The Value of Mystery Shopping and How to Plan for Success

How do clients obtain information about a competitor or other company of interest without walking through the door or placing an online order themselves? The answer is the methodology known as mystery shopping. Researchers employ mystery shopping when there is a desire to understand the details of a process or experience first-hand. Mystery shopping can be conducted in-person, online, or over the phone, depending on the objectives.

The Value of Mystery Shopping and How to Plan for Success

Mystery Shopping is an effective way to understand the customer point-of-view or evaluate a competitor's offerings.


The recruitment for mystery shopping is unique compared to other methodologies. An internal team member is often tasked with collecting the data. Other cases, such as projects with a wide geographic scope, require the services of a third party mystery shopper to complete fieldwork.

Mystery shopping recruits are unlike traditional focus group or in-depth interview (IDI) participants because of their role in data collection. Rather than share their pre-existing knowledge or answer questions based on their background, mystery shoppers will follow a process via specific instructions supplied by the researchers. Researchers outline points of interest during the experience that the mystery shopper must thoroughly investigate and document. This information is then handed off to the research team for analyses and reporting.

Some organizations use customers as mystery shoppers. In these cases, customers go into a store or branch to evaluate the experience. This is also commonplace in the restaurant industry. So, the mystery shop doesn’t always have to be with a research team member.

Soft Launch and Data Collection

A key to the success of a mystery shopping endeavor is comprehensive planning. Because any mystery shopping effort is subject to a real-world experience, unpredictability must be factored into the project design. One of the best ways to prepare for this risk is by completing a few test mystery shops. These tests act as a soft launch for fieldwork to identify problem areas that could affect data collection.

For example, a mystery shop planned for a competitor store may be hindered by product unavailability or irregular prices from a sale. Even after making updates based on the test mystery shops, it may be necessary to budget for additional shopping experiences as a fail-safe practice. This preparation makes for less headaches and provides flexibility during data collection.

Another important component of mystery shopping is protecting the identity of the mystery shopper as a researcher. Disclosing the nature of the mystery shop to the company of interest may have unintended consequences for the research. Negative impacts include falsified information from the company or employees acting unnaturally because they have been predisposed to the market research. To prevent an accidental disclosure of the mystery shop, measures such as spacing out the experiences (by time and/or geography), developing a script, or confirming with management the nature and schedule of the shops will not be disclosed with front-line staff can all prove effective.

Value and Benefits

The true value in mystery shopping lies within the detail of the results. While a respondent is asked about a previous experience from memory in other methodologies, mystery shopping offers primary data that is up-to-date, granular, and custom-fit to address the client’s objectives. One common benefit is a detailed look into the customer experience with the competition.

Mystery shopping allows every detail to be recorded, including all the intangibles. The authenticity of mystery shopping provides clients a full view and understanding of a customer journey. Reliable information is captured that otherwise would not be available publicly.


Contact Our Mystery Shopping Company

Drive Research is a mystery shopping company in NY. 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.

Message us on our website
Email us at [email protected]
Call us at 888-725-DATA
Text us at 315-303-2040

Mystery Shopping