Touchdown: Shopper Interception!
Launching the right product line is a complex endeavor for any retailer. The competition is stronger than ever and discriminating shoppers have increasingly higher standards within their level of expectation. Prior to the launch of a new Winter Holiday sweater line, a national retail apparel chain wanted to ensure that their product selection appealed to their target customer.
Our Solution: A Shopper Intercept Study. The success of a new product line is directly dependent on understanding shoppers wants and needs. ICC/Decision Services designed and executed a Shopper Intercept Study at several stores across the chain in which the sweaters were previewed during the summer months. Interviews sought to gather direct and immediate insight into customer preferences. Through the use of probative questions, the Intercept Study clearly defined those sweaters which were the clear favorites among shoppers and those which decidedly had no appeal. Results were not only presented in total, but among each region, allowing the retailer to truly pinpoint which products would drive sales in which markets. Key demographics were also examined to provide further actionable insight. Employing the results presented in the analysis, the apparel chain made the determination as to those sweaters that would be featured in its stores. Ultimately, realizing a multi-million savings.
How We Did It: ICC/Decision Services has over 35 years of hands-on experience designing and executing highly successful Customer Experience Management programs. Through its ability to design and execute all phases of a Shopper Intercept Study we were able provide the retail apparel chain with timely and relevant data. Pursuant to ICC/Decision Services examination and analysis of the collected data, our client was able to identify their product line with proactive information thus leading them to a prudent, objective decision.
Measurable Influence: Improving Customer Service
Many store managers at a national drug chain appeared to be undermining both store associate behavior and training guidelines. As a result, the in-store performance of associates began to deteriorate. Even worse, customer perceptions of the chain’s overall service started to suffer.
Our Solution: Retailers worldwide often turn to mystery shopping programs to ensure that their store associates are complying with behaviors that contribute toward building a consistent brand and a positive customer experience. When our client called on us for help, we were ready! We worked with the client to create a shopping scenario that would require specific interaction with a store manager. Then we evaluated each interaction to ensure that the manager was providing the same great customer service expected of store associates. Based on the mystery shopping scores, we created baseline readings of the 44 highest and lowest scoring stores and call center records over a one-year period. Managers who were affected by the visits were shown their results and given a copy of Carol Radice’s insightful article, “Retraining the Trainers.” They were also informed that an unannounced follow-up visit would occur — in order to assess their compliance and improvement. Two months later, those follow-up visits revealed markedly improved results: The lowest scoring group realized a 25% improvement for wearing name tags and a 7.3% increase in making eye contact, while the highest scoring group realized increases of 7.9% for greeting customers and a 20.6% increase in communicating a parting comment. In all, lower-ranked stores enjoyed a 2.4% improvement. For higher-ranked stores, the improvement level was pegged at 3.8%. The improvement rate across all stores was a very significant 3.0%. Note: In retail, every single percentage point improvement translates into increased sales, improved brand loyalty, and customer satisfaction.
How We Did It: Using customer service scores from an on-going client assessment program, we were able to identify specific service influencers as the root cause of the problem. We also identified performance disparities between top and bottom performers, enabling us to target those lower performers for additional training.
Staying Ahead: Keeping a Pulse on the Competition
A respected national sporting goods retailer needed help in staying ahead of their closest competition. As the rival’s stores were often located within five miles of their own, our client needed to identify targeted opportunities that would maximize sales at the store level.
Our Solution: In the world of retail sporting goods, it’s critical to keep a finger on the pulse of your competition. One of the best ways to do so is by measuring the efficacy of your own sales and training strategies. To help refine our client’s training priorities, we instituted a program of quarterly assessment visits at the stores of their principal competitor. We compared our research results with those the client had amassed, and we were able to redefine key training priorities on an on-going basis. In the process, we ensured that our client would always keep a focus on exceeding customer expectation — and staying one step ahead of the competition as a result.
How We Did It: Using our knowledge of the retail sector, we matched up several comparable – and competitive – sporting goods chains with our client’s stores. This process ensured an accurate and fair comparison at the national, regional, and chain levels. We then designed a customer reporting system that enabled us to analyze data based on our client’s goals. The results were translated in actionable items that allowed our client to implement an effective improvement plan that assured their competitiveness in the marketplace.
Real Returns: Conversion Rate and Transaction Increases
A national retail apparel chain set aggressive earnings goals. They hoped to increase overall earnings by improving conversion rates, boosting the number of units per transaction, and raising the average daily transactions in each of their 400 stores.
Our Solution: From our experience, we know that positive change begins on the retail floor. So we helped our client by training their store level associates to comply with a short set of non-negotiable behaviors, all of which were designed to improve in-store performance. Then, high-frequency in-store audits measured compliance and built a set of meaningful, actionable data from which additional opportunities for store-by-store improvement could be identified.
Results of our program: Credit card solicitations increased from 62.2% to 76.2% over an 18-month period –an increase that resulted in almost 1 million dollars of additional revenue storewide. Suggestive selling increased from 54.1% to 81.4% during the same 18-month period, an improvement that alone translated into an increase of more than 8 million dollars of incremental store sales.
How We Did It: We put over 35 years of time-tested, proven retail experience to work, formulating a customized implementation program that generated demonstrable return on investment. By using specific, measurable behaviors, along with highly consistent in-store audits that replicated realistic customer scenarios, we helped our client to reach every one of their aggressive sales goals.
Ensuring Accuracy and Peace of Mind: Promotional Compliance Assessment
Some of our clients spend millions of dollars each week making sure their product gets in front of the customer at exactly the right moment. But how can a client honestly know that their promotional events are being executed correctly?
Our Solution: ICC/Decision Services gave our client the objective, third-party perspective they needed to conduct an accurate assessment of their promotions. By visiting locations scheduled for our client’s promotional events, our field reps were able to determine firsthand whether or not those events were executed properly. Our field reps took digital photos, verified accurate event set-up, and queried onsite promotional staff about their product knowledge. Our field reps successfully audited a 10% sample. Thus we could quantitatively demonstrate to our clients that their promotional events were being executed successfully and accurately. As a result, our client effectively secured the ongoing business of a large consumer packaged goods brand.
How We Did It: On behalf of CPG companies, national marketing organizations and others, ICC/Decision Services has successfully audited hundreds of thousands of events across the United States. Using specific customized parameters based on our clients’ own brand standards for measuring event execution, we can provide qualitative and quantitative data that help to assess promotions and to determine the effectiveness and compliance of onsite employees.
Don’t Sweat It: Quick Product Retrieval
A leading cosmetic and fragrance company, discovered a significant defect in one of their antipersirant products. Even worse, over 15,000 defective units had already been shipped — to one of the largest retailers in the world.
To keep consumers out of harm’s way, and to maintain a postive relationship with the retailer, Wal-Mart Stores, our client had to remove a lot of product from store shelves all over America — in less than two weeks time! As if things weren’t bad enough, the crisis was compounded when our client faced resistance from Wal-Mart itself. Because Wal-Mart expected to receive full retail price for the product through customer purchases, their stores were reluctant to take the monetary loss that would result from returning product directly to our client. Without enough field staff to reach every Wal-Mart store within the required two-week recall time frame, our client was confronting a major crisis that seemed to get worse with each passing minute.
Our Solution: ICC/Decision Services implemented a crisis action plan immediately. We initiated a complete removal of all defective units from Wal-Mart stores faster and more efficiently than our client could have dreamed. In fact, we completed the product removal so quickly that we finished it on the same day a competing vendor had proposed to start. In all, we collected 15,468 defective units (worth a total of $47,000) from Wal-Mart’s shelves. Our quick action secured Wal-Mart’s profits, and it helped to maintain our client’s strong relationship with this major retailer.
How We Did It: With our nationwide field force, the ICC/Decision Services team is prepared for almost any eventuality that can occur in the fast-moving world of retail industry. Thanks to a broad-reaching network of at-the-ready staff, all we needed was a three-day notification period in order to launch, execute, and successfully complete this critical program. And throughout it all, our online, real-time data reporting system let our client breathe easier — because they knew exactly what was happening, every step of the way.