With any good meal, the ingredients and the steps that go into preparing it are integral to the final product. And mystery shopping programs aren’t...
Mystery shoppers, secret shoppers, silent shoppers…they are known by many names, but who are these shoppers shrouded in enigma? And what exactly do they do? Mystery shopping is a form of market research. Over the last 80 years, it has only grown in popularity as it has been fuelled by technological advancements.
Top brands rely on mystery shopping services to evaluate their performance from a customer’s perspective. And, with today’s gig economy, it’s a popular opportunity for independent contractors looking to choose their own hours and learn more about their favorite brands.
Whether you’re a brand looking to better understand who these people are and what they do or someone looking to see if it’s the right gig for you, here we will look at:
Mystery shopping originated in the 1940s. Banks and retailers hired private investigators to assess the integrity of their employees with a focus on the handling of cash. But, as businesses realized that customer experience could make or break a brand, the practice shifted gears. When mystery shopping became focused on customer experience, the practice spread to every industry that interacts directly with its customers.
As the practice continued to grow in popularity the communication infrastructure of the time presented a challenge. Reports had to be sent by traditional snail mail and so did compensation for mystery shoppers. Then, with the advent of the internet in the 1990s, mystery shopping exploded. Communication became instantaneous and electronic payments made the gig far more appealing to mystery shoppers.
Ongoing advancements in technology have only continued to improve the experience. Today, mystery shoppers can use inspection software to complete questionnaires on their phones. Data is now received immediately by the mystery shopping service provider for review and quality assurance. As a result, brands can rely on a steady stream of customer experience data for analysis.
Mystery shopping is anything but boring. Assignments vary significantly based on the associated brands and what they want to measure. This is part of what makes it so appealing to potential mystery shoppers. One day a mystery shopper could be attending an hour-long fitness class and the next enjoying a burger from a fast-food chain.
Mystery shoppers unlock customer experience insights for brands. Whether it’s evaluating the promotion of limited-time offers or assessing the adherence to age compliance legislation. The data mystery shoppers collect helps businesses refine their day-to-day operations. This, in turn, improves the experiences of all consumers.
As independent contractors, mystery shoppers can choose their preferred assignments and build their own schedules. Many work with multiple mystery shopping service providers to find as much work as they want.
Fielding agents are the primary point of contact for shoppers. These are individuals working for mystery shopping service providers. Fielding agents work to ensure all assignments are filled by mystery shoppers who match the correct customer profile. They then work with the mystery shoppers to ensure they clearly understand the assignments and have everything they need to complete them successfully.
Mystery shoppers are provided with a questionnaire developed to guide their visit. This is designed to collect the necessary information required by the overall mystery shopping program. Shoppers review this questionnaire to understand what observations they need to make during the assignment. They then conduct the necessary tasks while making mental notes based on the questionnaire.
Once they have completed their transaction, shoppers then complete the questionnaire and submit it digitally. The submission is then reviewed by an editor as a final check to ensure nothing is missing. This is a crucial step to ensure the information aligns with the reporting being provided to the client. The results from each assignment are then uploaded into a platform where the client can review it and conduct the end analysis of their program data.
For brands, mystery shopping is an essential piece of a robust customer experience program. The objective data collected from a customer’s perspective is incredibly valuable to brands looking to measure the execution and impact of various initiatives.
As we discussed previously, technology has had a massive impact on mystery shopping. When looking for a mystery shopping service provider, pay special attention to the technology they use. Was it developed in-house or are they using someone else’s platform? How frequently is their technology being updated? What features do they currently have and what are they building?
For contractors, mystery shopping can be a great source of flexible income. Work as much or as little as you want, make your own hours and choose your own assignments. A great place to start is by reaching out to a mystery shopping provider and talking to their operations team. There is no limit to the number of service providers you can work with so feel free to try different ones and see how you like working with them.