Mystery shoppers can help retailers personalize the buyer experience

In today's increasingly competitive economy, businesses cannot afford to provide less than stellar experiences for their customers.

In today's increasingly competitive economy, businesses cannot afford to provide less than stellar experiences for their customers. In an age when online shopping is simple, affordable and constantly available at consumers' fingertips, merchants need to provide strong incentives for people to visit brick-and-mortar locations. One way to keep sales up and customers happy is by personalizing the buyer experience.

In terms of retail, personalization is defined as tailoring a particular shopping experience to the needs and desires of a particular customer. By tracking past purchases, browsing histories and online wish lists, retailers and ecommerce store owners can target consumers with product ads and offers that suit their unique likes and dislikes.

Shoppers want personalization
A recent study completed by MyBuys found that when an online business goes the extra mile to personalize the shopping journey, buyers appreciate it and spent more. In fact, 53 percent of online purchasers stated that they bought more from merchant websites that made suggestions based on past and present actions. In addition, 48 percent said that they were inclined to buy more after receiving an email featuring items and offers chosen based on previous purchases. It's also worth noting that when an online retailer also operates a brick-and-mortar store, 47 percent of survey respondents stated that they would prefer a consistent personalized experience between the two channels.

Personalizing an in-store experience is more difficult than an online one, in part because the shop and its décor cannot shift based on who walks through the door. However, merchants need to find meaningful and memorable ways to personalize the experience for their clientele. By working with mystery shoppers, businesses can get an insider's view on whether their current methods of personalization work or need improvement. When handling mystery shoppers, it's important that retailers ask them to spot the following:

Interactive displays
The Future of Commerce reported that Harrod's in London is using technologically advanced clothing displays to generate a more personalized experience for shoppers. Fifteen window displays have been set up with interactive maps directing consumers to the collections in which they are most interested. Consumers are also afforded the option to make a purchase online if they so choose. Roughly 15 percent of shoppers bought items with their mobile devices.

Ask mystery shoppers to report on how well they felt the layout and design of a business appealed to their senses. Did the displays entice them to make a purchase? Did they have an opportunity to interact with products?

Excellent customer service
One thing that in-store experiences offer than online ones do not is the face-to-face interaction between a visitor and an employee. Customer service has to be top notch at businesses hoping to make a lasting impression on a customer. Loyal consumers return to their favorite locations because they feel they are treated with respect and their questions are answered accurately and quickly.

Mystery shoppers are excellent resources for discovering how well employees offer customers service. Well trained in the art of observation, recollection and insight, mystery shoppers can help store owners better understand what it's like for a new customer in a particular store. The first impression a customer gets is incredibly important when it comes to building loyalty. Ask mystery shoppers to note how quickly they were greeted and whether they were informed about current deals or promotions. Did they have questions that were answered quickly? Were they overwhelmed by personnel or comfortable with their presence?

Personalization is not just for online retailers. It is important for brick-and-mortar businesses to provide outstanding customer experiences to clientele, and mystery shoppers can help make that happen.