Mystery shopper

On a white background stands a red tomato on top of which rests the stylized miniature of a man in the act of pushing a shopping cart.

He visits top company outlets like any other customer. During his visit, he is armed with a smartphone, tablet and notebook. The latter is very useful to write down all the step of the investigation as soon as he steps out of the store, and maybe over a coffee or fruit juice not too near the shop. Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the ‘Mystery Shopper’: the mysterious client, that based on a detailed store planning entrusted to him by the market research company with which he collaborates, goes into chain X to check everything that needs to be analysed by the display. A display that must be studied in every detail the day before each visit in order to be memorized at its best. The brief is described by the Field Manager who deals with that specific customer.

Hence, the mystery must know what it needs to detect. The shopper must never visit less than 20 minutes, indicating the time he entered and the time he left, and therefore, must have a good observation capacity. The floors must be clean and there should be no boxes obstructing the paths for customers. There must be no exhibition holes, that is, the shelves must always be ordered with the merchandise divided by theme and colour. For example: if the price tag of a smartphone is present but the relevant mobile phone is missing on display, the mystery shopper must immediately take note of the model which is missing. Areas dedicated to a specific brand are also very important: in addition to checking the order and cleanliness (such as the lack of fingerprints), it should be noted whether the X, Y, Z models of the brand shown in the display are present. In such a case, it is also essential to dwell in the competitor’s area to make a comparison (often the final questionnaire asks which of the two areas is most visible).

Only after verifying all these aspects, the mystery shopper can contact a sales agent making the specific request indicated in the display. And that’s where memory comes in, as it is necessary to take note mentally of your answers in order to verify the knowledge of that specific product/service, its differences from its main competitors and its history (when and where it was manufactured, its supply chain, etc.). The physical characteristics of the salesperson are also crucial to the success of a good visit, such as sex, presumed age, height, eye color, hair color, whether they were wearing glasses or not and if any name was written on the badge. This data is very useful to the parent company not only to recognize the employee, but also to test his expertise during the consultation.

At the end of the visit, after mentally reviewing whether all the stages of the display have been correctly interpreted (the mystery is also a bit of an actor), he needs to take a picture of the store to demonstrate to the company, with whom he was collaborating with, that the work had actually been completed in the correct store, as indicated in the questionnaire (in most cases this is demonstrated by the geolocation enabled on the smartphone). But the work doesn’t end there. Armed with a notebook well hidden in the bag, the mysterious shopper immediately writes what the salesman told him when he made his request. Later, he has to fill out a questionnaire from the market research company, who will then forward it to the customer company. Any critical issues and non-compliance in the process of promoting the particular product / service will be addressed during ad hoc training courses aimed at the sales force.

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