Parsons’ Students Apply e-tailing group Mystery Shopping Methodology to Learn eCommerce Ropes

Posted on July 13th, 2010 by

Parsons’ Students Apply e-tailing group Mystery Shopping Methodology to Learn eCommerce Rope

For the second consecutive year students in Joan Abraham’s e-Marketing class at Parsons the New School of Design applied e-tailing group Mystery Shopping metrics to their major term assignment of identifying best practices for merchandising a website.  Working in teams, they learned how to benchmark a website for successful ecommerce, mystery shopped a merchant of choice, then set priorities for recommended site improvements.

Abraham explained, “The course description states that: ‘Students will learn what is important and what to avoid in using these new methods of distribution in the fashion industry.’ Utilizing the e-tailing group’s 280 benchmarks gave them a real world understanding of key elements that provide customer service and state-of-the-art merchandising on a website. Their creativity was amazing.  I particularly loved that so many focused on videos in their presentations as that’s my area of concentration with StyleBranding, Inc.

The attached PowerPoint presentations exemplify how well these students performed the task at hand as they assessed Target1, Target2, Intermix, Halston, and Angel Street Thrift Shop.

Ultimately their comments throughout the assignment were the most rewarding for us as they took away lessons from this experience that will enable them to be best-in-class merchants (and savvy shoppers) in years to come.

Sarah: “The e-tailing group PowerPoint served as a great road map for our upcoming project and a tool for those of us who are looking to branch into online retailing.  The presentation along with the supporting files did an impressive job of encompassing all the various elements in the online shopping experience, from point of entry to the sale and return of a product.”

Sarah: “It’s great to know that these types of services exist.  Having this information on hand is a huge advantage for businesses and a great way for them to see how they measure up.  As we begin our search, it’ll be interesting to see how our retailers stack up to the competition. I’m looking forward to the seeing what our research reveals.”

Ji Hye: “The e-tailing group provides services that I would be very interested in.  As an online business owner I would like to know statistics about the competition, such as how many hours to respond to a customer email, how many clicks from selection of product through checkout their websites require, the number of business days to receive a product.  The mystery shopping exercise collects data that I definitely want to know.”

AndreaL: “This exercise was very helpful to understand ways that a business can create the best online retail experience. While shopping online, we are all looking and utilizing these tools but I haven’t really considered all of these elements and how they can be combined to create a superior shopping experience. It is very obvious when you encounter a bad site but there are so many little nuances that can separate a good site from a superior one. I will be doing some assessing during my online shopping going forward.”

AndreaA: “The e-tailing group PowerPoint and articles on the [e-tailing group] site were really helpful in terms of understanding exactly what aspects of a site make it user-friendly and successful. I also found the comparison percentages of this year and last year to be extremely telling about just how important the online retailing aspect of a business has become and how much growth and development is being put into sites across-the-board. “

AndreaA (later in project):  “If I were an online entrepreneur, I would like to use the e-tailing group’s services to help me come up with the best design for navigating my website.  By reviewing the data of my competitors, I would see what kinds of key capabilities I need to deliver in order to exceed or match the competition.  The comparison statistics would guide the architecture of the website, since what an online retail site needs to do in order to distinguish itself from its competitors is provide a shopping experience – a fulfilling, pleasing, painless experience.  However, the e-tailing group’s services would be useful on an ongoing basis as well.  I assume that after a year or so, it would be very helpful to take a look at the latest data to further refine the website, and to figure out where I can improve and give the consumers more of what they want.”

Lindsey: “I think it’s interesting to see how very predictable we can all be when it comes to shopping online. Not surprising that many companies have selling us online down to a science! When looking at the e-tailing group breakdown…I was intrigued and amused to see that it was the same way I shop online! Refine by price lowest to highest, etc. It was very informative. Great info, thanks!”

Annie: “…The thing that really struck me about the e-tailing group PPT was the percentage increases in every category in just one year. This just goes to show that ecommerce isn’t just a fleeting trend, it is the future of fashion retailing and businesses across-the-board are investing in their online presence to ensure that their sites are as high-tech and user-friendly as possible. To compete with what is out there you really do have to think of everything, and the e-tailing group does a great job of providing a checklist to help us make sure we are doing just that!! Thanks for sharing this information it puts everything we are working on in a larger context.”

Andrea Raghunandan and her project partner  Sarah Kang  took on a the daunting task of assessing Angel Street Thrift Shop, a local New York merchant that has yet to implement ecommerce. They wisely aggregated examples to show how this merchant might execute features important to selling via the online channel in support of their mission: donating proceeds to benefit programs for individuals and families affected by Substance Abuse, HIV/AIDS and Mental Illness.  After completion of the assignment she said:

“The mystery shopping project utilizing the e-tailing group benchmarks was quite frankly one of the more useful exercises I participated in during school. I have since performed an evaluation of ecommerce sites I came across using the parameters I learned from the e-tailing group and can easily recognize an effective site from one that can be improveda skill I can employ in the real world.”

At the e-tailing group we assess 280 metrics on 100 sites annually to provde a snapshot of the cross-channel user experience. How do you assess the effectiveness of your website?

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