In a competitive marketplace where you not only strive to win business from competing local stores, but also online stores which can compete from virtually anywhere, the customer experience and service a shopper receives from the time they enter your store until the time they leave (hopefully with a shopping cart full of your merchandise!) is probably the single most important area of differentiation on which you can focus. BUT…
It’s also the most difficult to reliably track and monitor.
The minimum you can do is shop your store as a DIY project:
- Call into the store and ask for help.
- Try an find something in the aisles from the customers’ point-of-view.
- Go the through the checkout process (especially if you have a self-checkout — those things always have problems!)
- Do a check of the restrooms and supplies.
- Go out on the floor and listen to your team interact with customers and each other.
In regard to “just listening” — I visited a United Dairy Farmer for a gas fill-up and to buy a couple soft drinks during a roadtrip yesterday and my entire checkout experience consisted of listening to my cashier tell her co-worker about how she told their manager she wasn’t going to be working at some other location because she didn’t get paid enough to drive that far. There was no customer greeting, there was no good-bye, just an unhappy employee sharing her unhappiness loudly and publicly (there were at least 5 or 6 other customers in the store and within earshot) while representing the UDF brand.
To get a really quick glimpse of what your customers experience, you might take a page from the book Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless. Author Jeffrey Gitomer suggests calling your company ten minutes before you open or fifteen minutes after you close, and try to place an order. That could be a real wake-up call.
Some stores (especially the larger ones) have formal Secret Shopper or Mystery Shopper programs and monitoring, but many times the staff will know they are being “shopped” because they (or another employee) recognize the person who will be evaluating them (not-so Secret after all!) Sometimes even the floor manager will alert the team to be on their guard and expect a Secret Shopper on specific dates or hours. Hardly a fair assessment. Plus, services like these can be very expensive.
What if you could find a reliable Secret Shopper service that allowed you to request services as-needed, track the specific criteria in which you’re interested, and not have to worry about your team recognizing them as another employee of the company?
Welcome to the world of Crowdsourced Secret Shoppers!
I’ve found a few online services to share with you that utilize the power of mobile networks to issue secret shopper “challenges” for which the users (the “crowd”) are promised rewards in exchange for sharing details of their shopping experience with you. Here are some apps and websites I tracked down to share with you…
Mobee promotes itself as a fun way their users can earn money from their smart phones, paying out thousands of dollars to their crowdsourced Mystery Shoppers everyday. Registered users check their app for “missions” at stores who have agreed to pay them in exchange for performing specific tasks and providing a review. Once a user is inside the store, they start the mission. The app asks them 5-10 questions which take a few minutes to answer. Once completed, the Mobee team manually verifies responses for quality and assigns the user points that can be redeemed for gift cards, prizes, or cash. Mobee’s analytics can be used to help retailers with store operations and traffic, employee training, and even provide competitive intelligence. If you’re interested in seeing how it works, you can schedule a free demo. The company has received positive media coverage from Business Insider, Mashable, Boston Business Journal, and Fox News.
Field Agent uses registered “agents” armed with mobile phones to collect competitive data (price shopping, brand availability, etc.) along with photos, video, audio, surveys and more — all collected with a mobile phone and reported back to Field Agent HQ in real-time. Agents download an app to their phone, complete an agent profile, and can start looking for assignments in their area.
Assignments typically pay between $3 and $12 to accomplish tasks that vary from visiting a local store and taking a photo of a specific product on a shelf, to asking shopper survey questions of their friends and entering answers into the app. There are thousands of Field Agents registered nationwide (and they continue to recruit more members everyday). If you’d like a glimpse at the data they can collect and crunch, download the free “Groceries 2.0” report from their website.
Field Agent is serving-up assignments from high-profile brands such as GE, Unilever, Walgreens, and Coca-Cola.
StreetSpotr is used by companies like Nestle, P&G, and RedBull to provide feedback on store promotions and merchandising. Streetspotr pays mobile phone users to collect photos and information about businesses and products. The StreetSpotrs report store cleanliness, inventory levels, store information, and more. You pay one fee and StreetSpotr rallies as many members of its street team as needed in order to provide the data and sampling you requested. At this time Streetspotr is operating primarily in Europe, but visit their website and join their notification list to find out when their service will be available in your area.
If you decide to give any of these services a try, drop Midwest Retail Services a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know how your secret shopper crowdsource efforts turned out!