Why mystery shopping is more important than ever in a digital world

If you’re a bricks and mortar retailer, there’s no doubt the growth of online shopping has significantly disrupted your business.

In 2015, less than 10% of Australians used a mobile device to make an online purchase.  We're currently the world's tenth largest e-commerce marketplace by revenue, and pundits tip this to grow to about A$35.2 billion by 2021.

Last year we spent A$28.6 billion online in 2018 – and as of January this year, the digital marketplace comprises 9% of our nation’s total retail spend.

However, traditional retail still has an advantage over online shopping – and that’s CX or customer experience. And, as the digital marketplace grows, the human factor will only become more significant for consumers.

Human is where it's at.

No digital store can compete with being able to touch and try products, see how they make us look and feel, and interact with highly trained service staff who can create a more meaningful and, well, human experience.

Experiential marketing – creating a genuinely pleasurable interaction between your brand and your customers – is growing at almost the same rate as e-commerce. Strangely, just when buying products and services move into the digisphere, people are looking to reconnect more authentically with actual humans.

You can harness the power of this paradox for your business by really listening to your customers.

Studies show evoking a positive experience has three times the impact of a neutral experience (let alone a negative one) when it comes to whether a customer chooses your brand over your competitors.

But how do you know when your customers' shopping experiences are primarily positive? What elements of your brand experience are letting you down? On which areas do you need to work?

Discovering what they like and dislike about your brand experience, gathering measurable and actionable data, and executing well-informed strategies designed to delight and incentivise them is the new key to bricks and mortar business survival in a digital world.

Mystery shopping evaluates your experiential smarts.

To compete with the threat of e-commerce, you and your people need to be at the top of your game. And that means having a consistent, integrated and interactive offering from the game.And that means having a consistent, integrated and interactive offering from the moment a customer walks through the door to their experience at checkout and beyond.

Yes,you could use one of those ubiquitous ‘smiley face’ tablet apps. But these ignore all context of the customer’s response and give no actionable steps to how exactly you can change a negative or neutral response into a positive one.

You could spend thousands on online surveys that are frequented by seasoned responders who know just how to get through screening for a chance of a $20 JB HiFi voucher. But you’d risk data bias or survey fatigue – you’ve got no idea whether they really do shop at your store and so you can take the results with a grain of salt.

Like anything in life, you get what you pay for – and the only way to get accurate,actionable data you can base costly business decisions on is through face to face intercepts or mystery shopping.

Professional mystery shoppers are experts at delivering unbiased customer insights about their experience from the time they enter your premises to the moment they leave. You can customise what they lookout for, which means you can get real information to help you improve your processes and boost your brand experience.

The data gleaned from mystery shopping helps you:

  • Get an insider's perspective of what your customers experience daily.
  • See how satisfied your customers are with your store,products and services.
  • Honestly assess operating procedures.
  • Take an anonymous audit of how each of youremployees interacts with your customers.
  • Make informed decisions about future training and hiring needs.
  • Get insider knowledge about whether your key brand messages are making an impact.

There’s really no substitute to mystery shopping for discovering exactly how your store processes work and what your customers really think about you.

When handled the right way, it provides valuable, ongoing data you can use to make concrete business decisions that will boost brand loyalty, positive word of mouth and repeat customers.

And that kind of business knowledge is priceless.