Online mystery shopping: Dispel the mystery and improve your ecommerce’s performance

Why are some ecommerce websites more successful than others? Is it the design or the story behind the brand? Do some hidden functionalities compel users to complete their orders and keep coming back for more?

In order to answer these questions, let’s first consider the following scenario. UX designers assure you that your website is using state of the art design and features to create a seamless checkout experience. However, your ecommerce is lagging behind the competition and even your marketing team is puzzled. They have tested the website countless times without encountering a single problem. What are all these professionals missing?

The answer is quite simple: an authentic perspective. Marketers and UX professionals are trained to anticipate user needs and behaviors, but, at the end of the day, however well they may have mastered their craft, their perspective is still inauthentic. They may be able to imagine what a housewife and mother of three could be looking for on your ecommerce, but they cannot actually morph into one and react authentically to all the carefully placed calls to action. And, unfortunately, one cannot simply rely on actual consumer feedback or reviews when trying to optimize the user experience. 98% of consumers will not bother to leave negative feedback, opting to simply shop elsewhere instead.

Dispel the mystery surrounding ecommerce success

That’s why online mystery shopping aims to provide a fresh and authentic perspective in order to identify pain points and show how they can be overcome. Instead of asking experts to evaluate your website according to general best practices, online mystery shopping services ask actual users to interact with your website and provide informed feedback.

However, it is worth mentioning that professional mystery shoppers are not quite like regular users. They are selected according to specific criteria in order to fit your buyer’s persona. Additionally, they are required to be familiar with best practices relevant for your industry and the most important competitors in your chosen field. If you have used offline mystery shopping services in the past, you may already have noticed that the same underlying principles apply for online services as well. Both online and offline mystery shoppers need to be well-versed in a particular industry in order to provide valuable feedback.

Turn authentic consumer feedback into insights

Anyone can go through a website’s checkout process and sense that something is off. Nevertheless, actionable feedback is hard to come by. It takes a keen eye and an analytical mind to pinpoint exactly what the issue is. That’s why professional online mystery shoppers receive a questionnaire that asks them to evaluate the most important aspects of your website. Through this questionnaire, mystery shoppers are reminded to test each page and feature, enacting several possible user journeys or scenarios. Thanks to their experience and UX knowledge, they are able to provide accurate answers to rather complex questions about how well a brand is represented, how trustworthy an ecommerce appears or how functional efficiency impacts the overall shopping experience. Thus, their evaluation is guaranteed to be more focused and thorough without losing any of its authenticity.

In short, online mystery shoppers are regular shoppers who possess the tools needed to turn their own subjective experience into an objective evaluation. However, even a user’s informed account of his or her experience is seldomly an actionable insight. That’s why online mystery shopping services go one step further in order to provide added value to ecommerce businesses.

These services compile information received from mystery shoppers and data provided by professional website analysis tools, creating a comprehensive report that can accurately diagnose the main issues hindering performance. This report translates user feedback into metrics, enabling marketing teams to set clear directions for future development. For instance, instead of having one grand objective of improving conversions by 10%, your ecommerce experts will be able to focus on smaller, more actionable steps like improving mobile responsiveness by 25% or improving how trust indicators are displayed on the desktop version by 15%. 

Fresh insights for continuous improvement

Online mystery shopping provides the best results particularly when integrated into an ecommerce’s long-term strategy. In time, industry standards change, consumers evolve, and new issues need to be addressed. Nevertheless, by constantly monitoring the user’s perspective and ever-changing expectations, an ecommerce business can stay one step ahead of the competition, anticipating potential problems before they negatively impact conversions.

Investing in online mystery shopping services is a cost-effective solution if one considers the positive impact it can have on conversions in the long run. Being able to step into the consumer’s shoes regularly is truly a priceless ability because it allows ecommerce owners to quickly rectify what needs fixing, without wasting precious resources by trying to improve other parts of the marketing funnel. For example, when conversions first start plummeting, one might be tempted to adjust the pricing strategy or invest more in drawing in new users. However, as mystery shoppers often reveal, the problem can reside in something as small as a lack of suggested search terms when it comes to the newly introduced product line.

To sum up, online mystery shopping services can offer a competitive edge to ecommerce businesses by providing key insights into what real users are expecting while shopping on their platform. Brand image, design, checkout experience, website navigation and functionalities are just a few of the areas that can easily be improved thanks to online mystery shoppers. Online mystery shopping is a great way to dispel the mystery surrounding ecommerce performance or lack thereof, so the only question is: are business owners willing to really listen to their consumers and make changes in line with their feedback?

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