Mystery shopping has been around since the 1940s to prevent employee theft, which often occurs in banks and retail stores. Today, mystery shopping has grown to be a multimillion-dollar industry, contributing around $600 million to the US economy.
Fig. 1. Estimated market volume of the global mystery shopping industry
Mystery shopping companies are becoming more relevant as market competition expands and customer trends rapidly develop. Brands that have employed SeeLevel HX’s mystery shopping services specifically continue to enjoy visible improvements in their business processes, brand reputation, and customer experience delivery. Here’s how secret shopping can contribute to brand success.
A Closer Look at Mystery Shopping
The objective of any mystery shopping campaign is to obtain an unbiased analysis of your business from the consumer’s perspective using metrics designed for measuring customer experience. Both objective and subjective feedback are sent to your company, highlighting your brand’s strengths and areas for improvement.
Mystery shoppers pose as actual customers, and can be tasked with objectives such as taking photographs of the store, returning a damaged product, making a purchase, asking questions, raising complaints, and/or observing employee behavior. Mystery shoppers can spot potential future concerns, allowing you to quickly strategize and correct them before customers take notice.
Your team should look at mystery shopping campaigns as a way to ensure each location’s business performance reflects your brand’s mission and vision, as well as delivers on your brand promises.
The Secrets to Mystery Shopping Success
While many factors affect the success of any market research campaign, the following mystery shopping secrets stand out.
1. Plan the details.
Before executing a mystery shopping campaign, you should first answer some questions to identify why you want your business to undergo such an activity. What is the goal? How will you be using the results to improve the organization?
Determining the purpose of the exercise gives direction on how to proceed with the campaign. It is a waste of time and resources to launch a program without an idea of where it should lead.
Do you want to use it to assess employee performance, to determine what customers think about your brand, or to spot the weak points in your daily processes? You might even want to use it to gauge how you stack up against competitors in the industry.
Establishing goals allows mystery shopping companies to set up metrics that will be useful for the campaign. This will improve the efficiency of the program in pinpointing the steps toward brand success.
The mystery shopping campaign might reveal sensitive information that your business protects. So, before the program starts, you should identify the stakeholders who will be able to access the information. Planning how you want data to be handled is essential in making sure your business secrets aren’t given to competitors.
2. Establish standards.
It’s hard to assess anything without a standard model for comparison. Surely you’ve written guidelines and developed perfect scenarios that everyone in the company should emulate. Mystery shopping companies will find it easier to establish metrics and devise assessment strategies if they have a model to work on. It’ll also help mystery shoppers quickly identify the oddities in employee performance or the overall performance of a particular location.
Establishing a standard model behavior isn’t a mystery shopping secret, because it’s a logical action to perform when you’re gauging the performance and quality of a product, a service, or even a process. Even in the absence of a mystery shopping campaign, there should be business guidelines and standard models in place to ensure consistency in customer experience delivery.
3. Ensure diversity and reach.
In retail, no two days are the same, as you encounter different sets of people with varying perspectives, preferences, and personalities. Typically, an ordinary customer only returns to the same store every other month or so. Having the same mystery shopper visit an outlet several times within a week doesn’t resemble the natural events of a retail setting.
Rotating secret shoppers prevents employees from becoming familiar with the ins and outs of your business. The spacing between visits also helps reflect the unpredictability of everyday encounters with customers.
SeeLevel HX is a company that can provide a variety of shoppers from your selected demographic. We can tap into our network of over 792,000 mystery shoppers to create diversity. This customer variety helps us mirror the actual situation of facing an assortment of customers.
With our extensive reach, we can also simultaneously conduct campaigns across multiple business branches in the US. This is useful for those running a franchise model with numerous retail outlets across the country.
4. Pay attention to detail.
One of the mystery shopping secrets that makes campaigns successful is the attention to detail of secret shoppers. Mystery shoppers are trained to spot nuances while also taking into account the bigger picture encompassing the customer experience journey.
Attention to detail is very important, especially in evaluating employee performance. Mystery shoppers have to observe staff interactions and remember what makes them stand out or underperform against their peers. To ensure a successful mission, the shopper must act as an ordinary customer to avoid being recognized as someone hired to observe and evaluate the customer experience.
Mystery shoppers must have sharp memories to remember tiny details and spot small deviations that might affect customer experience. It can be a subtle change in store layout, the way employees present the brand or their attitudes in handling difficult situations.
Accuracy is vital to help businesses pinpoint where any problems lie in their daily operations. Detailed observations allow organizations to swiftly implement changes that matter and legitimately affect business performance.
5. Offer comprehensive reporting.
Reports should contain detailed and objective observations of what transpired during the store visit. The more comprehensive they are, the better for your business, as you’ll be able to quickly pinpoint which problem areas need to be addressed and which strengths your team should capitalize on to gain the upper hand in the market.
Fig. 2. Sample SeeLevel HX Report
(Source: SeeLevel HX)
While some mystery shopping companies only gather the data and send it to their clients, SeeLevel HX ensures comprehensive reporting with actionable insights to support client objectives. Our reports are summarized, analyzed, interpreted, and made visual to best assist your team in understanding the data, even by those who are not familiar with statistical jargon and complex charts and figures.
SeeLevel HX provides emphasis on 3 critical areas businesses need to see in a report: simplicity, cleanliness, and actionable information. In just one look, you can determine the program results and current performance on a brand-wide, regional and managerial level. In addition, you won’t just see a summary of the campaign results in the report. You’ll gain actionable insights you can readily use to make wise business decisions that will maximize performance.
A closer look at mystery shopping will reveal that its success depends on how specific you are in your objectives. The way you organize your business in terms of established guidelines and enforcement of a standard model behavior will help mystery shopping companies best gauge your overall brand performance.
A mystery shopping service is an efficient and comprehensive method to identify a brand’s strong points and areas for improvement. When conducted regularly, secret shopping can lead to drastic improvements in operational processes and the quality of customer experience provided.
If you’re interested in learning more about conducting a mystery shopping program, contact SeeLevel HX. Our team of market research and mystery shopping experts can assist in paving your path towards success.