Why mystery shopping?

In the world of retail and hospitality, mystery shopping is a well-known practice. It has been used for a long time, but why do retailers and hospitality businesses choose to use mystery shoppers? There can be multiple reasons for using mystery guests, as it can provide valuable feedback quickly for the entire organization, from shop floor to CEO, when used effectively. 

Why mystery shopping?

Why mystery shopping? 

  • Deeper insight into the shopping experience and customer perception 
  • Experiences from real customers within the target group 
  • Measure every touchpoint from the in-store customer journey 
  • Concrete feedback for employees to learn from 
  • Extra set of eyes and ears in the store 

What is mystery shopping? 

According to Wikipedia, a mystery shopper is “mystery shopping is a method used by marketing research companies and organizations that wish to measure quality of sales and service, job performance, regulatory compliance, or to gather specific information about a market or competitors, including products and services.” The employees are unaware that they are dealing with a secret shopper, and the shopper receives the same treatment as any other customer. This makes it a valuable tool for generating feedback based on real experiences. 

The research is tailored to the values and principles of the store being visited. For example, the mystery shopper might focus on quality, hospitality, store appearance, compliance, or waiting times. A common research question is also whether there is active upselling at the checkout. However, these customers on a mission can also check compliance with local laws for the sale of alcohol and tobacco to minors. In short, there are many reasons and ways to use mystery guests. 

How does mystery shopping work? 

The mystery shopping market is traditional, and often works with professional shoppers. These are people who are paid to visit various stores and check the shop floor with a trained eye. These shoppers are typically quickly recognized by the staff because they do not fall within the target group, visit at set times, or always ask the same specific questions (that real customers do not ask). 

The output of these shoppers is collected and often presented in outdated and unclear ways. This does not provide usable data or valuable insights for the store floor or management. 

But it can also be done differently. By giving mystery shoppers a shopping budget to spend in the store, retailers get mystery shoppers from their target audience in the store. The mystery shopper makes a purchase and gets to keep it as a reward for completing the assignment. After all, people are unlikely to shop at stores whose products do not appeal to them. Mystery shoppers who get a shopping budget do not stand out from the rest of the public, so they get the real shopping experience. 

They fill out the questionnaire as soon as possible, and after a check, the data appears in a clear dashboard. In this dashboard, you can zoom in from store to national, regional, or global level. The data is made visible on all levels, from CEO to store manager, depending on what data is relevant to them. 

What does feedback from mystery shopping provide? 

The client receives valuable information from real customers. Of course, these customers pay attention to predetermined aspects that are important in the customer journey or customer experience. For example, are you greeted when you enter, asked to take a customer card, or shown the weekly offer when you check out? Above all, are the employees friendly, active, and representative of your brand? 

These are just a few examples of steps in the customer journey that are monitored with mystery shopping. This way, you get valuable feedback per store and have real conversation examples to take with you in training and evaluation conversations. Perhaps a certain employee finds it challenging to approach people? Then you take that into the next training session and measure the result directly with a subsequent visit from a mystery shopper. 

By conducting regular research, you also gain a realistic view of how a location operates. It provides deeper insights than reviews or NPS (Net Promoter Score), which are often filled out by extremely disappointed or very happy customers. Not to mention the bias in NPS research (if you're satisfied, give a 9 or 10). NPS gives you a good idea of customer satisfaction and loyalty, but if you want to know why you're getting that score, you need in-depth feedback.

Curious about other research methods for customer experience?

Read the following article about 5 different research methods. Or if you want to start conducting mystery shopping research yourself, please contact us.

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