Mystery shopping market research, also known as secret shopping, is a method used by companies to evaluate and assess the quality of their products, services, and customer experiences. In this approach, individuals known as “mystery shoppers” or “secret shoppers” are hired by market research firms or businesses to pose as regular customers. These mystery shoppers then interact with the company’s employees, products, or services as a typical customer would.
Mystery shopping market research is considered a form of primary research.
Primary research involves the collection of new and original data directly from the source to address specific research objectives. In the case of mystery shopping, data is collected firsthand by the mystery shoppers themselves as they interact with the business being evaluated. They directly observe and experience the customer service, product offerings, and overall experience, providing fresh and unique insights.
On the other hand, secondary market research involves the analysis and interpretation of existing data that has already been collected by other parties. This data could come from various sources such as published reports, articles, databases, or previously conducted surveys.
Since mystery shopping involves the direct collection of new data through interactions with businesses, it falls under the category of primary research. The insights gathered from mystery shopping are specific to the research objectives of the assignment and are not based on pre-existing data. This firsthand data collection method allows businesses to obtain authentic and real-time feedback on their operations and customer experience, which can be valuable for making informed decisions and improvements.
The main purpose of mystery shopping is to gather unbiased and objective feedback on various aspects of a business, such as:
- Customer service: Mystery shoppers evaluate the friendliness, responsiveness, and knowledge of the staff.
- Product knowledge: Mystery shoppers assess whether employees are knowledgeable about the products or services they offer.
- Store appearance: Mystery shoppers observe and report on the cleanliness, organization, and overall appearance of the business premises.
- Compliance: Mystery shoppers check if the company is adhering to relevant rules, regulations, and company policies.
- Sales techniques: Mystery shoppers may also assess the effectiveness of the sales process and upselling techniques.
The collected data and insights from mystery shopping are used by businesses to identify strengths and weaknesses, improve their operations, train employees, and enhance the overall customer experience. It helps businesses gain valuable feedback from the perspective of real customers, enabling them to make informed decisions to enhance their services and increase customer satisfaction.
Mystery shopping can be conducted across various industries, including retail stores, restaurants, hotels, banks, healthcare facilities, and other service-oriented businesses. The findings from mystery shopping are often combined with other market research data to provide a comprehensive understanding of customer perceptions and preferences.
It’s important to note that mystery shopping should be conducted ethically and with proper guidelines to ensure the authenticity and accuracy of the collected data. Mystery shoppers should maintain anonymity and follow specific criteria while evaluating the businesses to avoid any biases or misinterpretations in the research results.
In mystery shopping market research, the questions asked to the mystery shoppers are designed to gather specific information about the customer experience and various aspects of the business being evaluated. The questions can vary depending on the industry and the specific objectives of the mystery shopping assignment. Here are some common types of questions that are typically asked in a mystery shopping survey:
- Customer Service Experience:
- How was your overall experience with the staff?
- Were the employees courteous and friendly?
- Did the staff greet you upon entering the store/establishment?
- How long did you have to wait for assistance?
- Were the employees able to answer your questions satisfactorily?
- Product or Service Knowledge:
- Did the employees demonstrate a good understanding of the products/services?
- Were they able to explain product features and benefits effectively?
- Did they offer any upsells or additional products/services?
- Store/Location Evaluation:
- How would you rate the cleanliness and organization of the store/facility?
- Were the displays and signage appealing and informative?
- Were the products well-stocked and readily available?
- Compliance and Procedures:
- Did the employees follow the company’s policies and procedures?
- Were there any issues related to pricing or promotions?
- Did they request identification for age-restricted products if applicable?
- Purchase Process:
- How easy was it to find the products or services you were looking for?
- How was the checkout process? Was it efficient and friendly?
- Were you provided with a receipt for your purchase?
- Feedback and Suggestions:
- Is there anything specific that stood out as exceptional or needs improvement?
- Do you have any recommendations to enhance the overall customer experience?
- Is there anything the business could do differently to better meet your needs?
- Overall Satisfaction:
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how satisfied were you with your experience?
- Would you recommend this business to others?
- How likely are you to return for future purchases or visits?
These are just examples of the types of questions commonly included in a mystery shopping survey. The actual questions will be tailored to the specific requirements and goals of each mystery shopping assignment. The feedback provided by mystery shoppers helps businesses identify areas for improvement and implement strategies to enhance their services and customer satisfaction.
Outsourcing mystery shopping to a market research firm offers several advantages over conducting it in-house. Here are some reasons why businesses often prefer to outsource this task:
- Objectivity and Unbiased Feedback: Market research firms provide independent and unbiased mystery shoppers who have no personal connection or bias towards the business being evaluated. This ensures that the feedback received is objective and reflects the real customer experience.
- Specialized Expertise: Market research firms have experience in designing effective mystery shopping programs, identifying key research objectives, and formulating relevant questions. They know how to conduct mystery shopping in a professional and consistent manner, ensuring reliable and actionable results.
- Access to a Large Pool of Mystery Shoppers: Market research firms typically have access to a diverse and large pool of trained mystery shoppers. This allows them to select shoppers who match the target demographics and behavioral characteristics of the business’s customer base, leading to more representative feedback.
- Quality Control: Market research firms have established quality control measures to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the data collected. They monitor and validate the mystery shopping process to maintain high standards and consistency.
- Time and Resource Efficiency: Conducting in-house mystery shopping requires significant time, effort, and resources to recruit, train, and manage mystery shoppers, as well as to analyze the data. Outsourcing frees up the business’s internal resources, allowing them to focus on their core activities.
- Confidentiality: Using an external market research firm helps maintain confidentiality and anonymity for the mystery shoppers, which is crucial for preserving the integrity of the research and ensuring unbiased feedback.
- Customized Reporting and Analysis: Market research firms can provide customized reports and in-depth analysis of the mystery shopping results. This enables businesses to gain valuable insights into specific areas that need improvement and make data-driven decisions.
- Benchmarking and Industry Insights: Some market research firms offer benchmarking services, comparing a business’s performance with industry standards and competitors. This additional context can be invaluable for setting realistic goals and performance targets.
- Cost-Effectiveness: Outsourcing mystery shopping can be cost-effective, especially for businesses that conduct mystery shopping infrequently. Instead of investing in establishing an in-house team, businesses can pay for the services they need on a project-by-project basis.
Overall, outsourcing mystery shopping to a market research firm provides businesses with the expertise, resources, and objectivity needed to gain valuable insights into their customer experience and improve their operations effectively.