Among all of the different types of methodologies our market research company offers, mystery shopping might get the most questions. What is it? How does it work? How do I sign up? Well, signing up is probably the most simple task. Join our panel here. As mystery shopping projects come along in your area, we'll email or call you.
The other questions are a bit more challenging because the methodology is very flexible. That is one of the major benefits of pursuing a project with a mystery shopping company. Options. There is flexibility in scope, flexibility in recruitment, and flexibility in the type of shoppers.
We tackle those 3 insights and 2 others in this market research blog post. Our firm will give you some more detail on the what, how, and why of mystery shopping projects.
Mystery shopping is one methodology that is easy to administer in-environment. A lot of market research occurs outside of the natural environment, but not mystery shopping.
Insight 1: Flexibility in the Methodology
The great thing about mystery shopping is it can be both qualitative or quantitative. Qualitative mystery shopping typically involves 30 or less shops from either market research professionals posing as shoppers or through the recruitment of real-life shoppers. The number of shops is small so it allows for greater depth on the evaluation.
Quantitative mystery shopping is often part of a larger program, typically ongoing. This might involve 50 or 100 shops per month. Or one ad-hoc project of 250 shops. These quantitative mystery shops are more focused on measurement and tracking data. The depth of information is less, but you get far more data.
Insight 2: Recruitment Options
In addition to flexibility in methodology, you also have flexibility in how you recruit. One option is taking a traditional route where the mystery shopping company pre-screens potential participants through an email survey and phone call. Questions are asked to ensure they qualify for the project. Then they are scheduled and instructed on when to shop and where to shop for the next visit. An evaluation form is filled out after the experience.
Another option for recruiting is on-site at the store or retail location. A team can intercept recruits on their way out of the store and ask them if they would be willing to mystery shop at a future visit. Instructions are the same. This is difficult to do on the way in because employees will quickly learn about the project and perhaps adjust natural behavior during customer experiences that day (e.g. be nicer, explain more, etc.)
Insight 3: Shopper Options
Similar to the point made in Insight 1, you have options with shoppers. You may choose a professional market research analyst or assistant to go on-site and have an experience. In many cases these participants have a direct role in analysis and reporting so they become very ingrained in the project.
The other option is using natural customers or consumers to complete the mystery shops. Although they are not professionally trained in market research, their experience is more natural and real (but sometimes less detailed). It's a trade off of data quality versus a natural experience.
Insight 4: Natural Environment
Great segue to this point. Another benefit of mystery shopping is the ability to conduct the market research in-environment. Think about follow-up online surveys asking about a purchase experience. If the survey comes 24 or 48 hours later will you remember all of the details? Will you feel the same way taking the survey on the couch using your phone as you did when you were in-store at the check-out line? I am sure those feelings and emotions around the experience would be different.
Mystery shopping is a great way to capture in-the-moment feedback.
Insight 5: Take Time to Prepare Your Evaluation Guide
Regardless of the methodology you choose, the shoppers you choose, and how you recruit them, all mystery shopping companies know a good evaluation guide is critical. The evaluation guide needs to include instructions and all of the questions the mystery shopper needs to evaluate. This could include questions like cleanliness, evaluation of the customer service reps, speed of check-out, selection of items, etc.
As Peter Drucker famously said: "What gets measured gets managed."
Drive Research is a mystery shopping company located in Syracuse, NY. We work with clients across the country to manage mystery shopping projects including recruitment, evaluation guide design, rewards, and reporting.
Questions about a mystery shopping project?
② Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org (we are pinged when we get an email to this inbox)
③ Call us at 315-303-2040 (particularly after we've enjoyed a coffee in the morning)