The use of mystery shopping schemes to assess customer satisfaction has been around for a long time and has become an effective way for companies looking to make positive changes to gain valuable insights into the running of their business.

Although mystery shopping is applied across many industries, it is most frequently embraced by retailers who wish to gain a detailed understanding of the way their customers feel about their in-store shopping experiences.

We spoke with top mystery shopping company, Assosia, to understand the key benefits of implementing this retail strategy and how it works in action.


Who are mystery shoppers?

Those who participate in mystery shopping schemes tend to be ordinary people who have willingly chosen to sign up via third-party providers, and are there to pose as real customers of a retail brand. The retailer itself has also chosen to take part in the scheme via the third-party, with the intention of assessing and improving customer experiences.

A mystery shopper’s function is to evaluate the retailer’s operations and the overall quality of their in-store experience. In order to do so, the third-party (in cooperation with the retailer) will provide them with a series of tasks to undertake, like returning items, asking product-related questions and filing complaints.

How do these schemes benefit retailers?

Investing in mystery shopping programs can be highly advantageous to retailers, since participants are there to provide impartial feedback on their experiences. The responses given help businesses gain valuable consumer insights into many vital aspects, including whether in-store products, promotions, pricing and placements are being well-received by customers, or if improvements need to be made. Once these points have been developed upon, retailers may see an increase in sales and profit.

Additionally, employee performance can be measured, since mystery shoppers tend to assess their dealings with customer-facing staff members. This helps retailers determine whether certain people, teams, or entire divisions need further training, disciplinary action or rewards.

Introducing this level of accountability creates a culture where staff members put greater emphasis on customer relationship building, whilst also motivating people to continue striving to do better.

What can be measured?

Mystery shopping schemes offer a tailored approach, meaning retailers can decide what they want to be measured, providing a more in-depth analysis than customer satisfaction surveys. Participants are told prior what they are to look for and assess when they get in-store, and are provided with a pre-defined list of criteria to evaluate and pass onto the prospective third-party agency, which then analyses responses.

In order for this strategy to work, retailers must have a clear picture of what they expect from the model customer experience. For instance, are members of staff expected to welcome customers upon entry into the store? Should they be handed a shopping basket? Do all customers require sales assistance?

Determining expectations enables retailers to come up with suitable measurement criteria in tandem with the service provider, who helps design a tailored evaluation package to present to mystery shoppers of the store. This means that each retail business partaking in mystery shopping programs are given unique attention, ensuring the focus is only placed on the key philosophies that matter most to their business and which will help accomplish the best possible customer experience down the line.

How often should mystery shopping schemes take place?

One-off mystery shopping programs cannot permanently alter performance, which is why the most successful schemes occur regularly, perhaps each quarter or per year, in order to move with the changing scope of the company and its employees. This ensures actions are measured as part of a long-term improvement strategy.

Mystery shopping schemes are used regularly by retailers, as well as many other industries in which staff are predominantly customer-facing. Not only do they help retailers assess their current situation and make positive steps to improve customer experiences, but they also motivate staff to better their performance, whilst assisting with strategy planning in the future.