This blog is part 4 in a series of articles reviewing different types of market research and how best to use them to inform your business strategy; the first explained customer satisfaction surveys, the second customer perception studies and the third market feedback and evaluation.

As the title suggests this type of research has an anonymous element, where the researcher poses as a customer and records their findings on such elements as service and price.

Mystery shopper research can be used in two ways – to assess your own company’s customer service or it can be used to understand the offering being made by your distribution channel; how your products and those for your competitors are being offered and price ranges charged. This often highlights a miss-match between the stated head office policy of a distributor and the local branch reality.

The Process

It is important, as with any research work, to clearly identify your objectives.  This type of research is unlikely to be successful unless you have clearly defined the issues to be covered. The ‘shopper’ is not to follow a script, but instead conduct a believable buying
scenario where particular elements are covered. Then they are to record their findings in a professional and objective manner.

Therefore it is important to use a third party to conduct this research, so that the results
are not influenced in any way. It is also necessary that this third party is informed about current issues in your marketplace, familiar with the industry’s language and practices and understand the challenges you and your customers face.  With this foundation they should also be able to get a grasp of your product portfolio. In this way they will be able to successfully pose as a prospective customer when completing the mystery shopper survey.

As part of your survey you need to consider who is to be surveyed, is it your own staff or a third party distribution channel? Then you need to identify the channels you will be
reviewing, will it be in-store/face to face, telephone, online or a combination of these.  At each step of the way review your objectives and ensure they are incorporated into the shopping scenario.

Before commencing the main bulk of the work it is advised that a pilot is conducted, this way you can ensure your mystery shopper scenario works in the real world, and that it
covers your objectives set. Conducting a pilot allows you assess the effectiveness of the shopping scenario and to make adjustments accordingly before rolling out the full survey.

Finally it is important to consider how the findings are recorded, each scenario should be
recorded accurately and consistently, allowing for comparison, so conclusions can be drawn and informed decisions made.

Conclusion: Using the results to inform your strategy

The key to mystery shopper is keeping it simple and having clear objectives for the ‘shopper’ to cover when conducting their shopping scenario. Keeping the recording of each
shopping scenario consistent allows for the comparison of data. Conducting a mystery shopper survey will provide you with detailed insight into the way your products are sold, providing you with good and bad practice examples that your team can learn from.

Armed with information from a mystery shopper your sales team are in a strong position to negotiate with distributors. They will know what is actually happening at the point of sale and improve their own position. For example clients have found through mystery shopper exercises that their preferred distributors were actually offering an alternative product to customers, in preference to the agreed brand. With this information they were
able to renegotiate with their distributor.

The mystery shopper can also determine price levels in the market. We have worked with clients planning a new product launch, to help them set the price their new product.

This type of research can often identify training requirements and inform a development programme.

Contact us:

Competitive Advantage has been conducting construction market research since 2000. Our research team have construction industry experience, are familiar with the industry’s language and practices and understand the challenges you and your customers face.

Our commercial experience means that as well as reporting market research findings we are able to interpret these effectively and make sound business recommendations.

We aim to provide high quality information at an economic cost.

View our case studies page to learn more about the work we have completed, or feel free to contact us to discuss your requirements.

Related blog articles:

How to write a comprehensive market research brief

Market Research that informs your business strategy. Part 1: customer satisfaction surveys

Market Research that informs your business strategy. Part 2: perception studies

Market Research that informs your business strategy Part 3: market feedback and evaluation

Making sense of the construction industry – a marketer’s guide

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Construction Media Index

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