Mystery shopping or secret shopping is a kind of market research tool. It does not have a straightforward approach like questionnaire surveys and formal interviews. Instead, here the researcher approaches the shop on which the research is conducted pretending as a consumer and elicits information required to test a set of predetermined research questions. This type of market research is usually conducted on big retail malls, different retail outlets, hospitals, and other kinds of service providers.
There are several mystery shopping agencies that undertake various kinds of projects. These organizations have several potential clients, such as social research firms, non-profit organizations who want to expose the flaws in the customer relationship process of a retail shop, and organizations who want to understand how their competitors are functioning. Sometimes, the top management of a firm also hires a mystery shopping organization when it wants to secretly evaluate how good its employees are in customer relations.
An Overview Of The Mystery Shopping Scene
There are several stages for a secret shopping project. When a client approaches a market research firm for this purpose, firstly both the client and the firm reach an agreement over the topics of research. That is, they decide upon specific aspects of the customer relationship of a shop, hospital, or retail outlet that should be evaluated. Based on the research topic, an action plan and questionnaire is prepared. The next is the execution stage.
Mystery shopping assignments are usually carried out by paid volunteers who are known as mystery shoppers or secret shoppers. The payment is based on the duration and complexity of the assignment. The paid volunteers are briefed about the nature of the research work, questions they need to ask, and specific aspects they should observe. The volunteers then have to carry out the research and submit their reports within the specified time frame or date.
After receiving the reports, the secret shopping organizations make inferences and correlate the findings of the reports with the original research questions. They then submit a detailed research report to their client.
Mystery shopping has become a good part-time job option for several people, thanks to the growth of the internet. The market research firms need mystery shopper organizations all the time. If a person wants to enroll as a volunteer, he or she can first register on the websites of such websites. Registration is free. Afterwards, the volunteers start getting projects, depending on the availability of jobs in their area. The volunteers get paid, based on their timely delivery, accuracy of data, and quality of reports. A hard working and talented person can make a decent sum regularly out of this part-time job. But no agency can guarantee uninterrupted work every month. So, it is better to take this as a part-time job.
One must also be aware of the secret shopping scams. You can follow an excellent rule to keep these scams away: do not accept or send money before you complete a project. No good mystery shopping organizations accept any sort of security amount or send checks beforehand. Sometimes, you may have to buy something as part of the project. In such cases, you will need to buy the item with your own money. But you can get the amount refunded along with your payment.