Uncover Secrets with a Secret Shopper Program
Customer experiences, unique offerings and a loyalty program are three keys to success in today’s retail landscape. A solid secret shopper strategy can contribute to all three AND uncover valuable information to keep you ahead of the competition.
Secret Shopper Role #1 Your Store Experience
We all know, your customer comes to your store not only for the merchandise, but also for the in-store experience you provide. You know the experience is perfect when you are on the floor, but are you sure it’s the same when you are not? Enter Secret Shopper Role #1. Send a shopper or two to your store specifically on a day you will not be there. Arm the shoppers with a list of items you’d like them to observe. Some common items: Were you greeted when you entered? Did the store look neat and clean? Was staff visible, approachable and engaging with customers and/or merchandise? Was the register staffed? Was the line moving efficiently? You get the idea. The Secret Shopper will provide you with the answers on a form, a narrative, or an interview. Spot check frequently to make sure all your staff is evaluated. Uncover opportunities to improve and design systems and training to get you there.
Secret Shopper Role #2 Your Competition
Your customers come to your store for merchandise, service and experience that your competitors don’t offer. When was the last time you went to your competitors to see what they are up to? You are busy and your competitor may know you so your visit may not happen and if it does, it may not reveal much. Enter Secret Shopper Role #2. Send a shopper or two to your competitor to check out their current merchandising mix, services and in-store experience. Again arm them with specific items to observe. Some common items: Do they offer any merchandise you don’t that you should? How do your prices compare to their prices on the same item? Does the store offer any add on service that you don’t (For example, free gift wrap or free delivery)? Amenities? Is their layout easy to shop? Does it build a sale? What types of display do they use? Are displays engaging and effective? You can be very specific with product categories, specific products, specific brands, specific services, etc. or leave the questions open ended. You can also ask all the customer service questions you ask in your own store. As in your store, the Secret Shopper will provide answers on a form, in a narrative or interview. I suggest you scout your competition early in a new season when they are most likely to have a store filled with new product. Look for opportunities to improve your store to keep ahead of your competition.
So how do you connect this to Loyalty?
Your most loyal customers are your best fans and your store is their favorite. They LOVE your store and experience. They know your standards. They know your product. They understand how you promote. Who better to evaluate you and your competition? These customers want to feel special and a part of your brand. Build a way to enlist them as Secret Shoppers and give them a great loyalty reward for their service. They want you to succeed and will be honored you asked them to help you.
Other Secret Shopper Sources
Secret Shopping could be a project you do with a local high school or college class. Use a different class each quarter to keep the shoppers fresh. It could also be an activity done by members of a Youth Advisory Board. Some stores want to cultivate a youth customer. An active and participatory advisory board is a great way to start. Many department stores used to do this back in the 1940’s-50’s. Members were given a behind the scenes look at all phases of the business and participatory activities to immerse them in retail. It’s a huge win for you. You get a youthful perspective while training new employees or helping to develop a new generation of retailers.
You can hire Secret Shoppers too. Need help with your Secret Shopping program? Contact Anne Cecil, firstname.lastname@example.org