What is
Mystery Shopping?

The covert testing of a store, during which the researcher conducts a ‘real’ visit and, without revealing their role, audits the customer experience.

What are the aims of Mystery Shopping?

This approach is useful in assessing an experience against a list of aspects a brand defines as important for delivering a ‘good’ experience for its customers.

Mystery shops are most typically undertaken as part of an on-going programme where regular visits help to driving up standards/maintain consistency.

They can, however, be used on ad hoc projects – here the objectives tend to be about benchmarking the reality of the experience and often include audits of rivals.

Mystery Shopping has lost favour over recent years with brands moving towards the use of customer surveys. Fans of these point to the fact that they put ‘real’ customers at the heart of the business and, as results are based on much bigger sample sizes, they generate more robust results.

How is Mystery Shopping undertaken?

Before audits can start the business need to define the standards it is trying to achieve. These are then broadcast to the organisation so everyone knows what they will be measured on.

These standards are then translated into questionnaire/audit form and mystery shoppers are briefed to understand what they need to experience for the required standard to be met.

It’s usually best for mystery shoppers to be similar in profile to customers using the touchpoint being measured – meaning that they won’t stand out or receive a different type of service to that of typical users.

After the visit mystery shoppers enter their feedback online meaning that results can be available within hours of the visit.

Nowadays mystery shoppers increasingly photograph or video record parts of the visit – this helps to bring results to life and ensure consistency of standards across visits.

What’s an example of Mystery Shopping?

We recently undertook some one-off mystery shopping visits to test how well car seats were being demonstrated and fitted in key players. The visits were carefully organised across rivals to ensure fairness in terms of times of day/days of week. A robust sample (around 50 visits) of visits were undertaken for each brand. We were able to benchmark performance and identify, for the client brand, two gaps in their experience which meant they weren’t always delivering the best-in-class standard they set out to achieve.

What is Mystery Shopping?