How America Today enhances customer experience with mystery shopping

Since 2017, our fashionable mystery shoppers have been conducting customer experience assignments at America Today. Every month, they visit the 54 branches for customer experience research in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany. In this article, you'll discover how the mystery shopping research is set up, its value to the organization, and how the results daily provide insight and improvement. 

How America Today enhances customer experience with mystery shopping

In 1989, three friends started selling American jeans and shoes in Amsterdam. Despite its name, America Today is a thoroughly Dutch company. Although they also carry brands like Converse and Vans, the focus is mainly on their own collection of quality basics, jeans, and, as a Dutch fashion brand, raincoats of course. 

Judith Brekelmans is one of the three Area Managers at America Today. Judith has been working there for four years now and oversees 18 stores in the North of the Netherlands. We spoke to her in the Amsterdam branch on Ferdinand Bolstraat. After several challenging years due to the pandemic, the fashion company is once again on the upswing, with twelve new branches set to open in 2024. 

Company: America Today 
Industry: Fashion 
Locations: 54 branches in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany 
Client since: 2017 
Spoken with: Judith Brekelmans, Area Manager 

Why does America Today choose mystery shopping from Secret View?

Judith: In retail, and especially in the fashion industry, it's increasingly about the experience. There are plenty of alternatives for buying clothes elsewhere. So, when someone comes to America Today, they should get an amazing experience and service. 

By deploying mystery shoppers, we know how our customers experience shopping with us. They are our ears and eyes, as we can't always be everywhere. This way, you really get the customer's perspective on our stores, from our target group, since Secret View doesn't work with professional shoppers. That's incredibly valuable to us. Because the Secret Viewers come from our service area every month, it also keeps our staff on their toes. 

Moreover, it helps us map out how upselling is going. For example, we always have good deals on boxer shorts, which should be mentioned, or another attractive offer. Thus, the mystery shopping research also contributes to increasing conversion. 

Secret View - mystery shopping fashion America Today 2

How is the customer experience research set up?

Judith: The shoppers go through the entire customer journey, and the questionnaire is based on this. Did you get greeted? Is there eye contact? But also, whether the customer was prioritized over other tasks in the store. There are always a hundred things to do in a clothing store, but the most important thing, of course, is to help people. That's the feeling a customer should leave with, that they've been well helped and scored a great outfit. 

There's also a category called Crew, about how our colleagues on the floor perform. But also whether they are dressed inspiringly. That's important to us; they all wear clothes from the store, and the intention is to inspire customers with their own outfits. That's information you can't easily get elsewhere. 

Secret View - America Today customer journey

As Area Managers, we visit all our stores, and our new director also visits the stores a lot. That's nice to see and gives him ideas too. But such a structured survey, which has also been running for a long time, gives you different insights. Per touchpoint, you see at a glance in the dashboard how things are going at each branch. If there's a particular point in the customer journey that's lacking, I always look into how this can be improved together with the store manager. This way, I can work very specifically with a store.   

How are the results managed internally across different levels within the organization?

Judith: Everyone is incredibly involved in the research, from top to bottom in the organization. You see the printed report lying around in the store here, and it's well-read. Each store manager receives the results for their store by email and discusses them with the team. 

The Area Managers receive the results for each store. With each result I get, I immediately dive into the dashboard to see how it scored. If one of my stores gets a 90% or 100% score, I make it a celebration. Next, I make a special visit to the store, bringing along a grand cake and vibrant balloons to celebrate their achievement. The top ten branches are also published in our newsletter, where we highlight them even more. 

If there's a poor score, I do have a conversation, and we go through the questionnaire to see what happened. It doesn't have further consequences for bonuses, for example. It could be that a store had a very high turnover that day, and it was incredibly busy. That puts such a score into perspective. A poor score around Christmas is different from a poor score in February, which is the quietest time of the year. It often happens only once. The next time, it's usually back to standard. 

My manager also receives and reads all the emails with the scores. With very high scores, I get a message right away, and with less good scores, the question of what's going on comes immediately. It mainly gives him a picture of the atmosphere and the overall trend in our customer experience in the stores. 

Secret View - Score mystery shopping America Today

How does America Today use the dashboard?

Judith: As soon as I get a notification via email with a new result, I dive into the dashboard. It works really well, it's very clear and intuitive. The lists and graphs are straightforward, without any fuss. You can easily make comparisons between now and the past year. I also use the overview of high and low scores a lot. Before I go to a branch, I always review the latest research and discuss it. 

Our store managers use the data from the dashboard for training. The answers from the mystery shoppers are very useful for this because they are situations that occur every day. Furthermore, it's very concrete what goes well and what doesn't. If the research shows that people are consistently not greeted upon entering, you can act on that directly. 

What I also find a major plus at Secret View is that the mystery shoppers always make a purchase. They receive a shopping credit of €25, but on average spend €30 while performing the assignment. This way, you notice that real customers of ours are carrying out the assignments, and you really find out what the customer experience is like. You often don't see this with other mystery shopping providers. 
  Secret View - mystery shopping fashion America Today

What effect does the mystery shopping research have on the organization?

Judith: Mainly a positive effect. We generally score well, which is nice. Everyone is involved and aware of it. In every store, the latest results are on the table and discussed in the team. That's great to see. 

We recently opened a new branch, and a mystery shopper came by after just one day. They scored 100% right away, which is of course fantastic. Then everyone sends messages to the store manager to congratulate this new team. 

The mystery shopping research has been running for a long time, of course. If you look at the trend over all those years, you see an impressive upward line. Then it also helps to zoom out at a lower score. What also helps, and is quite unique in retail, is that people stay with us for a long time. That's a huge amount of experience and also says something about our organization. The atmosphere is good, and we invest in our people. I see the mystery shopping research as part of that too. Through the constructive feedback from the shoppers, we learn and become a little better each time.   

Would you like to elevate customer experience like America Today?

We have years of experience in various industries with customer experience research. We map out customer experience for restaurants, supermarkets, fashion, cinemas, and various other industries. The data is presented in the best dashboard on the market. So, you always have the latest insights at your fingertips and know what's going on in your stores. Have a look at our other cases or get a demo to see what we can do for you.  



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