Imagine a shopper is in the market for a new pair of headphones. Maybe they work in music, are into gaming, or have a podcast.
After doing hours upon hours of research, they've found them, the perfect headphones. They have every quality that the shopper needs, and the price beats out the competitors. They learn that these headphones are sold at their local electronics retailer and head on over to purchase them.
However, once they get to the store, they notice a few things. Some of the shelves are looking a little barren. There's a display near the door for a different product, and the electronic screens that are meant to be interactive appear to be damaged.
The customer heads over to the shelves where the headphones should be and looks around. They do a double-check, even a triple-check, but the headphones aren't there. There's an empty spot on the shelf where they should be. How disappointing.
On the same shelf next to the empty spot is a different brand of headphones, the shopper's second choice. They decide to purchase those instead and leave the store.
In this example, the original headphone brand lost out on a guaranteed sale because their products were out-of-stock. Combined with the other store inefficiencies, this looks like it could be a reoccurring issue.
According to the Journal of Consumer Research, brands and retailers end up sacrificing between 8 percent and 15 percent of their sales because of out-of-stock items. If this happens enough, shoppers might choose to permanently abandon the offending brand.
But how can brands know the state of their products and displays without going into every store? How can they fix what they can't see?
This is where retail shopper insights comes in.
What Are Shopper Insights?
All research on the customer path-to-purchase, from the moment they look up a product, to leaving a review after they've made a purchase, is shopper insights. This can include information on topics such as:
- Why customers are buying
- How shoppers feel while they're in-store
- How your displays are performing
- If your items are in-stock and in good condition
- How difficult it is to find your products
All of this info and more can affect how a shopper makes their purchasing decisions, which is why it's so important to have when making business decisions.
How to Improve Your Shopper Insights
So how do brands make sure that they have access to the shopper insights that they need? By getting as much information as they possibly can directly from inside the stores.
There's a lot of research that goes into gathering successful and accurate shopper insights, and it's important that you gather multiple data points to ensure your information is well-developed.
There are a variety of ways for brands to collect this data, including:
- Customer surveys and reviews
- Retail auditing reports
- Mystery shopper reports
- Each of these methods has a place in shopper insights
Customer surveys can tell the satisfaction level of the shoppers purchasing your products, while auditing stores and using mystery shoppers can inform you on things like shelf health, adjacencies, competitor trends, and more. Both hard data and the shopper sentiments are equally essential when it comes to forming a strategy for improving the consumer experience.
What is Retail Auditing?
Retail auditing is the act of data collection from brick-and-mortar store locations to gather information on merchandising compliance, adjacencies, inventory levels, store associate knowledge, and many more shelf-level metrics. Retail auditing can be conducted by brands’ and retailers’ in-house teams or third-party market research firms or data providers.
The Benefits of Retail Auditing
Retail auditing can uncover a wide variety of metrics relevant to your business. It can be the ideal solution whether you need data on store associates and consumer behavior or details on merchandising or any other in-store element.
For example, retail audits look at:
- Inventory levels
- Shelf space
- Display compliance
- Item cannibalization
- Store associate knowledge
- Checkout experience
- Product condition
- Product prices and promotions
- Store cleanliness
- And much more!
The core benefits of retail audits are timely, cost-effective, and scalable data collection and data aggregation. By utilizing in-store audits, you can quickly gather large datasets that are tailored to your exact specifications. Have questions about merchandising compliance? Customize an audit around that. Unsure about store operational performance? Audit locations to get ahead of any potential issues, implement corrective actions, and ensure effective ops.
Furthermore, retail auditing doesn’t have to be conducted by someone related to your business, such as field merchandisers or contracted market research firms. One additional strategy is to employ mystery shoppers to get store data, as there is a larger pool of mystery shoppers than employees and data can be collected more quickly and across more store locations.
What is Mystery Shopping?
Mystery shopping is the strategy of deploying shoppers not known to the retailer into brick-and-mortar store locations to report on conditions. How mystery shopping is conducted has evolved over time, first completed with paper questionnaires or audio and video recordings. Today, mystery shopping is much more refined.
The reason is the proliferation of smartphones. Nearly every consumer is armed with a smartphone, and many already use them in stores to compare prices, read reviews, and find the best deals. Therefore, the next logical step in mystery shopping was to create a mobile application that brought your questions directly to consumers’ fingertips.
This is crowdsourcing, more specifically known as smartphone-enabled mystery shopping.
How Crowdsourced Mystery Shopping Benefits a Business
Crowdsourced mystery shopping and retail auditing go hand in hand. By crowdsourcing your retail audits, you gain access to a much larger network of shoppers than you’d otherwise have internally. That means more access, more data, and quicker results, plus a more cost-effective solution than using employees.
Best of all, crowdsourcing your retail audits allows you to be more proactive with your in-store research. You can have a questionnaire created that addresses all your needs, and then have those questions uploaded to a mystery shopping mobile app. Consumers across the U.S. can access that questionnaire on their own schedules, providing you around-the-clock and cross-country datasets. This approach is often preferred to reactive deployment of in-house teams upon learning of an in-store issue.
All in all, crowdsourced retail audits help identify problems before they impact sales, allowing you to quickly correct compliance or operational execution.
What is MAP Monitoring
MAP monitoring is the routine process of reviewing the prices of your online retailers across all marketplaces to identify MAP compliance. Your focus should shift to MAP monitoring once you have an established MAP policy.
Like with MAP pricing as a whole, the act of monitoring provides unique benefits to your business.
The Value of MAP Monitoring
Brands and manufacturers that regularly monitor their online retailers for MAP compliance are in a much better position to protect their reputations and margins than those who don’t.
MAP monitoring is beneficial because it will show you each of your product’s prices, who is selling that product, and where that product is being sold. This information is incredibly valuable. Once in your hands, you can determine if those resellers are authorized by you or not. You can contact any noncompliant or unauthorized seller and request corrective action—in some cases, even turning unauthorized sellers into authorized ones.
Furthermore, MAP monitoring should also be encouraged by your authorized sellers. Given that unauthorized sellers are more likely to price too low—contributing to price wars—authorized partners would have to follow suit and drop prices as well.
Online price wars affect brick-and-mortar channels as well. When a B&M retailer sees your products available at an online competitor for less money, they will try to negotiate lower pricing with your brand. This can, in turn, hurt your margins and revenue. Catching MAP violators early and often will decrease the odds of these scenarios occurring.
Overall, MAP monitoring allows you to track how effective your distribution partners are at maintaining your brand, and your brand’s price perception is everything.
Get Started with Wiser’s Crowdsourced Retail Auditing
Diving into the world of crowdsourced retail auditing is relatively simple. That’s because, at Wiser, our smartphone application connects you to a nationwide network of secret shoppers, and we do the heavy lifting when it comes to deploying those shoppers, validating the data, and presenting it in an easy-to-use custom online dashboard.
Eager to get started? The first step is to identify what KPIs are most important to you. Let’s quickly recap part of what crowdsourced retail auditing can uncover:
- Merchandising and display compliance
- Shelf health
- Planogram compliance
- Store associate knowledge
- Checkout experience
- Inventory levels
- And much more!
How do your brick-and-mortar problems fit into these—or related—categories? Mystery shoppers can evaluate nearly every front-of-store feature, so there is no problem too big or too small to research. Once you know what you want to evaluate, we will help you:
Wiser will work with you to draft a set of questions to help benchmark your in-store performance. Our in-house team will create the questions for our mystery shoppers in-line with your overall business objectives. Importantly, we make sure the questions get at the heart of the issues you face and target your ideal shopper profiles. This way, your data will be more relevant and valuable.
Once the question set is created, it will be uploaded to Wiser’s mobile mystery shopping app. We do all the heavy lifting with organizing the secret shopping, getting your questions in front of the right audience, and aggregating the results for your review and analysis. Once on the app, it will become available for app users in a predetermined demographic to access and complete, connecting you directly to your ideal shoppers out of Wiser’s network of hundreds of thousands of shoppers across the U.S., Canada, and U.K.
Next, Wiser will conduct the mystery shopping—known on the mobile app as a mission—for a time period agreed upon by your business. It can be longer or shorter as needed. For example, many businesses conduct missions during key drive periods, such as Black Friday, or to coincide with the launch of a new product, promotion, or store location. It only takes a few days for the data to roll in, but longer time periods can lead to larger sample sizes.
Once shoppers provide their feedback via the mobile app, Wiser takes all that information and validates it for accuracy and relevancy. Our in-house team vets every survey response and eliminates any that don’t meet our data quality standards. Data can be rejected for a variety of reasons, including incomplete surveys, missing criteria such as photos of an in-store display, or answers that don’t relate to the questions. Once rejected, low-quality data never makes it to you. You only receive the best, most valuable data for your needs.
What happens to all that excellent brick-and-mortar data before it gets into your hands? It goes into our Wiser dashboard!
The dashboard is a custom-built online portal for each mission, incorporating only the data most relevant to your objectives. At the top of the dashboard is a broad overview of the survey results, typically including the number of responses, participant demographics, and survey time period. As you scroll down, you get more granular results closer toward the bottom of the page, including responses to specific questions you asked. All of this is visualized in graphs, charts, and tables for easy analysis. Photos of store conditions are also included if collected, and you can download the dashboard or the raw data as needed.
What to Do with Crowdsourced Shelf Intelligence
Now that you can see exactly what is going on inside brick-and-mortar stores, what can you do with all that data?
One of the more frustrating problems addressed by Wiser is a lack of proof of in-store issues. You may have a gut feeling—or have seen for yourself—broken in-store displays, out-of-stocks, missed activations, and other headaches, but can’t prove it later to your colleagues or superiors. And, you need that information to take corrective action.
Wiser is that proof. With our crowdsourced retail audits, you have data from thousands of mystery shoppers on your brand or retail locations. You can have pictures to accompany that data to show exactly what is wrong on the ground, plus visual charts and graphs to better illustrate your points.
Depending on the questions answered by our network of smartphone-enabled mystery shoppers, you can know:
- What the conditions are in multiple store locations
- What, if any, action has been taken by your teams, such as distributors, brokers, or store associates
- How individual stores compare to each other so you can prioritize corrective action
- How consumers behave in stores, from which product they’re likely to buy—and why—to how much they plan to spend, and more
Take corrective action once armed with this type of proof. Assign tasks to your relevant in-house party or schedule a fix for a later date. You can also use the data to influence your marketing campaigns, including future planograms, displays, promotions, and more. All the data you need to inspire positive change is at your fingertips.
How are shoppers feeling inside the store, while they shop for your products? Is the location inviting? How hard is it to find the products they need?
If you don't know these answers for sure, then Wiser's Retail Intelligence could be the solution you are looking for.
With this software, you can get ahead of any potential challenges you might find in-store by planning, measuring, and analyzing all of your critical data points. Wiser can help you get eyes and ears at the brick-and-mortar level, so you don't ever have to wonder what's going on in-store.
Wiser's Retail Intelligence is customized to your brand's needs, starting with a detailed campaign designed to capture the data relevant to your business. Then, the mystery shoppers are deployed and report back with current, accurate data from inside stores. Lastly, this data is delivered to you seamlessly in easy-to-read reports via your Wiser dashboard.
With these reports you'll gain a variety of data, including:
- Shopper Sentiments
- Retailer Insights
- Competitive and Category Intelligence
- Merchandising Accuracy
- Shelf Health
- Product Recommendations
- On-Premise Insights
This information and more is available right at your fingertips with Retail Intelligence, so that you can make informed data-driven decisions on how to improve the customer experience.
Contact Wiser today to learn more.
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