Mystery Shopping For Online Retailers – A New Way to See Your Business Through Your Customers’ Eyes

If you’re an online retailer, there is some good news in the holiday forecast – reports show that online shopping will increase this year due to many factors in the current economic situation, with a 10% increase in online buyers as compared to 2007. However, consumers are also going to be more selective as far as where they shop. Bargains and discounts will be the main focus, but usability and information provided by online retailers will also play a big part in a consumer’s decision to purchase. Is your site ready for the holiday season?

Online customer service is just as important, if not more so, than customer service provided in brick and mortar businesses. If a consumer is dissatisfied with a website, it is easier to close out of the site and go somewhere else than leaving if they are already in a store. This is the time that online retailers need to focus on customer service.

Online customer service varies from traditional brick and mortar customer service in a few ways. First, it is not only focused on employee interactions, professionalism, and knowledge. Online consumers want to shop at sites that are easy to navigate and offer the ability to quickly find items of interest. Furthermore, they want a simple, effective purchase process and options on methods of purchasing, whether it be completing an online transaction or placing an order via telephone. Finally, if they have questions, they want an easy way to contact the company with a quick response.

It can be difficult to continually monitor your online store to make sure the site is functional, not experiencing downtime, and everything is working properly. This is a challenge that can cost retailers revenue and consumer traffic, especially during the holiday season when consumers are rushed and feeling the pressure of holiday buying. Many online retailers are turning to mystery shopping programs as a method to monitor and evaluate their online customer service.

Mystery shopping programs can offer insight into all aspects of your online store. These shoppers are specifically trained on your website, and are often instructed to make a purchase in order to gauge the entire customer experience for retailers. This often includes, but is not limited to, the following key issues:

1. Evaluating the accessibility of your website and the ease of finding selected items

2. Evaluating the methods of contacting the company, whether it be via email, live chat, or telephone, which includes the speed of response, wait times, and knowledge/helpfulness of staff

3. The ease of making a purchase on the website – are any areas not working properly, is there a part of the purchase process that is hanging up, confusing, or otherwise hindering sales?

4. Monitoring the delivery process – are items delivered as expected and on time? If there is a delay in delivery, was this communicated with the customer?

5. Evaluating problem resolution – mystery shoppers can complete the experience by contacting the company, either via email or telephone, with a problem or concern to evaluate how issues are resolved.

Using a mystery shopping program to evaluate the above will give you a unique, objective perspective and allow you to pinpoint areas that need improvement to increase sales and customer traffic. The cost for online programs is generally lower than traditional, onsite mystery shopping, and the benefits are just as great. Programs are customized to evaluate any aspects of the online shopping experience and can range from a full evaluation that includes a purchase, return, and problem resolution to more simplified programs, whether the focus center around making a purchase or contacting a customer service representative by email or telephone. Coupling the mystery shopping reports with analytical reports will give you the extra edge in maintaining strong revenue and staying ahead of the competition this holiday season.

Social Shopping Apps and Their Trends

The idea of mobile/social shopping has really caught on with the imagination of most of the tech-savvy people. A huge number of companies have cropped up to make hay while the sun shines on the trends related to social shopping. Most companies are working day and night to enhance the overall shopping experience on our mobile devices.

Some of the apps work like this: you walk into this online store which lists a plethora of featured products. Depending on the categories that you select, the items will be displayed. Some of the games feature interactive games that different marketers have created for similar brands. Consumers scan for relevant products and also focus on the ads which are attached with them. Most of these apps are free initially but one has to shell out some money for buying the advanced version of the apps. All the social shopping apps have tie-ups with different brands and companies which enables fans of the brand to shop easily while on the move.

There are geolocation shopping apps which lets you shop with the help of Google maps API and lets you choose the destination for a good physical shopping experience. You can rate the shopping experience on a particular scale and recommend to others online. With the help of social media integration such as Facebook and Twitter, the apps have widened the scope of shopping and sharing via online media.

The rating system also helps brands and companies to assess the level of interest that people have for their brand as well as products. The companies can then plan the next marketing strategy as well as product launches using the statistics that the apps generate related to the average browsing experience. Most apps have even started the “photo-tagging” feature for the iPhone as well as for Android. Even search results within the apps are pretty much sleek and relevant like Google Search.

The latest social apps are planning to couple the Augmented Reality functionality along with Motion Capture which will help users to “virtually” shop online and even post status updates, photos and videos online so that you can get comments and suggestions in real-time from friends before you actually commit to buy a dress or a gadget!

The latest features have been released in alpha stage and will need some changes for removing some kinks that might be present in the app. But with the new innovative steps that the companies are taking to lure the audience, the user is in for a treat!

Shopping Tips For the Frugal Shopper

The problem isn’t that we don’t make enough money, it’s that we spend too much money.

That is so easy to say, but I know that many people struggle with shopping. I know that I do. It is so easy to try to forget for a while and just buy everything that you want. I do it when I am stressed or upset. I understand.

However, I know that it causes financial trouble. So I remind myself all the time of our financial goals. What is really important: shopping or retirement?

One of the top keys to my successful rehabilitation from overspending is planning. You have to plan your spending. This will keep you from making those costly impulse decisions. If you don’t need something specific from a store, don’t go in it!

In planning your shopping, make lists. Remember, when you are going through the grocery ads, that sales items are not always the cheapest. With a little time and some directed shopping, you will begin to recognize a good deal when you see it.

Shopping can be stressful. You are better off if you plan your shopping for times when the stores are virtually empty. This may mean doing your grocery shopping at 8 a.m. Tuesday morning. Don’t go just before holidays or on paydays. It’s always crowded then.

Plan your buying so that you replace items when you run out of them. You don’t necessarily have to buy bulk to save money. Look at it this way. Yes, you may use the gallon of peanut butter. But you might not have $10 for it right now. Buy the $3 jar if that is all you can really afford.

When it comes to sales, you have to have control. Don’t buy things just because they are a good deal or are on sale. If you won’t use it, don’t buy it. This is often cemented when you clean out your closet. What is a three dollar shirt worth if you’ve never worn it? That’s three dollars out the window. After a while, the sale items add up. They cost money too.

Keep in mind that larger isn’t cheaper and smaller isn’t cheaper. Often, you have to look at the unit prices if you are concerned with getting the most for your money. Many stores have the unit price on the shelf sticker.

When shopping on sale, you need to watch the clerk ring up your purchases. Don’t be afraid to say something. And no matter what, always check your receipt. I once had a clerk charge me for 23 loaves of bread instead of 2. I’m glad I checked the receipt.

And finally, to keep from spending too much money, you should leave your checks and cards in the car or at home. Only take the amount of cash you can spend with you. That way, you won’t be tempted to write a check or charge.

There are many ways to save money when shopping. Start with a plan, don’t go into stores you don’t need to and only take cash. Be wise and keep your goals in mind when you are facing temptation. Good Luck.