Capturing accurate information about customer behavior can be a major differentiator between achieving growth or experiencing stagnation for brands in any industry. This is especially true in the modern age, because improved technology has granted customers more divergent paths-to-purchases than ever before.
As a result, organizations must strive to provide a consistent experience across these growing pathways. One key to unlocking this information is to implement mystery-mapping practices, which is the practice of focusing a mystery shopping program on several specific elements to craft an overall customer journey map.
In the mystery shopping industry, there has been a trend away from widespread or overall brand evaluations. Rather than trying to capture an expansive understanding of the way customers perceive your total brand image, these programs are used to capture details about specific instances. Mystery mapping is the practice of taking the data provided by these different programs to craft a larger-perspective of customer behavior. This can be very helpful for brands because it allows them to not only update a potentially stale customer experience, but also to find specific points along the journey that serve as significant moments in the shaping of your overall brand perception.
Typically, mystery shopping programs will analyze aspects like a new product roll-out or attempt to quantify employee performance at the point-of-sale, with the goal of understanding how these individual moments are impacting the overall brand experience. The other aspect of the mystery-mapping formula, customer journey mapping, is the process of organizational leadership hypothesizing what they believe the typical path to purchase should look like.
Mystery-mapping is the combination of these two-common customer experience research programs. In practice, this is a brand analyzing the impact of its existing marketing efforts, in-store aesthetic, website functionality, employee performance and any other interaction with a customer while they are traveling towards the point-of-sale.
Regardless of the industry you encompass, mystery-mapping can serve as an effective method to capture important customer experience insights, because the information provided is coming directly from the customers you are hoping to craft the journey about. However, it is important to start these programs at the right point of your organizational lifespan.
Every brand, whether large or small, should have a customer journey mapping process in place. But the size of your organization can determine whether you should launch a mystery shopping programme. Typically, organizations should wait until they have a relatively large number of regional or national locations, with at least 15-20 different branches, before investing in a mystery shopping program.
If your organization has never completed mystery shopping or journey mapping programs before, it can be difficult to figure out the right starting point on how to integrate the data into your maps. In reality, these programs can be incredibly difficult to design, and even more challenging to contextually analyze insights from the data. To effectively bake these mystery shopping insights into your journey mapping process, it is important to keep it simple for the evaluators themselves.
One of the most common problems that plagues a mystery shopping program is the inability to attract the right talent to perform the assignment, and if the job is overly-complicated it will be impossible to fill them consistently. As a result, it is important to take a step back and view mystery-mapping as a long-term investment, rather than an instantaneous reward. There is value in analyzing the data in real-time, but ultimately one month of data will not yield enough information to craft an accurate journey map. The best mystery-mapping programs will granulize the target across different programs, and then amass all the information collected to be used during a distinct journey-mapping process after the data has been retrieved, filtered and analyzed.
Ultimately your organization needs a program that ensures data integrity and actionable information. As a result, most brands will find third-party vendors that have displayed expertise at designing, implementing, and reporting on the information provided by these programs in a secure and efficient manner.
The best practice to guarantee success is to find a partner with the ability to handle the many different needs of a mystery-mapping program, rather than segmenting the tasks out to multiple organizations. Find a vendor that is able to not only design and provide a mystery shopping program but is also able to clearly report on that data so that your team is supremely knowledgeable about its customers. In doing so, your team will possess the ability to craft accurate customer journeys, and then cater their services to match these expectations.
Bio: Daniel Bakst is the Social & Digital Marketing Associate for Second To None, a leading Customer Experience research firm that empowers customer-centric brands to deliver consistent, intentional and authentic consumer experiences. We adeptly design and manage mystery shopping, compliance, engagement and voice of customer solutions grounded in strategic relevance, program integrity and actionable insights. Our solutions are developed on the basis of solid research and statistical science. We achieve success through a relentless focus on quality and innovation, consultative relationships and a talented team of professional associates.