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The online mystery shopper comes of age

Sunday February 5 2012

Deri Jones, web monitoring and performance expert argues that retailers should do what the customer does, not what is easy to measure

Deri Jones, web monitoring and performance expert argues that retailers should do what the customer does, not what is easy to measure

 

“My first job in the new-fangled Internet was straight off the blocks back in 1993, and I've not had the time to slow down or catch my breath yet!” Deri Jones, SciVisum chief executive told RetailTechnology.co.uk.

 

“But after 20 years, one thing is clear, the rate of change is still accelerating and, if we are to have any hope of understanding what is happening, then the monitoring technologies we use must keep pace with that.”

 

Marketers never run out of new ways to offer products and sell online, customers continually look for new ways to search, review, buy and interact, and it doesn't look like the technology guys will be running out of road any time soon, he added.

 

Business divisions share same aims

 

“It's not just about how fast we can go,” he said. “It's also about who we travel with and how we get there. The old days of marketing and IT teams never talking are over. All the new retailing gains from social networking, and multichannel retailing richness depend on IT to deliver.”

 

The web monitoring expert said the best laid multichannel retail marketing plan will fail if it falls into the gap between intention and delivery and the technology fails to give good customer experience.

 

“Never underestimate the challenges business teams will place on tech teams and suppliers as they race to embrace the possibilities opened by continually evolving technology. However, as websites become more functionally complex, users more sophisticated and possible user actions more varied, fluid and dynamic the danger of poor customer experience can increase.

 

“What is needed is a seamless uniting of marketing, business and IT teams, where everyone understands what is happening and everyone cares about customer experience because it directly impacts the bottom line, and that affects everyone,” Jones continued.

 

“So, what is the best, single, measure of customer experience so far as technology can impact it?” he asked. “The answer is a simple set of KPIs [key performance indicators] that measure: What it feels like to be a customer.”

 

Measuring tangible customer satisfaction

 

That is not merely a ‘soft’ measure, he added: “User experience encompasses everything involved with a user's site interaction from the purest technical performance measures to questions of design. This common language and understanding will empower business teams to be specific about the impact of technology issues on customers, and at the same time empower technical teams by providing specific details of the issue so that they can quickly isolate, diagnose and fix the things that business needs.”

 

Jones said that if this is new to your organisation then have a look at this checklist of things you should run through with your IT team and your monitoring suppliers to start uniting around customer experience improvements:

 

  • Start with monitoring your top few money making journeys, on a 24/7 basis using an automated Mystery Shopper approach with a tool that visits your website regularly, say at 5 minute intervals.
  • Make sure your tools and software behave like a real user and can make dynamic, random choices to take different paths through your site so that you are not only happily measuring the performance of one set pages or variable while others may be causing problems.
  • Be able to calculate the real bottom line impact of technical performance issues – both directly such as problems with pricing or inventory, or indirectly such as a slow site causing users to give up and fall out of the funnel.
  • Correlate your performance monitoring with your web analytics. Analytics will tell you the WHAT as to how many percent of users abandoned the check out Journey, the mystery shopper Journeys will tell you the WHY, so far as any issues on your website that are caused by technology are impacting your potential purchasers.

 

“Think of the above as being like the Top Gear equivalent of the Stig taking your car for a test drive! No matter what your engineers say about the cool car they've build, the test drive reveals how it handles out in the real world,” Jones concluded.