Mystery shopping or secret shopping is just one of the many market research services we offer here at Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS).  When businesses think of market research, surveys and focus groups often come to mind first.  Therefore, other atypical methodologies such as observational research, shop-alongs, and mystery shopping often pique the interest of our clients.  We have done a number of mystery shopping projects in a wide array of industries including higher-education and financial services.  Some other mystery shopping blog posts we’ve covered here on this blog include:

With that in mind, we decided to provide you four basic tips for mystery shopping.  Consider these four tips to improve the experience and provide your client with more accurate data from the qualitative/evaluation process.

1) Do a little research beforehand. If you have a telephone mystery shop or in-person mystery shop, it’s in your best interest to do a little research on the location beforehand.  Most (if not all) businesses have a website, Facebook page, or some kind of online presence.  Be sure to visit that site and learn what you can – office layout, directions to get there, FAQs, etc.  A little insight beforehand will help you feel more at ease and relaxed and eliminate some of the unexpected.

2) Know your evaluation criteria. Market research firms will consult with the end-client to develop an evaluation form that the mystery shopper fills out after the experience is over with.  So it’s important to understand which topics or which questions the client needs answers for.  If you have a firm grasp of the script/form beforehand, it will be a lot easier to focus on and remember those tidbits from your mystery shop afterwards.

3) Be objective. This may be the most crucial tip in this series.  Go into the mystery shop with a blank slate.  Act as a real customer who walks into the office or the store.  Don’t over-think minor details that may not truly impact your experience.  It’s very difficult to do, but as a mystery shopper you need to be as objective as possible.  For example, let’s say you are in a drug store to evaluate the ability of employees to help you find a product you need.  Just based on the situation itself you will be more aware of little nuances that you may not have noticed as a normal customer – a dirty shelf where the vitamins are located, the employee who helped you had messy hair, etc.  Just don’t let these little things impact your overall experience to an extreme negative.  Maybe you noticed these little details but the employee was extremely helpful, answered all your questions, and showed you a cheaper generic vitamin for half the price.  Be objective, and put yourself in the shoes of a normal everyday customer of what matters most to your experience.

4) Spend a little more time on open-ends and comments. Some barriers with mystery shops is the disconnect between shopper and analyst.  A lot of the time during mystery shopping projects that involve a lot of completes, the market research firm is forced to use secondary (non-analyst) staff to do the shops.  Therefore the analyst or manager who deals directly with the client and writes the report might be in the dark.  Your job as a mystery shopper is to recreate your experience on paper.  So the analyst feels like he/she was the one who actually did the shop.  This tip on open-ends and narrative is crucial.

mystery shopping firm Syracuse ny

Next time you have a mystery shop or secret shop, keep this tips in mind.  They will help produce an easier, more focused, objective, and more well-rounded recall of the experience.  If you are interested in speaking to someone at a mystery shopping firm to discuss what RMS can do for your company, email our Director of Business Development Sandy Baker at or call her at 315-635-9802.