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How a Mystery/Secret Shopping Program Helps Your Brand Audit

Brand Auditing is a form of mystery shopping, but the criteria can be quite different from other mystery shopping experiences. Let’s use the example of a fast food company that has 5000 locations, and spends $5 million a month with ad agencies and printing firms for marketing collateral — posters and other material intended to be viewed or made available to customers — Dairy Queen has a “Blizzard of the Month” that they promote, for example. It’s important that this collateral is put out on the first day of the month to maximize the value.

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By the first day of the month, our mystery shopper would get a checklist of collateral items to look out for. During a visit to a restaurant, the shopper might discover that a percentage of the stores aren’t putting up the various promotional materials in a timely manner. Not only does this cost sales of the new products being promoted, but it affects any measurements of how successful the marketing campaign might actually be, and can unknowingly change the accountability and responsibility for lower or higher sales.

Another example of a mystery shopping brand audit is a company that makes computer printers – Hewlett Packard (HP) for example. A mystery/secret shopper might be sent into different electronics and office supply stores to make a printer inquiry based on either very broad or very specific requirements.

Let’s say our shopper walks in and requests a home printer useful for a family of four. The clerk might recommend the HP product and the shopper might throw out an objection based on price. The clerk then recommends a Canon product. The shopper might ask if there is one the clerk wouldn’t recommend and, for our particular purposes, might be told not to buy the Lexmark. The mystery/secret shopper would then observe and even snap photos of product displays. They might also ask about test printouts, side-by-side comparisons, cost per page, and which products are placed on the end caps of aisles.

This form of brand audit helps the client determine what’s being promoted and what’s not. This information is necessary for companies that want to know how they compare to their competition, what kind of user feedback retailers are getting, what information helps the retailers promote products, or what misconceptions (if any) need to be addressed with sales staff.

Rather than doing their own brand audits, and paying for their marketing or product managers to visit each and every store, using mystery shoppers for a brand audit can save money, as well as give an unbiased look at how well their franchises, stores, and distributors are doing.

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