Mystery Shopping Results Revealed At #RIC18: Sephora, Adidas, Sunglass Hut Get High Marks

In the weeks leading up to the Retail Innovation Conference — held in New York City on April 30-May 2 — SeeLevel HX, a mystery shopping and customer experience agency, conducted a unique study at a number of NYC retailers. They then presented their findings at the conference. 

The purpose of the study was to take a qualitative dive into the experience at 30+ retailers with NYC-based stores. “We wanted to understand how globally recognized brands are really addressing, understanding and tackling what has become the experience economy,” said Steven Maskell, Chief Client Officer for SeeLevel HX. 

The retailers SeeLevel HX visited included: 


  • Abercrombie & Fitch;
  • Apple;
  • Bluemercury; 
  • lululemon; 
  • Best Buy;
  • Uniqlo; 
  • Sephora;
  • Best Buy;
  • Rebecca Minkoff; 
  • Sunglass Hut;
  • Bloomingdale’s; 
  • Macy’s;
  • Superdry; and
  • Target. 

These retailers were analyzed based on customer experience, including what brands seek to deliver to their customers beyond just product. “For us, customer experience is an engagement with a customer than leaves them with a positive, pleasant feeling and emotion about the brand that is memorable and communicable,” said Maskell.  

Here are the eight retailers that reigned supreme: 


“This is a fascinating store, and excellent location,” said Maskell. “They are true to their entire experience. Upon entering the store, they had a greeter who was highly engaging, highly personable. They did a great job of helping someone navigate the store.” 

“What was excellent about the experience was being able to say, ‘Welcome to the store, if you need any help, there is someone around the store that will do it for you. This is where this section is, this is where that section is. If you need anything please come back to me and I’m delighted to be here to help you out.’” 


“Sephora stood out phenomenally — to the point that I have been talking about it for the past three weeks,” said Lisa van Kesteren, Founder and CEO at SeeLevel HX. “I don’t wear makeup very much. When I went into Sephora, I had the most fantastic experience. The people that helped me were specific and personable. They held my hand through the whole trip. I put stuff on; they let me try it on. Showed me different colors. They made me comfortable and they made me happy. So much so that I walked out with a lipstick. 

“I had such a great experience that I wondered if it was replicable — if all Sephora stores were just like it,” she added.  “I went into a second Sephora and I walked out with three more products. I had exactly the same experience, if not better. It was fun. I had a good time.

“From start to finish, they held my hand and helped me,” she concluded. “I felt like they were paying attention. The brand resonated with me.” 

Sunglass Hut 

“I found this one really fascinating,” said Maskell. “Sunglass Hut in Times Square was a high energy location but had a phenomenal level of engagement with customers. The way they did that was: The lady said something that was absolutely resonating with me. She said, ‘If you’re just browsing, please enjoy it. And then if you need anything, I’ll be right here.’ It was a great sales opportunity to say, ‘I know that you may or may not be in a purchasing mood, but please enjoy the space and enjoy being here. Please touch and feel and have a good time. And if you need more, then I’ll step in.’ So this wasn’t someone that was right there holding your hand and maybe engaging on a level that’s inappropriate for that specific brand or location.” 


“Another high-energy location,” said Maskell. “What I found absolutely fascinating about that one were the multi-levels with lots going on. What they did a great job of was a high energy welcome in complete compliance with what the brand was all about. My shopping colleague in this one was female and they did a great job of not trying to be prescriptive. They said, ‘Welcome to adidas, we’re delighted to have you here. If you’re looking for women’s stuff, go down two floors. If you’re looking for men’s stuff, go up one floor. Careful, there’s a soccer game on; there’s going to be a lot of rowdy people.’ They completely set the stage, helped us understand exactly where to go and navigate the store and really become a part of the environment in the store.” 

Rebecca Minkoff

“High energy, very good welcome and engagement,” said Maskell. “They really acknowledge that I was a destination shopper. They conducted a good needs analysis and asked, ‘Why are you here? What’s the occasion?’ They really helped me walk through the entire process.

“They do a phenomenal job with their fitting rooms,” Maskell added. “It’s a digital fitting room; the mirror is interactive. What they do a great job of is help you feel comfortable in the space. There is a champagne button and they keep bringing it to you! You also don’t have to leave the changing rooms. You push a button and they bring [new product] to you. They also have changes to the lighting so you can see what clothing will look in different times of day. Very high touch and experiential.” 

La Maison du Chocolat 

“The associate was a total brand advocate,” said Maskell. “She took us on the whole brand journey and asked questions. She had a silver tray with chocolates to try the product. She also had other products that were not at that specific store, where she led me to other locations. She just did a wonderful job understanding what she can do to drive the experience forward and have me remember her particular brand.” 


“This was a surprise,” said Maskell. “The associates would engage when needed. They would follow and keep themselves open to what was going on with us as shoppers. The part that struck us the most was when they said, ‘You look a little lost; where are you trying to go? How can I help you?’ They had a good way of hovering appropriately but also making sure they were attentive to the experience that we were engaging in and enhancing that experience.” 

Tiffany & Co. 

“Tiffany’s performs fabulously. It was quite formal when we walked through the door,” said van Kesteren. “Then we were able to walk around and browse the store without people approaching us unless we made eye contact. They were paying attention to find out when we were ready. They were formal and helpful, but not pushy — very representative of the brand.” 

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