The idea behind mystery shopping is to get an outsider view of a brand, in return for a free service/experience/products, and/or money. Of course, it’s not just a flexible, perk-ridden job for the shopper – it’s a relatively low-cost method for businesses to self-evaluate and gain honest, valuable feedback.
A typical mystery shopping survey covers basic areas like merchandising, staff and company values (eg. stock levels and aesthetics; the attentiveness, level of engagement and appearance of staff members; and coherence of messaging and values). Not only that, it’s a useful opportunity to gain insight into the competition (for example, if a company reimburses a shopper for visiting a rival), information about the target customer (covering everything from personal data, to whether loyalty programmes are effective, and pricing is acceptable) and performance-related feedback (eg. whether improvements have been made compared to previous visits, and whether sales are on-track).
The question is, do modern surveys eliminate the need for it?
While there are undoubtedly negatives to customer surveys – like concerns with privacy, and worries that they may be seen as spam – they’re of real use when it comes to learning about perceptions of your brand. Contacting an entire database of customers in one fell swoop is a marketing method that shouldn’t be sniffed at – and it’s a chance to actively show each and every one of your shoppers that you care about what they think (and are willing to act on their comments). Plus, it’s a more reliable method than sticking to a lone mystery shopper, whose experiences might not uncover some of the issues within your business (though it’s more likely they’ll understand the more complicated retail practices, compared to your customers). And, once more in favour of the customer survey, you can expect to learn more about trends and competitors through customers’ shopping habits, have a means to inform them of changes to your business and, tactically, generate more sales through coupon rewards on completion.
So, in summary, when it comes to getting feedback, our recommendation is to stick to what you know best – your customers.