Understand Your Market and Competitors With Mystery Shopping

How to Use Mystery Shopping to Understand your Competitors

Have you ever experienced a novice restaurant enticing your usual customers to shift to their store, slowly taking away the customer base that took you years to establish? If so, you might have also visited the new store to see for yourself what the big deal is that even your loyal customers are leaving.

Or, maybe you have decided to open a new restaurant that has a lot of variety to offer. You have the best discounts and affordable prices, the catchiest advertisements and the incredible advantages of technology by your side. All this, and yet you can’t seem to topple an age-old store selling only a small product base to customers. You wonder what makes them hard to dominate despite all of the efforts you’ve exerted to get your target market’s attention.

In either case, your biggest question and concern was probably what is the competition doing to get ahead? This is an essential question and reaction to have in order to understand your top competitors, because the moment you stop asking this is the moment you become complacent and allow other restaurants to win.

You want to know what makes them better, so you learn areas you can improve on to deliver a great customer experience.

Mystery shopping is the only effective way to prove any of your theories about your competitors. Developing a plan based on hearsay is a waste of time and resources. Uncertainties can be cleared only when you allow a trained, professional mystery shopper to detect subtleties in the way their brands operate.

Doing competitor research is nothing new, although there are now much better methods to do so. Mystery shopping agencies like SeeLevel HX can send in trained professionals to conduct the study for you. We can dive deep into details to identify what makes the competition tick and pinpoint game-changing factors you can use to your advantage.


Understanding Competition Through Mystery Shopping

Mystery shopping has a lot more to offer than knowing more about your own organization. You can conduct a secret shopping program to understand your market and competitors alike, giving you the information you need to better your operations and customer service.

Is secretly analyzing your competition unethical or illegal in any way? Actually, no. In fact, it has even become a necessity to know what others are doing in order to get a better picture of the latest products, services and methods of operations in your industry. In a highly competitive environment, it’s wise to keep an eye on what your neighbors are doing to avoid getting left behind. As long as you’re not planning to sabotage their operations, there’s nothing harmful about making a move to understand your market and competitors through mystery shopping.

So, what can you understand about your market and competitors using the expertise of a mystery shopper? You’ll gain the following insight during and after joining our mystery shopping program:


Product Quality and Price

How does the quality of their products compare to yours? What about their prices? These two details play an important role in generating sales since customers typically focus on these factors first.


Target Market

Is there a specific audience your competition reaches? Why do they target this group of consumers? Knowing their niche market and how it overlaps with yours is important in strategizing your next move.

Are there opportunity gaps that both of you are missing? If so, is there a way to capture this with your brand? This demand gap might be highly profitable. With the help of market research and mystery shopping services, you’ll be able to compare both of your target audiences and see if there’s a gap you can fill.


Menuboard/Store Layout and Design

An intuitive floor layout, as well as a strategic menuboard design, can direct the flow of customers’ eyes, subtly telling them what they should buy first. In conducting competitive analyses and mystery shops, your business may be able to learn from the way your competitors do this.


Customer Engagement

How does your competition engage customers? How do they deal with difficult situations? With mystery shopping, you’ll be able to understand what they value and prioritize providing a satisfactory customer experience.


Brand Perception

How do customers perceive their brand? Brands often want certain qualities to be attributed to them, which is why they work hard to train their staff, strategize their marketing campaigns and design their stores, all in order to promote the brand value they want. With the help of a mystery shopping program, you’ll be able to discern the principles your competition embodies.


Processes and Procedures

Mystery shoppers can give you a rundown of how other businesses treat their customers, how they process orders, how they receive complaints and how they take care of day-to-day operations. Having an idea of how they run operations can give you a peek into areas you may have missed and need to include in your business process.

The importance of understanding your competition is of equal significance as comprehending your own business. Taking in new perspectives broadens your comprehension of factors that affect the customer experience. Strategies you didn’t think were possible or that you deemed ineffective for your brand can be given another chance, especially when your competition is using them successfully. The more you understand your market and competitors, the deeper you get to know your business, too.


Looking at the Bigger Picture

Defining objectives as specific as possible works best when you’re assessing your own business performance through a mystery shopping company. However, this isn’t ideal when completing competitor research since you may only have a vague idea of their business strategies. Applying your company policies and values in evaluating theirs will just result in misinformation, giving you the wrong idea of their strengths and weaknesses.

An example is when you try to measure the time it takes for your competitor’s employees to engage a customer who has entered their shop. This may be valuable to your business but not to them. Your employees may be responding faster than theirs, but this becomes irrelevant if your competitor didn’t really train their employees to do so.

What you should focus on instead is the way your competitors’ associates engage customers. It is a factor that applies to every business in any industry since it involves customer experience. This is a measurable factor that you can compare your performance to while better understanding your business competitors.

Learning about the competition in a subjective and unbalanced way can lead to erroneous results. In situations like the one described above, it’s best to look at the bigger picture and make more general statements on what you think the company values in providing a quality customer experience. Formulating a list of what you perceive as their assets and flaws, without nitpicking details, gives you a viable guideline in framing the questions you’d want mystery shoppers to focus on.


Applying Research Results

At the end of the secret shopping program, you’ll receive a report that can help you best understand your market and competitors. Mystery shoppers can offer you an overflowing wealth of information from their firsthand customer experience with your competitors. How you use this knowledge is where the real challenge starts.

Many organizations make the mistake of focusing too much on beating their competitors. You’re in the business of winning customers and not in thrashing the other players in the field. Oftentimes, companies confuse one for the other, thinking they’d win the customers back if they do every little thing that makes the other team successful.

Not everything you see or know about the competition is good for your business. You still have to filter the components you can use to your advantage and utilize them without having to sacrifice your brand’s principles. The last thing you want to do is simply copy everything your competition is doing in order to try and beat them at their own games.

Remember: you have different setups, policies, ethics, priorities and branding. Apply only those efforts that suit your business operations and put on hold those that have potential for the future. Discard those that go against the values you wish to promote.

Whatever you do with the findings, the bottom line remains the same. Concentrate on winning as many customers as you can, and work on ways to retain brand loyalty.

Applying Research Results Company's Growth


Understanding your competitors doesn’t have to be based on hearsay or unreliable internet research. Critical business decisions shouldn’t be grounded on these sources; otherwise, you will risk wasting resources or even ruining your brand’s reputation. If you want to perform effective and ethical competitive research, hiring the help of a mystery shopping agency is the best thing to do.

SeeLevel HX can give you more than just a report that contains graphs and statistics. We know the importance of understanding your competitors, which is why we provide actionable insights and suggestions you can readily integrate into your business decisions.

If you want to thoroughly understand your market and competitors, our mystery shopping services are just a call away.