The more you know her, the less you are surprised… at her financial results, but also at the quality of the experience she manages to offer her clients. To suggest the paraphrase of the commercial long S – which reads “The more you know her, the more you fall in love” – is the Mystery Shopper created by BVA Doxa exclusively for Food and dedicated this month to the Milanese chain. The world champion of large-scale distribution in sales per square meter – € 15,913, based on data from the Mediobanca Large-scale Retail Observatory – also recorded record performance in the survey conducted last September in 15 points of sale in Lombardy, Tuscany, Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna.
The first aspect to highlight is that of the synthetic indicators: in all macro-areas, Esselunga ranks in the highest score bracket. It ranges from a minimum of 80% regarding the adoption of anti-Covid measures to 91% as regards the sealing of the point of sale, up to reaching 98% with regard to the item that photographs the variety of products on the shelf. “Taken together, these are truly remarkable results – he claims Andrea Tozzi, Research Manager of BVA Doxa – and that none of the brands analyzed so far in the context of the Mystery Shoppers created for Food had obtained. I think that Esselunga will also become a sort of parameter for the next investigations that we will develop as part of this initiative ”.
FIRST-CLASS ORDER AND CLEANING
Already from the outside, the Lombard group’s stores are promoted with flying colors, with 92% of clean windows (judged ‘impeccable’ in 23% of cases and ‘very clean’ in 54%) and 90% of shops perceived as overall tidy (20% ‘flawless’ and 60% very tidy). At the entrance a first appreciable difference: in 27% of the surfaces visited there is an equipment to automatically measure the temperature. To give a term of comparison, this device was reported only in 7% of the Bennets and the only brand, among those examined, which recorded a comparable incidence is Carrefour Express with 20%.
“Moreover, the area of anti-Covid measures is precisely the one in which Esselunga has margins to do better – Tozzi points out – and reach the levels of excellence gained on other fronts. For example, in 13% of the stores the mystery shoppers did not recognize the presence of personal protection and sanitizing devices, such as disinfectant gel dispensers or disposable gloves. It must be said, however, that all the dispensers available worked ‘very well’ or ‘well’ and overall appeared clean in 85% of cases. Another critical element is the safety distance of one meter between people queuing to pay, which is not enforced in almost one out of two stores in the sample.. On this aspect, however, what has already been highlighted in the previous research proposed by BVA Doxa on Food should be reiterated, namely that sensitivity to the Covid issue, and therefore the attention on the part of customers to compliance with the rules to counter the risk of contagion, varies according to the moments and the general context. Our impression is that in the weeks in which the analysis was carried out there was a general easing of tension, which inevitably reflected on the behavior of individuals and therefore on the results of the survey itself “.
The excellent overall condition of the shop – once entered, 93% of mystery shoppers judged it overall clean and tidy – is coupled with the appearance of the employee in the department (who appeared overall always looked after in 93% of cases, with even 53% of ‘flawless’), while some flaws can be seen from the point of view of interaction, with 13% of employees who listened casually to the question posed by the mystery shopper, gave the impression of making little effort in answering and maintained a gloomy and annoyed expression. On the other hand, however, the behavior of the remaining 87% of employees, who therefore listened carefully, worked ‘a lot’ (33%) or ‘enough’ (54%) in giving an answer and kept an expression smiling and helpful.
THE VARIETY OF THE OFFER IS AWARDED
However, where Esselunga shows all the quality of its commercial formula is in the area of the so-called choice of products. In the category examined – yogurt – 87% of mystery shoppers considered the variety in terms of tastes and formats to be ‘very wide’, compared to 13% who considered it ‘quite wide’. Industrial brands seemed prevalent in the offer proposed by 60% of the stores analyzed, while in the remaining 40% there seemed to be a balance between brand and MDD, therefore with the latter never giving the impression of greater supervision of the refrigerated counter. “But most of all – Tozzi intervenes – in no case was the presence of expired references reported, which had always happened in our previous surveys published on Food. An excellent figure, because we are talking about a sample of 15 points of sale, which are by no means few from this point of view. In my opinion, such a positive result is linked to what emerges from another of the questions posed to the mystery shoppers, to whom we asked to check the expiration dates of the yoghurts in the refrigerated counter, to understand if most of them had a shelf life. beyond the month, between 15 days and a month or within a week. Well, in no case was a majority of products with a close expiry date, ie within a week, been indicated; 87% found that most products were still fit for consumption for a period ranging from 15 days to a month; 13% reported that the majority of references had even more expiration than one month. In conclusion, Well-established procurement and maintenance processes of the offer lead to a reduction in the number of references close to expiry and therefore avoid the unpleasant inconvenience of leaving an expired product in the refrigerated counter “.
When they reached the checkouts, all the mystery shoppers had the perception of being in an overall clean area and 93% thought it was overall tidy. Still 93% said that the staff at the checkout looked neat, always wore the uniform and in 73% of the cases also had the company badge. The mask was always worn correctly and in all the stores there was a Plexiglass divider between the customer and the cashier, an anti-Covid security measure now customary in large-scale distribution. 73% of the employees greeted and smiled both at the beginning and at the end of the checkout operations, while 27% only said hello. On the other hand, 60% of the employees gave thanks for the expense. In short, data that collectively give Esselunga a high score (91%) in relation to the item ‘cash and leave’.
THE ATMOSPHERE? VERY POSITIVE
What opinion did the mystery shoppers have about the shopping experience in Esselunga? 87% had the perception of being in an overall safe environment (20% ‘very safe’, 34% ‘very safe’, 33% ‘safe’) compared to 13% who answered ‘so-so’, while no one opted for ‘little / not at all sure’. “Where, however, Esselunga obtained an objectively exceptional result – adds Tozzi – is in the Net Happiness Score, an indicator of the atmosphere in the store. When asked how happy the people working in the store seemed to be, 60% of the mystery shoppers gave a 9 or 10 rating, thus a very positive rating of the atmosphere in the shop, while 40% gave 8 or 7, which results in a neutral judgment in our metric. No one has chosen a grade equal to or less than 6, therefore negative, and therefore the Net Happiness Score is + 60%, which represents an unprecedented peak so far. Suffice it to say that the highest figure had been Aldi’s + 14%, while the Bennet and Carrefour Express brands had settled at + 6%, Pam Local at + 7% and even Lidl had slipped into negative territory with -12%. . In short, our survey on a sample of 15 Esselunga shows that the staff appear happy and obviously this reverberates favorably on the image of the chain “. Not by chance, 53% of mystery shoppers assign the maximum score, that is five stars, to the judgment on the lived shopping experience, followed by 20% who lean towards four stars and by 27% who stop at three stars.
PERFECTION IS POSSIBLE
In conclusion, Esselunga comes out very well from the research conducted by BVA Doxa: “First of all, it proves that mystery shopping is an effective tool – underlines Tozzi – because it allows you to identify strengths and margins for improvement. The fact, for example, that an Esselunga Piedmontese store has achieved an overall score of 99%, very close to the maximum achievable threshold, demonstrates that it is possible to be perceived as impeccable even by a customer who is more aware of the details as one of our mystery shoppers.. Moreover, the excellent results of Esselunga come after the very valid ones of Bennet, the subject of our previous investigation. This is due to the two companies, of course, but it should not be overlooked that both operate on much larger surfaces than the others examined so far. This suggests that there may be a basically better perception of medium-large stores, perhaps due to the greater variety in the offer which remains a central criterion in the evaluation of the shopping experience “.
But if one were to venture a juxtaposition between Esselunga and one of the other brands analyzed so far through the lens of mystery shopping, which would be the best candidate? “I’d say Aldi – Tozzi retorts – because, beyond the strong differences in terms of format, it is the one that reveals the most the systematic adoption in the network of centrally defined procedures. A practice that Esselunga for its part implements in a constant and precise way, earning a perception of absolute excellence in aspects such as shelf management and maintenance in terms of order and cleanliness of the store “.
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Mystery Shopper, Esselunga da record – Retail – FOOD