How Digital Research Leads to Shopping Insights

This is a guest post by Tia Remington-Bell, Project Manager at Envirosell.

In a world of immediacy, how can research be everywhere at once?

Brands and stores use market research to remain competitive in the digital and physical retail environment. The brick-and-mortar store is still the lynchpin of the shopping experience with just over 90 percent of purchases still being made in-store. Brands and retailers need to live up to the new expectations affixed to the in-store experience. As researchers, we are constantly looking for new and improved ways to bring store narratives to life.

What are the limitations of traditional in-store research?

Sending researchers to every single store is financially impossible and a large spend for a research budget. Instead, in-store research depends on a small sample size picked to represent the customer experience across the fleet.

In-store qualitative and quantitative research gives us a deep dive into store issues. However, factors like location and store type cannot always be accounted for with a smaller sample size. These factors make it difficult for researches to determine if insights are applicable to all store locations.

What are the limitations of online research?

Online surveys ask people to recall information from a previous experience. People often react without considering what underlying behaviors drove their decision-making. Without priming, these can often lead to skewed results as people are dependent on memory rather than real-time experience.

An Argument for Digital Research

Smart phones have become an important part of everyday life. In fact, most people’s initial contact with a store is through their smartphones with eighty-seven percent of shoppers look for information before visiting a store. Of those who found information helpful, 3 out of 4 respondents were more likely to visit the store. While most customers are willing to opt-in to data being collected about them in-store, researchers need to be able to ask pointed questions to make sure that the data they collect will give them the insights they need to improve the customer experience.

Mobile mystery shopping has brought research into the 21st century by making customers active participants. With it, we are able to capitalize and expand our market expertise, while achieving greater consistency across markets. Mobile mystery shopping addresses the limitations to both traditional in-store methodology and online large-scale surveys leading to insights that optimize customers’ time and experience in-store. At Envirosell, a market research consulting firm, we use mobile mystery shopping to get a better understanding of competitor landscapes and identify large scope design and consistency issues across the retail market.

Fifty-five percent of shoppers say retail experiences are disconnected across different channels. This also rings true for brand experience across different store formats. While working with a consumer electronics retail merchant, we at Envirosell used mobile mystery shopping to identify operational concerns that were hindering sales across the chain. Our insights led to a restructure of operational and store design, that when addressed, optimized the customer experience.

We have also applied mobile mystery shopping to perform competitor analysis as well as signage tests in quick service restaurants. Insights from the mobile mystery shopping were used to identify key signage target areas for the restaurant and define and validate the competitive landscape.

Paco Underhill, CEO at Envirosell and author of Why We Buy, has described mobile mystery shopping as, “an easy and powerful tool when used in combination with other methodologies. It gives dimension and validation to both physical and cyber world decision-making.”

While there are some complaints about the age range of those who use mobile mystery shoppers, retailers need to be cognizant that technologically-based consumers are becoming the dominant market. Retailers and researchers need to be ready to adapt to new methodologies that will lead to more holistic insights.

Tia Remington-Bell | Guest Author

Tia is a Project Manager at Envirosell, a market research and consulting firm in New York City, with close to ten years of communication, marketing, and design research experience. She holds a BA in Anthropology from Colorado College and a MFA in Design Studies from The New School.

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