A Cost Analysis of Digital Checklists vs. Paper Processes in Retail Stores

By Lin Chang May 20, 2021 Blog, Retail
retail store manager

When people see the phrase “cost analysis,” most immediately think of numbers. So let’s take a look at what the latest reports are saying about the status of the retail industry.

According to Fujitsu:

  • More than half of their respondents said their stores operate in an extremely competitive (12%) or very competitive (40%) environment.
  • The highest-priority business objectives included making budget targets (65%), increasing productivity (67%), making sales targets (65%), and reducing costs (63%).

The Fujitsu report also points out that “virtually all retailers have one thing in common: They use technology. Their industry is more competitive than most, with low margins the norm. There are many commercial imperatives driving them to constantly seek an advantage, no matter how small, over their rivals.”

Deloitte would agree. Their report found a majority of retailers expect a continued increase in demand for digital engagement through 2021. However, only 3 in 10 executives rated their organizations as having mature digital capabilities; therefore, many are planning “major” investments in e-commerce, contactless capabilities, and store technology upgrades.

Those quick snapshots of the industry show why the cost analysis of moving paper-based processes to a digital solution is being prioritized by so many brands.

Paper Problems

As noted above, retail managers must ensure each store is operating within budget while presenting the superb customer experience that generates sales. Managers who don’t have the latest technological tools to minimize their administrative burden can’t prioritize time for leadership activities or mentoring their teams.

One of the largest – and most unnecessary – time drains is using paper forms, usually combined with computerized spreadsheets, to document compliance with public health and safety regulations, merchandising promotions, and your chain’s operational goals and brand standards. Here’s how these paper processes diminish your operational resources:

  • Time — for your staff members to fill them out, management to document them, auditors to confirm them, and operational staff to file and save them, and then locate and compile them for any external audits. It may be instructive to determine your actual costs by multiplying the time invested per week by the hourly pay rate of each employee involved.
  • Material costs: What does your chain pay to purchase and keep the shelves of clipboards, binders, filing cabinets, and the reams of paper and copies that are required for your current processes? Not just for one store, but for your whole chain? And you’ll notice we didn’t even mention the square footage required to house all this paper.
  • Accuracy: When this sort of record-keeping is done by hand and then transcribed any number of times, mistakes can be inadvertently introduced at any point. This is even assuming that each checklist and form is filled out both correctly and completely and that each spreadsheet is properly calculated and saved. It also doesn’t reflect real concerns that paperwork may deliberately be filled out incompletely or dishonestly (a practice called pencil whipping), misplaced, misfiled, damaged, etc. Finally, to refer back to concerns about time, it can take days, even weeks, for any paper document to make its way from the store clipboard to the organizational level – during which time any part of the collected data may become outdated.
  • Delayed or subjective decision-making: You can see why it’s unadvised or impossible to weave data from every store into any sort of overarching snapshot of the whole business. If you wait for data to be processed, you knowingly make decisions based on an obsolete assessment. If you can’t wait for the data, you have no choice but to make decisions based on instinct or anecdotal information. We’ve established that financial considerations are critical in the retail industry. How much money could your chain have saved, or made on missed opportunities, if you had instant and effortless access to data from every store in real time?

Going Digital

To end paper-based administrative documentation, all you need are digital checklists and mobile field audits – and all you need for those is a single cloud-based app and a smartphone. Since it’s reported that, as of April 2021, 85% of Americans own a smartphone, it’s not likely that they’ll need any extra equipment. It is, however, likely that they’re already accessing them at work: It’s estimated that, in 2020, more than 65% of Americans checked their phones up to 160 times a day. So the benefits of mobile technology to your stores can range from minor cost savings in daily administration to significant improvements in operational efforts that improve the customer experience and lead to increased sales.

Here’s how it works. When all your daily checklists, merchandising forms, and processes are available digitally through an app, it takes any employee only a minute to open up the right form and fill it out with a few swipes, taps, even photos or video. Every entry is automatically tagged with the employee’s name, time, and location, and becomes your business’ legal record. Further, every entry is immediately uploaded into the app’s dashboard and is available throughout your organization at any time. Your chain accomplishes complete transparency and accountability while actually reducing administrative effort. Potential problems or insufficiencies can be uncovered within hours, not days or weeks. The app also houses your action plan templates, so it’s easy to make and assign a plan to relevant team members that includes deadlines, automatic reminders, and notifications upon completion.

Digital, mobile field audit apps also store all the information from every checklist and form from every store in one central, continuously up-to-date dashboard. The app’s built-in data analytics make it easy to perceive trends and act quickly to support a struggling store or maximize opportunities. Finally, when your chain is no longer spending time on paper documentation, your team can more easily prioritize goals like building a consistently exceptional customer experience.

The Statistics On MeazureUp

MeazureUp includes exactly the digital, mobile checklist and field audit solutions we’ve described here. So, in the spirit of cost analysis, let’s consider what clients and online reviewers say about it:

  • Clients report an estimated 30% reduction in overhead.
  • Others report they conduct assessments 50% faster, reducing both time and material costs.
  • MeazureUp has received 95% positive reviews, and 97% would recommend to a colleague.

Here’s one final statistic: MeazureUp offers a free trial for new users, after which the user fee starts at $20 per month. For more analysis of MeazureUp’s benefits to your retail chain, try it out today.