Today’s consumers expect strong mobile sites, want flexible fulfillment options, and use a variety of channels to research and make purchases. Brands must deliver superior experiences and support at each of these touchpoints if they want to stay competitive in today’s retail environment.
To understand how brands are evolving to stay ahead in this new market, Astound Commerce Insights evaluated the desktop, mobile, and in-store experiences of 50 global brand retailers in its new 2017 Global Mystery Shopping Study. The firm measured the branding, customer experience and services delivered through 206 metrics across eight common shopping scenarios, including site browsing, product search, customer service access and queries, and visiting Chicagoland physical stores when available.
Based on these metrics, the top 10 performing brands for customer experience across channels are (in alphabetical order):
- The North Face
- Steve Madden
- Tory Burch
- Under Armour
- Bobbi Brown
“The world’s top brands have a strong mix of digital capabilities both online and in store and almost always lead with brand, embrace strategic merchandising and offer convenience and simplicity at every touchpoint,” said Lauren Freedman, SVP of digital strategy at Astound Commerce, in a news release. “Shoppers are increasingly looking to brands to deliver more engaging experiences, and the investment among brands in more sophisticated features is a direct response to these expectations and the sophistication of many of their retail partners and competitors.”
To further support the mystery shopping findings, Astound drew from its recently released 2017 Global Brand Consumer Insights Study, which surveyed 1,000 consumers who shop online and have visited brand manufacturer websites in the past 6 months. These consumer statistics dovetail with the findings and reinforce the mystery shopping observations.
Product browsing and search have matured
Online browsing and product search are fundamental to the digital purchase process and form the foundation of every digital shopper journey. In fact, 65 percent of consumers reported onsite search and navigation is “very important” in the shopping process.
The mystery shopping report found that brands are raising the bar in a variety of ways:
- Top performers can do it all: Lancome, Keurig, and Steve Madden were the top three performers for the browse the online site scenario, offering winning combinations of homepage branding, merchandising, and free shipping to draw in consumers.
- Search is more efficient: Type ahead or autocomplete search options are now a feature on 76 percent of sites, while visual search is offered on half of sites surveyed, suggesting that search is trending towards a more sophisticated experience beyond simple keyword capability. With one in three shoppers finding sizing, product finders and customer tools very important, global brands are making choices in the tactics they use to merchandise the shopping experience:
- Video deployment is aggressive: Just under half (48 percent) are positioning it at the category level with product configurators enabling customized product and interactive tools/profilers on one in four sites to guide decision-making.
- Merchandising tactics are taking a back seat in their execution: Tactics including top sellers, exclusives and trending now are seeing less than 50 percent penetration across the global brand landscape.
Brand connections are key to consumer loyalty
For brands today, offering a full set of customer service options, including prompt responses to questions and requests, is a necessity. Four in ten online shoppers expect expert service from brands online. Mystery shopping customer service findings include:
- Self-service needs work: Less than a third of brands surveyed had searchable FAQs, making it difficult to quickly find answers for the majority of these companies without getting directly in touch.
- Response times vary: Forty percent of brands offer live chat, and just 14 percent offer customer service on Twitter. It takes an average of 9.25 minutes for a live chat response, and 59 minutes for a Twitter response.
Tech has a presence in brick-and-mortar
While many in the retail industry have predicted the demise of physical stores, the study found that successful global brands are evolving their stores to ensure they still play a large role in the shopping experience. With 59 percent of consumers reporting the brand experience is better accomplished in the physical store, brands are investing in technology to facilitate deeper consumer engagement. Notable findings on the in-store shopping experience include:
- In-store tech adoption is increasing: Forty percent of brands provided tablets or digital screens in store.
- Advanced inventory transparency is a reality for top brands: Eighty-three percent of brands could find inventory across channels and place an order, but 17 percent still had to pick up the phone and call a store to confirm inventory or place an order.
Download the report here.