It’s no secret that brick-and-mortar retailers have been suffering in the past few years due to majority of consumers transitioning to online shopping. Ecommerce is different from traditional retailing. In order to survive as a retailer, it’s important to invest in the right assets that can help fuel your business’ growth. What are the advantages and disadvantages of mystery shopping?
Pros and Cons of Mystery Shopping for Retailers
One of the investment prospects that retailers can make is employing mystery shoppers. But what are they? And are they worth the investment? Below, you can find out more about what mystery shopping is and the pros and cons of using such services.
The Basics of Mystery Shopping
So, what is mystery shopping? In a nutshell, mystery shopping involves a person acting as a prospective customer at a place of business with the intent of making observations and assessments based on the interaction he/she has with that business. The practice of using mystery shoppers can be traced back to research models used in the 1940s when experts were attempting to assess behavioral patterns and operational efficiency.
Is Mystery Shopping Widely Used?
Mystery shopping is still widely used today as a standard practice across various industries. Apart from location-based businesses, modern mystery shoppers are also being applied to assess the performance of online-based businesses.
How Does Mystery Shopping work?
A retailer can hire a mystery shopper from any of the legitimate market research companies that exist and operate today. They then bring a mystery shopper out to your retail location to conduct a thorough assessment of the place and collect data that can then be used later on to make proper evaluations of your store’s operational efficiency and to identify trends based on consumer behaviors.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of each.
The Advantages of Mystery Shopping
There are several advantages to mystery shopping including assessing brand standards, customer feedback, and understanding your competitors. Let’s look at each one.
Assess Implementation of Brand Standards
How consistent are your employees when it comes to implementing standard business procedures? It’s important that these standards are met in order to satisfy consumer expectations, cultivate brand loyalty, and streamline operations for maximum profits. Developing these standard practices costs your business a lot of money and time, including training and re-training your staff to consistently perform.
Higher Quality Customer Feedback
Compared to feedback that might be given by a customer who spends five minutes inside your shop. The feedback you get from a mystery shopper tends to be more comprehensive and accurate as the person giving the feedback can focus entirely on the experience and, therefore, make more conscious observations and notes about it.
Keep Tabs on Your Competitor
Mystery shoppers can be deployed not just to your own retail location but also to other retail locations as well. This can give you good insight as to how your competitors are operating and what you can do to improve your own business. Through mystery shopping, you can determine
- what their products/services are
- how much they charge
- what their average wait time for customer service and checkout is
- what their business hours are, and so on
The Disadvantages of Mystery Shopping
There are several disadvantages also to mystery shopping including often times insufficient data, biased data, and workforce anxiety. Let’s look at each one of the disadvantages .
The amount and type of data gathered by a mystery shopper depends on the checklist or criteria they are given by their employer. This checklist may not include customer data points you’d like to capture as a business owner, or the mystery shopper may not be able to gather enough data to give you a clearer picture of what the problem is and how to resolve it.
Potentially Biased Data
Even with their carefully thought-out checklist and their years of experience as a shopper, at the end of the day, shoppers are human beings and can be influenced by current circumstances. You might get a mystery shopper that is stressed out about his/her personal life, which can then result in a different experience while at your store. For instance, even if the wait to the checkout counter wasn’t that long, he/she may review the checkout process to be long and tedious.
Anxiety Amongst Your Workforce
The “mystery” aspect of mystery shopping can be viewed by some employees as uncomfortable. They’ll constantly be thinking that someone is watching their every move and grading their performance accordingly.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Mystery Shopping
Note that the efficacy of employing mystery shoppers depends on which company you use. Nonetheless, mystery shopping is a viable market research tool for retailers that want to get a better sense of their business operations and consumers from an unbiased and broader perspective.