The Importance of Mystery Shoppers in User Research

If you have a product of your own, you must have wondered what being on the other side of the table in place of your customer would feel like. You can do that and more with the help of a mystery shopper. Read on to know who they are and how they work in user research.

Author

Kham Chakhap

Date

December 6, 2023

If you are running a business, it would involve having competitors all around. You must know their strategies, strengths, and weaknesses to get an edge over them. Imagine having a secret shopper who visits your competitors’ websites and can report to you with information about how they conduct business and connect with customers. You might even find a weakness that would enable you to gain a competitive advantage. That is how mystery shopping works. This article will dive into the significance of mystery shoppers in user research and how it has evolved into a crucial tool for understanding user experiences.

Who is a Mystery Shopper?

In user research, a mystery shopper is a person who is hired to assess various aspects of online behavior, such as website usability, product selection, customer service responsiveness, and the overall online shopping process. If you work in market research, you have probably heard of this term before. Think about them as undercover agents selected based on specific criteria that can find your organization’s strengths and weaknesses. 

For any business, the target market is broadly divided into one of three categories: demographic, geographic, and behavioral segmentations. A mystery shopper echoes the sentiment of this diverse customer base and ensures you get real-world perspectives on users interacting with your business. As a representative to users of a product in user research, mystery shoppers are expected to provide companies with an understanding of their strengths and areas that require improvement.

Mystery Shopper vs Research Respondents

While reading this article, you might be little confused about mystery shoppers and how different they are from regular anonymous respondents. Look at the table below to understand the key differences between the two: 

{{cta-trial}}

Mystery Shopping- How It Works

A first-time user would have a different approach to your product compared to a regular customer. Mystery shoppers mold themselves into the shoes of a user based on research objectives and take that approach. They work to find underlying challenges that may impact users. The idea is to work backward to find pain points and enhance the overall business processes.

For any user research study, there is a set of steps to follow. This is how mystery shopping typically works:

Assignment: Mystery shoppers are assigned specific tasks or scenarios by a brand or a mystery shopping company. These tasks can include purchasing a product, asking specific questions, or evaluating the overall customer experience.

Evaluation: Mystery shoppers then take the test and interact with employees or use the products as regular customers would. During this process, they carefully observe and evaluate various factors.

Reporting: Mystery shoppers provide detailed feedback on their experiences after the visit. This feedback usually includes information about several things as required, like the product's usability, how easy or difficult it is to find specific elements and interact with them, and other relevant details.

Analysis: The collected data is then analyzed by the mystery shopping company or the brand to identify key strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement in the business's operations.

Feedback and Improvement: The business can use the feedback to make informed decisions about improving the product or other aspects of the research process.

Businesses often collaborate with specialized agencies based on specific criteria to handpick mystery shoppers. These providers evaluate and recruit mystery shoppers based on strict verification processes. The meticulous selection process ensures you can work with a diverse participant pool and have a reliable data source. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Mystery Shopping

According to a survey conducted by a leading user research institute, 75% of customers believe that mystery shopping provides more authentic insights into their experience than traditional surveys. Understanding the elements contributing to a successful mystery shopping mission is key to obtaining actionable insights.

While mystery shopping has a lot of value, it is essential to acknowledge both the pros and cons. 

Advantages:

  • Unbiased Insights: It offers businesses genuine, real-world perspectives that extend beyond conventional surveys. Such evaluations capture the essence of customer experiences, offering a depth of understanding that surveys alone may not achieve.
  • Save on expensive redesigns: Understanding users before a product launch helps brands prevent expensive redesign costs at a later point.

Disadvantages:

  • Subjective perspectives: Choosing the right mystery shopper is important since personal biases might creep in, influencing evaluations, and the point of the study might be negated. It is better to use individuals who are not very close to the brand or the person conducting the study.
  • Ethical Dilemma: Mystery shoppers usually play the role of users and are meant to represent a target audience. Hence, it is imperative to ensure objectivity and discretion during the study.

Conclusion

In a dynamic field like user research, the market and the users evolve constantly. With AI technologies revolutionizing user research, mystery shoppers are at the front seat to witness this changing landscape. A mystery shopper in user research should be able to adapt to these shifts and have a keen understanding of emerging trends and technologies. 

Product building and improvement is no longer a one-time process. It needs to evolve and change according to user expectations, and for that, continuous improvement is key. Ongoing customer engagement with mystery shoppers can establish customer feedback loops that can enable users to provide feedback sustainably.

Mystery shopping bridges a significant gap between a business and its users. It is a crucial piece of the puzzle that helps in building and completing a truly seamless experience by aligning a product according to user needs. Applying insights received from mystery shopping can help businesses apply the right decisions to remove roadblocks and promote positive changes to a product. These, in turn, improve user satisfaction and promote customer loyalty.

{{cta-trial}}

Supercharge your research with actionable insights faster on Decode's integrated consumer research platform with Insights AI.
Want to conduct lean and unbiased research? Try out Entropik's tech behavioral research platform today!
Want to conduct lean and unbiased research? Try out Entropik's tech behavioral research platform today!
Want to conduct lean and unbiased research? Try out Entropik's tech behavioral research platform today!
Build the Right Products, the Right Way: Elevate your UX with Qatalyst's integrated user research platform with Insights AI.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a mystery shopper?

A mystery shopper is an individual hired by a business or market research company to pose as a regular customer and evaluate various aspects of the customer experience. The goal is to provide unbiased feedback on the quality of service, employee performance, and overall customer satisfaction.

What do you do as a mystery shopper?

As a mystery shopper, you are tasked with visiting or interacting with a business, such as a retail store, restaurant, hotel, or service provider, to assess specific criteria. This may include evaluating the cleanliness of the establishment, the professionalism of staff, the quality of products or services, and adherence to company policies. Mystery shoppers often follow a predetermined set of instructions and criteria provided by the hiring company to ensure consistency in evaluations.

Do mystery shoppers really get paid?

1

Log into 

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

With lots of unique blocks, you can easily build a page without coding.

2

Click on Study templates

With lots of unique blocks, you can easily build a page without coding.

3

Start from scratch

With lots of unique blocks, you can easily build a page without coding.

4

Add blocks to the content

With lots of unique blocks, you can easily build a page without coding.

5

Saving the Template

With lots of unique blocks, you can easily build a page without coding.

6

Publish the Template

With lots of unique blocks, you can easily build a page without coding.

Yes, mystery shoppers typically receive compensation for their services. The payment can come in the form of a fee for completing the assignment, reimbursement for any purchases made during the evaluation, or a combination of both. The exact payment structure varies depending on the mystery shopping company and the specific assignment. It's important for individuals interested in becoming mystery shoppers to carefully review the terms and conditions, including compensation details, before accepting assignments. Legitimate mystery shopping opportunities involve compensation, but it's essential to be cautious of potential scams that may ask for upfront fees or promise unrealistic earnings.

What is the purpose of mystery shopping?

1

Log into 

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

With lots of unique blocks, you can easily build a page without coding.

2

Click on Study templates

With lots of unique blocks, you can easily build a page without coding.

3

Start from scratch

With lots of unique blocks, you can easily build a page without coding.

4

Add blocks to the content

With lots of unique blocks, you can easily build a page without coding.

5

Saving the Template

With lots of unique blocks, you can easily build a page without coding.

6

Publish the Template

With lots of unique blocks, you can easily build a page without coding.

The purpose of mystery shopping is to evaluate and assess the quality of customer service, employee performance, and overall customer experience within a business. Mystery shopping involves sending individuals, known as mystery shoppers, who act as regular customers to interact with a business's products or services. These mystery shoppers then provide detailed feedback on various aspects, including customer service, employee behavior, cleanliness, product knowledge, and adherence to company policies.

1

Log into 

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

With lots of unique blocks, you can easily build a page without coding.

2

Click on Study templates

With lots of unique blocks, you can easily build a page without coding.

3

Start from scratch

With lots of unique blocks, you can easily build a page without coding.

4

Add blocks to the content

With lots of unique blocks, you can easily build a page without coding.

5

Saving the Template

With lots of unique blocks, you can easily build a page without coding.

6

Publish the Template

With lots of unique blocks, you can easily build a page without coding.

Author Bio

As an intrepid explorer of both physical and intellectual realms, Kham seeks to unravel the intricacies of the human experience and merge them with the transformative power of AI. On odd days, she can be found wandering around trying to find that elusive scenic and quiet café where she can sip on matchas and get lost in the written word.

Kham Chakhap

Product Marketing Specialist

FAQs

What is a usability testing template?
Why use a usability testing template?
What should be included in a usability testing template?
Who typically uses a usability testing template?
Are there any tips for using a usability testing template?
How do I use a usability testing template?

Related Articles

Maximize Your Research Potential

Experience why teams worldwide trust our Consumer & User Research solutions.

Book a Demo

Thank You!

We will contact you soon.