more expensive, yet still affordable products to middle class/lower-upper class customers. Although the two companies have different business goals and customers, they are still competitors and are constantly looking for ways in which to beat each other in the large superstore market.

At the beginning of the year, Kantar Retail conducted a study that compared prices between Walmart and Target. In the study, a basket full of the same products were gathered and prices were totaled:

Walmart: $248.96

Target: $258.47

The results showed that Target was a bit more expensive (3.8%), but not when the items were bought with Target's REDcard. After applying REDcard discounts, Target was actually 1.4% cheaper than Walmart. This came as a huge shock, considering Walmart has always based their business on providing the lowest prices.

Granted, not all Target customers have a Target REDcard. But if the company can effectively market and grow REDcard usage, it could seriously cut into Walmart's business.

[Read more about the study here]

Rise of Mid-Sized Stores

In addition to the retail threats from Target, Walmart is also feeling some hurt from smaller stores such as Walgreens and CVS. In the past, these stores were thought of as a convenience stores with a pharmacy. They had basic products for consumers to peruse while their prescriptions were being filled. But, that is not quite the case anymore.

Retail trends show that stores that focus on convenience are thriving as it is becoming a bigger and bigger factor for consumers. Shoppers are willing to sacrifice a bit on price, if they can get gas, groceries and prescription items all in one stop. As a result, these mid-sized stores are beefing up their products, making their stores more robust, and thus becoming a one-stop shop.

Walmart’s New Direction

Feeling the pressure in every direction, and following the growing trend of consumer convenience, Walmart is shrinking their stores in hopes of sizable gains. Currently Walmart is trying out three different types of smaller stores:

Neighborhood Market
Food/grocery focused
Currently 390 stores
Competitors: Safeway, Albertsons

Walmart Express
Just the basics (some with pharmacies)
Currently 21 stores
Competitors: Walgreens, CVS

Walmart To Go
Convenience store with 6 gas pumps
Currently 1 store
Competitors: Wawa, Mapco, and many other c-store chains

Will it work?

Walmart's hail-mary approach to retail will not work. The behemoth has the capital to get their feet wet, but lacks experience and small-store know-how. We saw this same desperation in the past when Walmart tried to capture additional revenue by changing their business model completely.

At the beginning of the recession, Walmart tried to gain middle-class consumers that were trying to save an extra buck. They tried classing up their stores with fashionable clothing and eye-grabbing products. This put Walmart in the ring with Target, the affordable-chic retailer, and it didn’t go so well. Instead of focusing on what had made them so successful, “everyday low prices,” Walmart turned their back to the blue-collar customers that made the company what it was.

Their most recent attempt to make a few extra dollars is no different. Convenience, like affordable-chic for Target, is more than just a trend. For long-time small store/c-store brands, convenience is their life and business model. Small stores know their mobile and on-the-go customers. They know what products work well in smaller stores. And, they have a leg up with thousands of stores and years of experience. Walmart can try and play in this arena for a while, but it's not what they do best. It's our belief that over time the retail giant will get squeezed out of the small store game, leaving convenience to the professionals.


Image Credit: Hilbers Incoporated

Do You Know About Submission History?

By Julia Burnett

Are you a Zenput Mobile User? If so, you probably noticed a change in the app yesterday, Submission History. If you haven't checked it out yet, here’s what you need to know!

Submission History serves two main purposes. Firstly, it allows you to keep track of your work. With a simple click you can see exactly what forms you’ve filled out and at what location. Secondly, it allows you to track new and ongoing issues at specific store locations. This helps you resolve problems before they are potentially costly.

What does this look like?
Submission History is accessible from two different channels, the Side Menu and from within a Form.




Accessing submission history through the Side Menu allows you to see the total list of all submissions.





Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 1.27.04 PM


Accessing Zenput from within a Form allows you to see all of your submissions from that specific location.
To learn more about Submission History click here!

Topics: Product Announcements

4 Tips to Running a Successful Promotion

By Julia Burnett

Running promotions across various stores can feel overwhelming. There is typically a set up, directions from vendors, and clunky displays. Many moving and detailed parts can make running a successful promotion challenging, but it doesn’t have to be that way. In this blog post, we are going to give you 4 tips to simplify the process and ensure promotions are being run properly within your stores.

1) Go Mobileretail ipad instore use
The first step is to go mobile with your operations. Mobile devices such as phones, tablets, and iPads are a quick and easy way to collect information about your business.

We recommend that you create forms or surveys that are either available to your team online or preferably onan easy-to-use mobile app. Going mobile means that your team can alert you and your vendors of a problem before it becomes costly. This could be anything from a problem with a display, to a mishap with the planogram, to a shortage of the product.

2) Take Photos
Photos encourage accountability from both your team and your vendors. When running a new promotion, instruct your team to take photos on their phones, iPad’s, or tablets as soon as the promotional materials are set up. Doing so in a timely manner will ensure that your store was sent the correct flyers, packaging, and stands from the vendor. Additionally, this will guarantee that your team is properly and punctually running the promotion.

3) Use Real-time Reporting
No matter what service you use to go mobile, we suggest that the service keeps you updated in real-time. This means that as soon as your team snaps a photo or fills out your audit, you should see those stats, graphs, and images right away. Gathering instant information from your store fronts helps you proactively identify and correct problems before the promotion is over or the vendor gets upset.

4) Bridge Communication Gaps
You, your vendors, and your team need to know that promotions and products are managed properly. A good way to do that is to regularly share data with all parties. This helps vendors know whether or not the store needs more promotional materials, and ensures that your team is properly running the promotion.

We know running promotions is a lot of work. But, with these tips you will be able to pinpoint problems you never knew existed, keep vendors in the loop, and allow your business to be more agile and efficient.