Thanks to technology (define ‘Instagram-worthy’?), we see exponential change in what defines an ‘experience’ when you’re shopping. Here, BARE International shares an article by Harley Finkelstein for Forbes on 5 Trends That Change The Way Your Customer Shop

 

A few weeks ago, my wife pulled me into a big name department store to look for an engagement gift for a friend. I rarely set foot in department stores anymore and I thought the experience might be nostalgic, even fun. Within seconds I was full of regret. Trying to navigate floors and floors of haphazardly organized, uncurated stock in search of a specific product wasn’t just frustrating, it was defeating—second only to the difficulty in trying to flag down an actual salesperson to help us out.

There’s no excuse for a shopping experience like that any longer.’

‘We all now have supercomputers in our pockets. We’ve come to expect a limitless catalogue of products, immediate insight into functionality and user reviews, comparisons with related products and, in some cases, same-day delivery. Responding to these expectations, progressive retailers—online and offline—are finding increasingly creative ways to raise the bar and put an end to the one-size-fits-all approach to retail. Just putting stuff on shelves no longer cuts it.

Here are 5 trends transform[ing] shopping for the better in 2018.

1. Experiential shopping, minus the gimmicks

From espresso bars in salons to popup lemonade stands in stores, experiential shopping was all the rage 2017—almost to the point where it became a gimmick. It’s not enough anymore to add superfluous bells and whistles (or the ubiquitous DJ) in a bid to appear on trend. Retailers that are winning in the realm of experiential shopping are doing their homework to ensure the experiences offer real value to their core clientele.

Take London’s House of Vans, which made a concrete commitment to counterculture when it opened a custom BMX and skate park in the bottom of its flagship store. This wasn’t an afterthought: it was a dedicated effort to give customers a place to do what they love. This same upleveling of experience is happening digitally. Victoria’s Secret’s millennial-targeted PINK Nation app is a social media network that offers games, prizes and of course, discounts and promotions. But what sets it apart are on-campus events that move the socializing offline and create opportunities at colleges and universities for members to forge real-world connections. The key here is that these experiences are incredibly authentic—not cheap marketing tactics. They add meaning and value for the customer.

2. Next level personalization

Of course, one of the surest ways to create meaning for your customers is to craft a product or service expressly for them. Better, bigger data, streamlined digital interfaces and on-demand manufacturing mean that bespoke customization is the new retail frontier. As a black t-shirt aficionado, I have to single out Son of a Tailor, which jumped on my radar this year by beating traditional retail at its own game. All I have to do is input my chest measurement onto their site and I get a perfectly tailored, made-for-me shirt delivered right to my door, complete with monogrammed initials and a fit that’s far superior to anything I’d find off the rack.

But individual innovation isn’t limited to online retailers. I’m a long and loyal customer at Harry Rosen, despite rarely setting foot in one of their stores. I don’t have to. Every year during the retail “Super Bowl Season”—that frantic period between Black Friday and Christmas—I get a visit from one of their sales associates with all the clothes I need. By leveraging rich customer data, plus the human touch that comes with brick-and-mortar, traditional retailers are rising to the occasion in the new shopping landscape.

3. AR that’s actually useful (and AI that’s not annoying)

Long limited to tech fantasies, augmented reality and artificial intelligence have finally crossed the chasm into being…well, useful. AR integrations in apps from stores like Magnolia and Ikea have solved a major problem with online shopping: they let you see products in your space before you buy. Just point your phone at your living room and see how that new couch or coffee table fits in. Similarly, Gap’s DressingRoom app is bringing the AR magic into the apparel space by enabling users to see garments on a mannequin of their selected size. And it won’t stop there. A future is in sight where you’ll be able to point your phone in the mirror and see how those same threads will look on your body.

Meanwhile, chatbots have finally found their place. Brands are figuring out the best way to use artificial intelligence isn’t to replace humans, but to help them. Relegating digital agents to the grunt work, like sending out tracking numbers and shipping updates, is freeing up human capital for complex tasks, like handling customer concerns, dealing with special requests or building business strategies. Finally, human and machine are working in harmony to create a better experience for the customer.

4. Mobile goes mainstream

The data says it all: mobile checkouts are on the rise. Almost 65% of Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales occurred on mobile across Shopify platforms in 2017. It’s a trend that will only continue with mobile shopping on pace to eclipse desktop or tablet in the not-too-distant future. Outside of our platform, nearly 35% of e-commerce purchases were made on mobile in 2017, a rate that’s predicted to jump to nearly 40% over the year ahead.

Fuelling this are more mobile-friendly sites, better phones and reduced barriers to checkout thanks to integrated payment systems through iPhone and Android. Facial recognition is another game changer. With the new iPhone X, I simply look at my phone and my purchase is on its way; soon, I won’t even have to do that. Voice commerce is poised to revolutionize online shopping with Siri, Alexa and Google Now standing at the ready to make purchases with simple verbal commands. For retailers looking to keep up, embracing this new tech and making e-comm on mobile frictionless should be priority number one.

5. Social shopping (finally) finds its niche

Social media today is a lot like the town square of yore—the place where everyone gets together to socialize and window shop. But, until recently, actually purchasing something on social media was painful and inefficient, and most people saved their shopping for traditional retail sites. No longer: in-app purchasing on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest has evolved dramatically in recent months, enabling social media users to finally pick up their goods without leaving the virtual neighbourhood.

And just like neighbourhoods, every platform is different. We learned through our latestintegration with Instagram that featuring just one or two products—rather than an entire catalogue—can be key to catching someone’s eye. Just take this Braniacs projector or Ripple Yoga Wear jumpsuit that were all over the site for Black Friday. The rise of in-app shopping means social media is finally bringing one of the time-honoured traditions in retail online: the impulse buy.

The biggest trend of all in 2018: change. Fueled by technology, shopping is evolving in ways we couldn’t have anticipated even a few years ago. (I’m talking to you, Alexa.) But for retailers who can keep up—and leverage new tools to give people what they want, when they want it—the promise may well be more customers and higher sales than ever in the year ahead.’

Read the full article at the source here.


MYSTERY CUSTOMER RESEARCH BY BARE INTERNATIONAL

Your business challenges are unique. Our proven success across industry categories stems from asking the right questions to help you address the challenges you face everyday. Each solution we offer is customized to meet your needs, providing actionable feedback to help you make critical business decisions. We treat you the way you want to treat your own customers, providing a dedicated project team to give you the attention you deserve and an infrastructure spanning the globe to provide the resources you need to understand your customers’ experiences.

  • Customized Research Solutions
  • Immediate, Actionable Feedback
  • Dedicated Project Team
  • Family-Owned, Global Capabilities

Get in touch today to receive a complimentary evaluation of your business. We look forward to working with you.

Do you know how customers view your company? Brand reputation is essential to the success of any business. Stand out from the competition; invest in these core, or ‘Golden’, branding strategies. 

Thanks to the competitive market, customers have many options of products and services to select from, and they often rely on the brands that convey greater credibility via brand reputation. Optimize your brand reputation and win the customer’s trust before they even walk into your store!

1. DEFINE YOUR VALUE PROPOSITION

Every company needs to look for elements that differentiate it from the competition. Looking for innovations is essential to adapt to the needs of the customer. The value proposition is just that: a set of products and services that highlights the company before its opponents.

However, do not confuse price with value. The price is the amount that the buyer needs to shell out to buy something. Value is determined by the public; that is, it is the way the products and services are seen by the consumer. It is worth remembering that the perception of employees, suppliers, and partnerships also count.

Therefore, the first step in designing a successful business is to define a unique and extraordinary value proposition. Additionally, be sure to define your company’s missionvision and values ​​to create a solid foundation for growth.

2. INVEST IN A UNIQUE & MEANINGFUL VISUAL IDENTITY

One of the first contacts that the customer has with the brand is through the visual identity, either by the front of the establishment or by the packaging of products, business cards, advertisements on television, or scattered throughout their location.Have you ever walked into a store just because you were attracted how the storefront looked? The aspect of an intriguing visual identity, or branding, is essential to convey trust and facilitate the company’s identification. Here are some examples: When you open a bank card, you soon recognize the sender just for the colors used, right? It’s that kind of identification you need to create for your brand.To develop an efficient visual identity, hire skilled professionals. They have in-depth knowledge about concepts, colors, shapes, fonts and even studies that support findings on how the brain works with recognition and likeability.

3. KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER

Knowing who you are dealing with is critical to devising effective strategies. Only then will it be possible to understand what the customer expects when they purchase the product or service. Gather as much information as you can, such as name, age, sex, marital status, profession and even hobbies. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools can help you collect this data.

With all this knowledge, it will be possible to build your consumer database, customize service, create strategies for loyalty, generate trust, and optimize brand awareness. When you are able to build a customized experience journey for your customer, they remember and prioritize you for future business.

4. USE CONTENT MARKETING

Investing in online strategies is essential to gaining and retaining customers, expanding the company’s exposure and gaining credibility. Leverage the virtual environment to implement content marketing actions. This method serves to generate authority for the brand by producing useful information for its target audience.So, how do you do that? A popular strategy is to create a corporate blog to inform and educate your reader! For example: Do you run a cosmetics store? Provide posts about which shampoo is ideal for each type of hair, or showcase a tutorial on how to apply eye shadow. You produce materials of interest to your audience and, at the time of making the buying decision, they will help keep you and your products in mind. After all, you are a thought leader in that industry!

Additionally, content marketing helps to understand the needs of customers and offer products that will actually meet their expectations. Extend strategies for social networks and share posts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Pro tip: Be sure to remember that it is important to adapt the materials to each type of network. Instagram, for example, is a highly visual channel. Therefore, ensure the post has an image as the focal point for Instagram, versus an attractive tagline and interesting hashtags which are prevalent in Twitter.

5. STRENGTHEN CONSUMER RELATIONSHIPS

Imagine: your company receives a critique on a popular social media channel, and your loyal customers resolve to defend the brand. This is the ultimate goal of relationship marketing: to win over loyal consumers who can act as brand ambassadors for your company at certain times. The strategy consists of defining actions to generate and maintain a positive connection between the company and the public. In addition to loyal customers, relationship marketing aims to build trust and authority for the brand.

One of the key tools to strengthen consumer bonds is through targeted email marketing. Personalized email marketing makes it possible to send congratulations on special dates, provide promotions, gifts or benefits for the next purchase, and even offer after-sales service. Email marketing can be a strong ally of content marketing, as well. Be sure that the content of your emails are valuable, and think “quality over quantity” when it comes to emails: there’s no sense in creating a nice opportunity for your clients if they’re just going to hit ‘delete’ as soon as it comes to their email box! Another option to improve consumer relationships are through loyalty programs. You can offer unique advantages so that consumers choose your company instead of looking elsewhere.

6. BE VIGILANT OF CUSTOMER FEEDBACK, ESPECIALLY CRITICISMS!

Provide communication channels so that consumers have a way to provide feedback. In this process, criticism is even more important than praise because it shows the points of dissatisfaction and encourages the improvement of products and services. What’s more, this openness influences how the customer perceives the brand. By realizing that the company is interested in the buyer’s experience, not just the money, the customer knows they matter to the company and the brand, and the result is a strengthened relationship.

Brand awareness ultimately affects business results, so investing in branding strategies is crucial. A brand that positions itself as a thought leader in its industry attracts more consumers, and build a loyal fan base faster. Follow all these Golden Rules, and watch your company’s positive reputation grow!

Let BARE International showcase your brand reputation by aggregating all of your customers’ experiences into one platform. Contact us today for more information, we look forward to speaking with you.

Omni-channel. Multichannel. Cross channel. What is the difference and which is more effective at engaging and delighting your customers? Here, BARE International shares an article by  for Forbes on What Does Real Omnichannel Service Look Like?

‘Omnichannel emerged as a term for B2C retailers, describing the ability for customers to have a consistent experience over traditional channels and new, information-rich digital channels. In the world of CX, it has come to mean that customers can move from channel of engagement to channel of engagement while always progressing along the customer journey. That means seamless journey continuity, from first touch to checkout, support, returns, and beyond.

There is a hierarchy of customer communication, and they mean different things for customers and agents…

Multichannel: This is the table stakes for modern businesses. Channels have multiplied, and being reachable on more than one is absolutely the bare minimum. Customers expect every business to answer an email, pick up the phone, and respond to a conversation on Twitter. Continuing that conversation across channels is better, and new technologies have made that possible. You can call an agent and have them look up your history and respond over email—though it’s not always smooth or easy. It’s rare to have a conversation with customer service agents and never have to repeat yourself or enter new information. After entering our account details into a phone tree or using a chatbot, we’ll be asked for them again by a live agent, and forced to start the whole process again when calling back—even though logically it seems like all this info should be stored in one place and readily at hand.

Cross channel: Simply being able to communicate is only part of the picture. Communicating vertically with a customer on a single channel does not reflect the way they interact with your business and how they expect you to assist them. Cross channel means a customer can move from one channel to another without completely losing the thread of the journey. You can hang up the phone and then reach out about the same issue over chat on a company’s homepage, and even if you aren’t connected by the same agent, they can pull up the information they need and maintain the interaction without you having to start from scratch.

That’s great and the contextual approach is the key, but it’s still not true omnichannel.

Omni-channel: Real omni-channel requires making the customer the focus, no matter what the channel is. It means that you’re understanding and responding to conversations in real time, not just having a lot of conversations at once. No matter where they contact you, the customer journey has to be progressing—no repeating, no steps backwards. Wherever your customers contact you, it’s crucial that you have the full context of their history with the business. Each interaction has to be pushing the customer journey forward. A customer that’s chatting with an agent on a desktop site can switch to SMS while they’re on the go, pick up the phone and speak to the agent if they need to go into detail, then receive a recap over email from the agent after they’ve finished the conversation.

No matter if your customer is asking a question on your site’s live chat or sending an email to support, the response needs to be informed by their past behavior to get the right response and drive the right action. This means a fundamental shift in the way service and experience organizations operate.

The Agent Perspective of Omni-channel: In the past, agents have owned a specific channel. Some would be trained to answer the phone, others would be assigned to chat and email, but it’s unlikely that they would move across multiple channels—in the contact center industry, this is called blending. Should these channels blend, or will that cause agents to be less efficient, and struggle to respond with maximum speed and efficiency? If you want to deliver true omni-channel, that requires a new mindset.

If your goal is to deliver a great experience that raises your customers’ lifetime value and increases revenue, rather than just trying to answer support tickets as quickly as possible, then your agents’ roles are subtly different. They aren’t just channel specialists who are trained to respond with efficiency as their top directive. They own the customer relationship, and have all the information at their fingertips to deliver a personal, high-touch, and rewarding experience. The agent needs to be able to follow the customer, regardless of the many channels they may use to interact with your business. If you’re customer-first, your agents need to follow your customers.

There are certainly businesses that rely on contact centers who will refute this. They will insist that agents are only skilled enough for the one or two channels they’re trained on. The high volume, contact center as cost-center model will not be going away, but the businesses that rely on it can never become truly omnichannel ready if they don’t change. But the reason they’re relying on this model is not because agents aren’t able to handle more channels and a nuanced approach.

Now, the customer service agent’s star is rising. They are primed to evolve their role beyond answering channel-dependent tickets. Instead, at omnichannel organizations, they will become more like an experience associate or customer representative. They’ll need all the context of the customer relationship in a single view. And they’ll use automation and streamlined workflows to do away with mindless, repeatable tasks so that they can focus on what matters: the complex, emotional work required to sustain customer relationships.’

Read the full article at the source here.


BARE International is proud and humbled to be chosen, for the second year in a row, as a preferred Mystery Shop Company for shoppers around the world.

Bare International is the recipient of the 2018 Shopper’s Choice Award. In 2017, BARE International celebrated 30 years of supporting businesses worldwide in creating excellent customer experiences. The Shopper’s Choice Award was created to allow Independent Contractor members to vote on their favorite Mystery Shop Provider.

MSPA Americas (formerly known as the Mystery Shopping Providers Association of North America) is the trade association representing the customer experience industry throughout the Americas, founded to strengthen the customer service industry and provide timely, actionable and impactful resources for shaping the future of business communities.

“I found BARE to be a professional and honest company that treats its shoppers with respect,” says Mystery Shopper Gabriella Lopez, “I look forward to seeing the exciting shops that come up on their job board and learning about their new and innovative methods of measuring customer satisfaction.”

Jason Bare, Global Business Development Manager and Jeff Rose, Project Manager were in attendance to accept the award at the Annual ShopperFest Event in Grapevine, Texas.

“BARE currently partners with a wide range of industries that provides great opportunities for our Evaluators – everything from ordering a pizza to staying at a hotel. As we continue to grow, we are always looking to expand our database of enthusiastic Evaluators,” says Jason.


As an evaluator for BARE International, you become a valuable part of providing game-changing insights to our clients. You can have an impact on how our clients provide customer service and make business decisions. The same ethical standards we uphold when designing, implementing, and analyzing research strategies for our clients also applies to you as one of our evaluators.

We strive to create opportunities as worthwhile to you as your work is to us. 

For interest in becoming a BARE Evaluator, please visit Evaluators Page for more information.

Do you know what the consumer thinks about your company? Brand awareness is essential to the success of any business. Hence, branding strategies are critical to stand out from the competition. With the high competitiveness of the market, customers have numerous options of products and services, but choosing the best alternative is not easy! In order to make the correct choice, the buyer prefers brands that convey greater credibility.

Now, how about winning the trust of this consumer and generating more profits for your company? Here are 6 golden tips to optimize your brand awareness and achieve corporate goals and objectives. Happy reading!

  1. DEFINE A PROPOSAL OF SINGLE VALUE

Every company needs to look for elements that differentiate it from the competition. Looking for innovations is essential to adapt to the needs of the customer. The value proposition is just that: a set of products and services that highlights the company before its opponents.

However, do not confuse price with value. The price is the amount that the buyer needs to shell out to buy something. Value is determined by the public; that is, it is the way the products and services are seen by the consumer. It is worth remembering that the perception of employees, suppliers, and partnerships also count.

Therefore, the first step in designing a successful business is to define a unique and extraordinary value proposition. Additionally, be sure to define your company’s mission, vision and values ​​to create a solid foundation for growth.

2. INVEST IN A GOOD VISUAL IDENTITY

One of the first contacts that the customer has with the brand is through the visual identity, either by the front of the establishment or by the packaging of products, business cards, advertisements on television, or scattered throughout their location.Have you ever walked into a store just because you were attracted how the storefront looked? The aspect of an intriguing visual identity, or branding, is essential to convey trust and facilitate the company’s identification. Here are some examples: When you open a bank card, you soon recognize the sender just for the colors used, right? And think of the most popular soda options: no one has any doubts about which is the red (Coca-Cola), orange (Fanta), green (Moutnain Dew) or blue (Pepsi Co.) packaging. It’s that kind of identification you need to create for your brand.To develop an efficient visual identity, hire skilled professionals. They have in-depth knowledge about concepts, colors, shapes, fonts and even studies that support findings on how the brain works with recognition and likeability.

  1. KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER

Knowing who you are dealing with is critical to devising effective strategies. Only then will it be possible to understand what the customer expects when they purchase the product or service.

Gather as much information as you can, such as name, age, sex, marital status, profession and even hobbies. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools can help you collect this data.

With all this knowledge, it will be possible to build your consumer database, customize service, create strategies for loyalty, generate trust, and optimize brand awareness.

4. USE CONTENT MARKETING

Investing in online strategies is essential to gaining and retaining customers, expanding the company’s exposure and gaining credibility. Leverage the virtual environment to implement content marketing actions. The method serves to generate authority for the brand by producing useful information for its audience.The question is: how do you do that? Create a corporate blog to inform and educate your reader! For example: Do you run a cosmetics store? Provide posts about which shampoo is ideal for each type of hair, or showcase a tutorial on how to apply eye shadow. You produce materials of interest to your audience and, at the time of making the buying decision, this will help keep you and your products in mind. After all, you provided value in the past! What’s more, the tactic helps to understand the needs of customers and offer products that will actually meet their expectations. Extend strategies for social networks and share posts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Be sure to remember that it is important to adapt the materials to each type of network. Instagram, for example, is a highly visual channel. Therefore, ensure the post has an image as the focal point for Instagram, versus an attractive tagline and interesting hashtags which are prevalent in Twitter.

5. BETTER RELATIONSHIP

Imagine: your company receives criticism in social networks and its customers resolve to defend the brand with tooth and nail. This is the goal of relationship marketing: to win over loyal consumers who can act as brand ambassadors for your company at certain times.The strategy consists of defining actions to generate and maintain a positive connection between the company and the public. In addition to loyalty buyers, relationship marketing aims to build trust for the brand.One of the key tools to strengthen the bonds with the consumer is the email marketing. Personalized email marking makes it possible to send congratulations on special dates, promotions, gifts, benefits for the next purchase, and even offer after-sales service. By the way, email marketing can be a strong ally of content marketing as well. Be sure that the content of your emails are valuable, and think “quality over quantity” when it comes to emails: there’s no sense in creating a nice opportunity for your clients if they’re just going to hit ‘delete’ as soon as it comes to their email box!Another option to improve the relationship are loyalty programs. You can offer unique advantages so that consumers choose your company instead of looking for the competitor.

  1. BEWARE OF CUSTOMER FEEDBACKS

Provide communication channels so that consumers can give their opinions. In this process, criticism is even more important than praise because it shows the points of dissatisfaction and encourages the improvement of products and services.

What’s more, this openness influences how the customer sees the brand. By realizing that the company is interested in the buyer’s experience, not just the money, the customer makes an impact to the brand, and the result is a strengthened relationship.

Brand awareness affects business results, so investing in branding strategies is critical. What’s more, a brand with high added value attracts more consumers and contributes to the famous word of mouth. Follow all these tips, and see the improvement in your company’s image!

At BARE International, we’re always on the look out for great mystery evaluators. But what does it really involve and what do you need to be an exceptional secret shopper?

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Customer service is an integral part of running a successful restaurant. It doesn’t matter how fabulous your new restaurant looks or how delicious the food is, if the service isn’t good, customers are not likely to return.

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Harvard Business Review found that companies who successfully implement a customer experience strategy achieve higher customer satisfaction rates, reduced customer churn and increased revenues. Furthermore, research by American Express found that 60% of customers are willing to pay more for a better experience.

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As we’ve previously shared in a BARE Fact“70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated.”  (McKinsey). But do you really know how the customer rates their experience? Will they be one of the happy customers that tell nine people about their experience, or the unhappy customer that tells 16 (nearly two times more) people about their poor experience?

Read more

Bare Interview – Part 4
Parlaying yesterday’s achievements into a thriving tomorrow.

Read more