What is Mystery Shopping or mysterious customer? Discover how the competition sells

He mystery shopping It is a technique used in the world of marketing to obtain objective information about your company and the competition from the customer’s point of view.

Through the figure of “mysterious client“, mystery shopping allows us to see how a business works in real life and detect strengths and areas of improvement that are very difficult to identify with other techniques. Let’s see what a mystery shopping study really consists of and what it can contribute to your brand.

What is mystery shopping and what is it for?

He mystery shopping is a marketing research technique in which we hire a person (“the mystery shopper”) to play the role of the company’s customer. The mystery client performs exercises observation, interaction and pseudo-purchase or consumption with various products or services, which can be from the company that commissioned the study or from the competition.

After their visit, the mystery customer will fill out a questionnaire provided by the company to record their experience in the most detailed and objective way possible.

Objectives of mystery shopping

Mystery shopping is widely used in sectors in which customer experience is a key element for the brand. The information obtained can be used for different purposes:

  • Carry out Market studies. Mystery shopping allows us to obtain comparative information about our company with respect to the competition and assess the differences, strengths and weaknesses. It is also very useful to know what brands establishments offer when we request a product or service (for example, a bottle of water in a restaurant).
  • Analyze and evaluate the Customer Support of the company. The mystery shopper report must include all aspects of the service provided, from the first contact until leaving the establishment (in the case of physical businesses). Aspects such as the initial greeting, the attitude of the workers, the waiting time or the quality of the result are collected and measured.
  • Detect possible areas for improvement in company image. The mystery customer can attest in first person to the image of the company and its employees during any given day of operation, evaluating aspects such as the order of the products, the cleanliness of the premises, the clothing, etc.
  • Evaluate the training from the workers. Through mystery shopping visits, we can learn if employees are correctly following all protocols or if they are able to answer specific questions about products and services.

Benefits of mystery shopping

  • Mystery shopper visits allow us to learn details about the competition’s way of working that would otherwise escape us.
  • Know in detail the aspects of the Customer experience “in real life” helps us identify possible blind spots in our own company and apply the necessary measures to correct them. The information obtained covers very diverse areas, from the order of the point of sale to how employees present prices.
  • With mystery shopping, we can evaluate the practical operation of our processes and detect areas of friction, for example, if queues form during peak times or if there is any difficulty when requesting the return of a defective product.

How to organize a mystery shopping study step by step

1) Define your objectives

As we have seen in the previous section, mystery shopping can serve many different objectives. Therefore, we have to think about what our company’s needs are right now and how the mystery shopper fits into our overall marketing plan. It is not about “measurement for measurement”, but rather about obtaining the information we need to improve our customer service.

2) Identify your target audience

The mystery shopper is a personification of the company’s customers. Therefore, before launching a mystery shopping campaign, we have to be very clear what is the profile of our clients, how they interact with the company and what needs they seek to satisfy with our brand. If you haven’t done so yet, it’s time to create a buyer persona, that is, a semi-fictional representation of your ideal client focused on their needs and pain points.

3) Establish a strategy

Mystery shopping is based on collecting information during key moments of the customer journey. Therefore, we must clearly define what the buyer journey is like and what are the moments in which we want the mystery customer to intervene.

“Classic” mystery shopping is organized around a visit to a physical establishment, for example, a store or a restaurant, but that is not the only option. We must keep in mind that more and more key interactions occur through digital media, so we must incorporate them into our mystery shopping program whenever necessary.

In addition to defining ideal visit scenarios, the strategy should also include a plan with different what-if scenarios to know how to respond in each case.

4) Create the visit materials

Mystery shopping campaigns must have a training manual for the mystery shopper and a questionnaire to evaluate visits.

He manual It will serve to define the guidelines of the visit, explain in detail the different questions and concepts of the study and serve as a guide to the mystery client in the different situations that may arise.

He questionnaire It consists of a set of questions to fill out after each interaction with the company. It should be as objective as possible, have a limited extension and focus on those aspects that correspond to the areas that we are most interested in measuring.

The specific combination of questions to ask will depend, therefore, on the particular situation of each company and its objectives, but these are some of the most common:

  • How many people were in the establishment at the time of the visit?
  • Was the mystery shopper greeted upon entering the store?
  • What is the layout of the products inside the store?
  • What did the mystery shopper have to do to find the desired product? (Search the store, ask the staff…)
  • How was the treatment with the employees?
  • How long did it take to obtain the desired service and make payment?

5) Measure results

In order to correctly measure the results of a mystery shopping campaign, we have to plan this measurement from the beginning. Depending on the objectives that we have defined, we will establish a series of key performance indicators or KPIs and we will link them to the different questions in the questionnaire, so that we can obtain quantitative metrics at the end of the process.

Likewise, we can establish a series of hypotheses and see if the results confirm them.

Once the visits are completed, we will collect all this information and seek to draw actionable conclusions, so that we can use them to improve the aspects of the interaction with the brand in which the worst results have been obtained.

What services do mystery shopping companies offer?

A very common solution for carrying out mystery shopping campaigns is to resort to the services of specialized agencies. To better understand what they can offer us, let’s see what some of the services they offer are:

  • Mystery Shopper: This would be the “classic” mystery shopper service, in which a visit to a physical store is organized to evaluate the quality of the service received and other related aspects.
  • Mystery Market: mystery shopping service focused on mass consumption, that is, analyzing customer service in supermarkets, hypermarkets and food establishments.
  • Mystery Hotels & Cruises: This service applies mystery shopping techniques to the hotel and tourism industry, as it evaluates establishments that require accommodation, such as hotels, rural houses, resorts and cruise ships.
  • Mystery Diner: a mystery shopper service especially dedicated to the hospitality and restaurant sector.
  • Process audit: In this service, instead of using a mystery client, an external auditor is used to measure the degree of compliance with the processes. It is particularly suitable if we want to evaluate the level of training of staff.
  • Mystery Calling: unlike the previous ones, in this service we are no longer analyzing a physical visit to an establishment, but rather a call to the company’s telephone service. In this way, we can evaluate the work of the call center and customer service. This aspect is very important, since many companies outsource this service and as a result lose control over its quality.
  • Mystery Web: a mystery shopping service focused on auditing the company’s website and measuring the customer’s experience on the page. It is especially used in the case of companies that sell their products through ecommerce.
  • Mystery Chat: similar to Mystery Calling, but in this case we evaluate the attention through online chat or messaging instead of a phone call.