Wednesday, 27 November 2013

What is 'Mystery Shopping'?

We all love and enjoy Shopping. But, have you ever done ‘Mystery Shopping'? I know most would have not. But, those in Retail & Hospitality Industry must have heard the Term, I am sure.

The Term is also known as ‘Secret Shopping’ or ‘Mystery Consumer’. It is a way devised by various Companies to get to know the Performance of their Store Staff on the factors other than Sales. Some of the factors are:

        a) Normal Etiquette
        b) Appearance and Language
        c) Greeting the Customer
        d) Placing the Signage
        e) Cleanliness of the Store along with Washroom
        f)  Knowledge of the Products in the Shop
        g) Ability to close the Sale
        h) Ability to make the Customer a repeated one

The Process runs like this: The Client Company hires a Mystery Shopping or Market Research Company which in turn hires ‘Shoppers’ or uses its own Research Staff for the Job.

The Shoppers are given Guidelines and Questions to ask the Staff and other factors to Observe and Record. The most important thing here is that they have to disguise as actual Shoppers and in no way the Staff should come to know that they are dealing with a Mystery Shopper else they will become cautious and will give false impression which will not serve any purpose.

After this Process, the Shoppers have to give a Report to their Company which, in turn, does various Quantitative and Qualitative Studies on the Findings and gives a detailed Report to the Client Company.

The other way is sometimes the Brands themselves hire the Shoppers or use their Staff for the Job.

The ‘Mystery Shopping’ Industry in India is growing with the opening up of the Market and expansion of Local as-well-as entry of various Foreign Companies/Brands. More-and-more people are coming in its purview and the Term is becoming a rage among Retailers. It is a very Cost-effective way of getting to know the Performance of their Stores on Soft Skills, which are as important as generating Money. Apart from Retailing and Hospitality, this Practice is being taken by Hospitals, Resturants, Pubs etc. wherever Stores are involved and Companies are not able to Track them directly.

Though nascent at this Stage but this Industry is opening lot of Part-time Job Opportunities for people to become Shoppers and Research on the Companies’ behalf and get Paid for the same!!! They even get to keep the Products/Services they buy on the Job and get Reimbursed for the same. 

So, it comes out as a very very interesting and enjoyable Part-time Work option for people especially College-goers and Housewives. The Pay in India is not much though but still the Experience and the Incentives (in the form of Free Shopping on the Job) are quite worth. Besides it provides a good On-ground Experience especially to Students who are just on the verge of starting their Careers.

To become a good Mystery Shopper, you need to have a few important Skills:

        a) Good Observer
        b) Good Listener
        c) Should ask relevant Questions
        d) Good Memory
        e) Above all, a good Actor….. Lol J

Like all other Corporate Jobs, there are some Ethics involved in this Job also. For Example, the Client Companies should not give punishments or Fire their Staff on the basis of the Report given by the Researcher Company. But, like many other Corporate Ethics, this particular one is being flouted commonly.

I have been fortunate of having got an Opportunity to become a ‘Mystery Shopper’ for one of my previous Companies. The Experience was really good and I discovered a totally new aspect of Retailing Business. 

I am sure in the next few Years, ‘Mystery Shopping’ will attain Momentum and will gain the Status of a full-fledged Industry in India and will attract a lot of Trained Talent. 


Pragya Banerjee
MBA (Finance); 7+ years of work experience
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