11 Benefits of Mystery Shops For Retailers

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Updated April 19, 2024

If you're a retailer, you know how important it is to ensure your customers have the best shopping experience possible. Mystery shopping can be an incredible tool for ensuring that your service levels remain consistent and high-quality across all your stores.

Not only will mystery shops give valuable feedback about customer satisfaction, but they will also empower you with essential data about operations and lost sales opportunities. This blog post will explore 11 benefits of implementing mystery shopping for retailers!

Have you heard of the runaway success of the burger franchise Five Guys? They send mystery shoppers to all locations twice a week.

Five Guys knows you need to inspect what you expect.

High standards every day ensure the right employees do the right things.

Training new retail employees to 100% and then making them work for managers who don't run the shifts up to high standards is spinning your company’s wheels and lowering the brand perception in customers’ eyes.

That means it destroys profits. There’s only one way to avoid that: an ongoing program of mystery shops.

Business owners tell me the number one thing: "I just need more customers.”

Wrong, you need them to return.

You can’t attract your whole neighborhood to try you, deliver lousy results, and expect just getting “more bodies in the door” will work.

You can burn through a neighborhood with bad word-of-mouth; without random shoppers checking on it for you, you may never know how to improve it.

You might not balk at spending $500 per month on advertising but balk at paying a fraction of that to measure customers’ in-store experience.

That’s just dumb. The profit comes from the people wanting to return, not the discount promotions you run to entice new shoppers.

Some retailers want to use mystery shops as empirical proof that someone should go. Look... 

If you want to fire someone, you don't need a shopping report to prove it.

If you aren’t servicing your customers as they believe you should, you open the door to a competing retailer eager to take your business.

It's not what your regulars tell you that matters most. It's what the new customers tell you.

And one shop every six months is so random that it reveals little. Why?

Because a mystery shop is just a moment in time, you aren't that good if you get 100%, and you aren't that bad if you get 50%. But patterns emerge over time that make managing your customer experience much more evident.

11 Benefits of Mystery Shops:

  1. Monitored and measured service performance
  2. Improves customer retention
  3. Makes employees aware of what is essential in serving customers
  4. Monitors facility conditions
  5. Ensures product/service delivery quality.
  6. Supports promotional programs
  7. Allows for competitive analyses between locations
  8. Identifies training needs and sales opportunities
  9. Ensures positive customer relationships on the front line.
  10. Enforces employee integrity and knowledge.
  11. Supports hustle by employees to meet customers. 

But not all secret shopping companies are the same. Far from it!

One of my clients told me that he found the shoppers had never even BEEN to his store. (You can check and make sure your mystery shoppers are members of the industry association to ensure they are reputable.)

Another client said she’d tried secret shoppers, but it “didn’t work.” When I looked at her survey, it came screaming off the page why it wasn’t successful because every question was subjective. “Did you feel valued as a guest?” “Did they attempt to meet your needs?” “Did you feel welcomed?”


What would feedback look like for the employee who got a low score on her shop? “Gee Sally, the customer didn’t feel valued as a guest. Try harder.”

If Sally knew how to do that, they would have done it.

Your mystery shop questions need to be black and white. The employee either did or didn’t say, “Good morning, Good afternoon, or Good evening.” They either described a product using features that benefit the customer or they didn't.

In addition, you need a compelling narrative to see the transaction in your store.

The final three questions I always ask at the end are the most important section. One of mine is, "Would you be willing to drive past a competitor to return to this location based on the service you received today?"

I work with clients to get their shopper surveys just right and actionable. One client with 14 locations is tops in her franchise; another's average check continues to rise. Is it a mystery?

Nope, it's a mystery shop.

Before deciding on mystery shops, ensure you are training to those standards.

No one wants a gotcha. It's that moment when someone tries to find that "But you should have known" moment.

Unless you train to exacting standards, like using my online retail sales training program, SalesRX, your crew may not know what the expectation of guest service is, much less how to deliver it.

So before you judge your crew, make sure you are measuring what you are training.

Yes, you can try to save money by putting those surveys on your receipts and training your cashiers to "circle the web address and tell them what the prize is," but that's not a true judge of the experience. Those who had a rotten experience will be looking for some compensation, and many will quickly check off whatever radio buttons they need to qualify their entry for the prize.

Oh, and one more thing...

How to present a mystery shop to your crew

When you use a secret shopping company, don't just print the report and stick it on the employee bulletin board. Good or bad, it should be reviewed with a supervisor in private, including who did what and when. Then, they should go over it privately with the employees.

Should you share after those most responsible for the score have been counseled, ideally in a store meeting? Delete the names, dates, and times so they aren't guessing who was responsible, or you'll defeat the learning for the team.

To succeed in a lurching economy, as competitors cry the blues and leave your market, you must consistently provide clear expectations and demand high standards of well-trained employees.

Cutting another shift or saving ten cents on freight is like a poor marksman looking at the edge of the target.

The real money is in the bull's eye of selling the customer.