To really understand the customer journey, you’ve got to take it yourself. That’s why we stepped in consumers’ shoes for our Global Mystery Shopping Study. We walked through eight different shopping scenarios with 50 global brands to learn where they're succeeding and where they’re falling short. As mystery shoppers, our team simulated purchasing products, researched items and tested customer service options across desktop, mobile and in-store channels.
We uncovered the online and in-store features dominating the market, common pitfalls in shopping experiences, and the brands that are coming out on top.
These Global Brands Are Winning the Customer Experience Game
We ranked brands by 206 metrics across customer service quality, ease of purchase, availability of information and more. Of the 50 brands studied, 10 emerged on top:
The top store-based brands, in alphabetical order, are:
- Steve Madden
- The North Face
- Tory Burch
- Under Armour
The top online-only brands or those with no Chicagoland locations are:
- Bobbi Brown
Brand leaders aiming to improve their customer shopping experiences should take a mystery shopping tour of these companies themselves.
Branding, Merchandising and Customer Service Are Becoming More Sophisticated
Customers want strong impressions from brands, and many are delivering. The best brands possess a combination of homepage branding, strategic top-line organization and social savvy. Also, 44 percent offer unconditional free shipping, a factor that customers critically value, while only 2 percent of brands don’t have any free shipping promotions whatsoever.
And that’s not the only thing that the best brands are mastering. Merchandising is improving, with 86 percent of brands highlighting products with “what’s new” features, 54 percent using themed/seasonal promotions, and 40 percent showcasing top sellers. Currently, 22 percent offer loyalty programs, a number likely to grow as more brands prioritize retention’s role in revenue generation. For other brand sellers, resources appear to be limited and merchandising isn't a typical core competency.
Brands are also prioritizing excellent customer service by providing several options for shoppers to reach out. Call centers remain the most efficient way for shoppers to solve problems and ask questions, with an impressive average engagement time of 4.60 minutes. Live chat is currently available at four out of 10 global brands, and 14 percent offer customer help through Twitter. Some brands were able to address customer concerns on Twitter within minutes: Apple came out on top with nine minutes to resolve, while Under Armour and TOMS solved issues in 10 minutes and 12 minutes, respectively. As customers demand faster and more diverse ways to interact with brands, these features are likely to grow more popular.
Customers Want In-Store Tech, But Not All Brands Are Keeping Up
In-store technology gives consumers and sales associates flexibility. With tablets, kiosks and other digital screens, associates can quickly check inventory across stores, place orders for delivery, and more.
Surprisingly, not all brands are using in-store technology to their full advantage. While 83 percent of store-based brands can access inventory information, they’re primarily doing it through the register (which might be more time consuming for shoppers than using dedicated devices like tablets).
For the handful of stores that used technology (17 percent), only 40 percent of those brands used tablets and digital screens in-store. However, the ones that have this technology enabled find creative ways to use it. TOMS, for example, uses digital screens in-store to tell its brand story.
Global brands are blurring the line between digital and in-store experiences, and that’s a good thing. It’s critical to perfect digital offerings and integrate technology into physical locations to create seamless transitions across channels for customers. Brands that can master both digital and brick-and-mortar frontiers will give consumers greater convenience, choice and satisfaction.
Lauren Freedman is the senior vice president of digital strategy and chief merchant of Astound Commerce, a global digital commerce agency.
Related story: Which Retailers Are Winning at Customer Service?