Mystery shopping or secret shopping is one of the most unique and engaging services in market research.
What exactly is mystery shopping?
Mystery shopping is a form of both qualitative and quantitative market research using professionally trained shoppers to evaluate an experience in a natural storefront or retail environment.
It is not only for grocery stores, but any business that offers some level of customer service. This includes colleges, financial institutions such as banks or credit unions, retail stores, restaurants, and more.
Watch as our mystery shopping company explains four major benefits of conducting this type of market research.
Watch Participants in Their Natural Environments
A big advantage of conducting mystery shops is the ability to watch or study a participant in a neutral setting in which they have visited many times. When comparing other qualitative market research methodologies such as focus groups, participants of the group discussion are watched through a one way mirror, likely at a focus group facility.
Focus group participants can take some time to get used to being in an environment they are unfamiliar with. With mystery shopping however, participants are asked to walk through a store, grocery shopping as though nothing is out of the usual.
Mystery shopping also allows for in-the-moment feedback. Unlike surveys, which are sent to visitors hours, days, or even weeks after their experience mystery shops gain feedback immediately after an interaction is exchanged.
For example if a retail store hired a secret shopper with a checklist of certain objectives such as staff friendliness and cleanliness of the store, a secret shopper will be able to immediately write down his or her feedback regarding the status of the store.
In another example, if a participant was asked to join an accompanied shopping trip with a trained moderator, the moderator would be able to ask the participant why he or she went to the produce aisle first, or why she chose the store brand item over the brand name item.
With mystery shopping, the memory of a customer’s experience is not tainted or misconstrued by the lapse in time or making a participant uncomfortable.
Mystery shopping is a flexible market research methodology because it can be classified as both qualitative and quantitative. In this regard, a retail store looking to conduct mystery shops is able to customize the project plan to learn exactly what you need for their specific goals and objectives.
A mystery shop can be qualitative in the sense of shopper participating in in-person research where they visit a location and offer their feedback about their experience from beginning to end. This is generally a more selective process to ensure customers of all demographics are being represented. While fewer shoppers are asked for their feedback or to be accompanied by a moderator, the data quality is extremely detailed and in-depth.
A mystery shop can be quantitative in the sense of all shoppers are asked to answer a few questions about their time at the venue at the end of the shopping trip. This method covers more ground and usually results in a much higher response rate. The negative side of conducting mystery shops this way is that you are limited with how many questions you can ask and the feedback tends to be less formal and more high level.
Our mystery shopping company often uses this methodology with organizations looking to gain inside knowledge of their competition. What better way to learn about how your competition treats their cliental, than to become an actual customer?
Very rarely do competitors offer up their best practices on a silver platter. Mystery shopping allows businesses to get an inside look at their sales processes and services. This can be conducted in-person, on the phone, or online.
For example, a bank or credit union is hoping to learn more about what perks or special pricing their competitors are offering people for signing up an account with them. A mystery shopper can then walk into the competitor’s bank or credit union and schedule an appointment with a representative. The mystery shopper is given a list of topics or areas to cover with a representative to collect the most valuable information possible.
Conducting mystery shops at a competitor’s location can test your competitor’s level of customer service, knowledge of their product offerings, special pricing not available are their marketing material, and much more.
Mystery shoppers are perhaps the best form of participant. Unlike regular market research participants, mystery shoppers are specifically hired by your organization or your market research partner to collect data. This leads to more reliable data as well as the ability to follow-up with participants.
A retail location is able to get the most accurate depiction of a customer’s experience in their store, campus, facility, etc. Mystery shopping provides the honest feedback your organization needs to better position itself to provide the greatest customer experience. It also allows business leaders to take a step back and allow a third-party provide non-bias feedback unlike any other methodology.
Contact Drive Research
Drive Research is a national mystery shopping company. Have questions about an upcoming mystery shopping project for your retail organization?
We can help. We work with organizations in New York and across the U.S. to assist with mystery shopping everywhere in the country.
Here's how to contact us.