Understanding the Flow of Mystery Shopping

May. 24, 2024

Understanding the Flow of Mystery Shopping

Mystery shopping is a service where you can hire trained shoppers who act like your customers and examine your retail premises, websites, or apps. In particular, Retail Mystery shopping dates back to the 1940s, and it's still relevant. A brand opting for this service gets a detailed overview of its store from the perspective of a customer.

Mystery shoppers are trained to evaluate everything in and out of the store, which can make a customer's experience good or bad. In this blog, we'll look at how descriptive a Mystery shopping service really is, and you'll learn about it from finding the store to exiting. 

Step-by-Step Guide to Mystery Shopping Flow

1. Accessibility and Branding

In this flow, the first things that should be evaluated are accessibility and branding. This phase of mystery shopping deals with the outside of the store, such as assessing the location accessibility, parking, etc. 

● Location Accessibility

Accessibility is all about how easy or difficult it is to reach out to the store. For customers who want to come to you, it's one of the main factors. If you are not near your potential audience, then it's a drawback for you, which the mystery shopper assesses by looking at the area and the difficulty of reaching out from various places. 

● Parking and Store Outside Support

In India, having parking space is a must for retail stores as parking is a real issue. People who visit your store must get smooth parking assistance and other support like a valet. 

2. Infrastructure

Now, as the shoppers reach you, they enter the next phase which is the infrastructure, where you are evaluated for three main factors given below. 

● Branding and Visibility

The visibility of the store is very important, as a retail store attracts both intentional and unintentional customer visits. It should be clear and consistent so that it can attract both.  

● Store Upkeep

From its inauguration to its lifetime, a store doesn't remain the same. Its functionality, which remains in its optimum condition in the beginning, gradually starts to decrease. However, the customer doesn't expect that, which is why it's crucial to note when shopping for mystery items, How the condition of the store has been maintained tells us about the brand's attention to keeping its image at the top. 

● Adherence to Safety Guidelines

Now, it's time to look at all the security features like extinguishers, emergency exits, and other necessary equipment. The shopper looks for their expiry dates and whether they are placed strategically so that in case of an emergency, they can be accessed easily. All these things come under the adherence to safety guidelines, which are also published by government institutions. So, the mystery shopper compares the available safety features with the published guidelines for retail stores. 

3. Staff Grooming and Behaviour

Now, as soon as your customers are done with the accessibility, branding, and appearance of the store, they will be introduced to your staff. So, that's what was evaluated best in the audit. 

● Welcome Experience

The next thing after the store's appearance is the welcome experience. How good it was is the primary question here to answer. It includes looking at how the brand has managed to welcome customers to their premises or if there were any issues while entering the store. For instance, if there's someone to greet you at the entrance. Also, there must be a flawless welcoming experience with all the safety checks done without letting customers wait in the queue. 

● Communication and Ownership

The staff must also know how to communicate with the customers. They should be polite and take ownership of their roles. If a staff member is there to help make your customers' shopping experience better, he/she should know how to navigate to what they need.

● Displaying Brand Value

Lastly, the staff should display the brand value. If it is placed as a premium brand, then the staff must follow the same level of behavior and cater to the customers to make them feel that every penny spent is worth it. Mystery shoppers always look at the brand's values before visiting the store, which helps them do the comparison with no bias.

4. Product and Process Insights

Now, it's time to look at the main facts, which are the products and processes. How are the products maintained on the shelves, and how fast are the processes in the store, like check-outs? 

● Resolution Meeting Customer Expectation 

Your customers may need to get help from the staff. If a customer wants to locate a product easily, he/she will ask for it from one of your staff. In that case, the mystery shopper will see if the resolution was quick or if it took time. Moreover, he/she will also notice the staff member's knowledge of the store.

● Fulfilling Customer Needs

Next up is fulfilling the customers' needs. Are all the products available and well placed in the store? Mystery shoppers closely look and note down the products that are not available. They also look for how easily the common and most selling items can be accessed. 

5. Follow Up and Feedback

It's time to get out of the store, but before that, the customers need to check out, right? 

● Billing Experience

Customers mostly deal with a queue at the time of billing, and most stores fail to maintain their billing counters at optimum performance. In mystery shopping, this is a crucial factor, as a great customer experience can be ruined by a lagging billing experience. 

● Followup and Feedback 

There should be a system to take in the feedback from real customers, which shows how much the brand cares about the customers and whether they want to become customer-centric. So, a Mystery always looks for such a feedback-taking environment in a retail store. 

Understanding Mystery Shopping Journey

From a brand's perception, let's see what a mystery shopping journey looks like. 

1. Planning: First, the brand has to plan what it wants to achieve. So, it should set its objectives for mystery shopping. 
2. Recruitment: Now, it's time to hire mystery shoppers, which you can do with the help of companies like QDegrees, BARE International, etc. 
3. Visits: The mystery shoppers will start their jobs and visit the store. They will follow the above flow to evaluate your store from start to finish. 
4. Reporting: Now, they will report the feedback and observations about the site, which will be used to create an insightful report. 
5. Insights and Analytics: After analyzing their findings, a detailed report will be created for the brand. It will have insights about the store's pros and cons and also feedback to take action. The brand can now take action accordingly, like providing training if the staff is not good or adding new technology to make processes faster. 

Final Words

Mystery shopping is undoubtedly a great way to learn what your customers think about you. It gives you a fresh perspective on your stores and shows the room for improvement in your staff and processes. The flow is so detailed that it leaves nothing unaudited. No page is left unturned, which is why it has been a successful service for decades.