How to use Mystery Shopping to grow your Retail Business

If you manage a retail business and have not yet implemented an internal mystery shop program, you are missing out on a major growth opportunity! Mystery shoppers (or “secret shoppers”) are basically people that get paid to enter a store and carry out a series of consumer tasks in attempt to analyze staff performance or site execution, depending on the business manager’s particular goals for that program.

For instance, the mystery shopper could be hired by the manager to bring a product to the front counter and verify whether the attendant asks a series of active selling questions. Alternatively, the mystery shopper could be hired to inspect the general cleanliness or merchandising execution of the store. The evaluation grid is completely up to the retail business manager!

Mystery shops provide invaluable data to business managers. The key benefit of mystery shopping is that it gives an accurate, unbiased view of marketing execution in the absence of a manager’s direct supervision. This data is useful to a retail manager for the following reasons:

1. Employee Performance Management:

The fact is: if you run a mystery shopping program and notice that one employee is consistently failing to execute as instructed, perhaps it’s time to have a chat with them and ask what’s going on? Having a documented report from a third party observer provides excellent legitimacy to assert your position of under-performance. Moreover, if you are a manager who prefers to avoid confrontation when possible, this third party report effectively “dilutes the confrontation” between you and the under-performing employee.

2. Create healthy internal competition via Benchmarking:

In a similar vein to reason #1 above, benchmarking your employees’ performance is a powerful management tool that has proven to produce results. Without a mystery shop program in place, benchmarking is slightly difficult and inherently unfair because a manager’s evaluation of employee performance is subjective — whereas this task is made easier with objective, third party data that removes the “grey area” in performance assessment.

Let’s suppose you hire a mystery shopper to check “yes” or “no” on 10 items in your retail store during 5 different visits to assess your 5 employees. You can then objectively digitize your staff’s performance on a scale from 1 to 5, and inform your staff of their relative ranking to their coworkers. The bottom ranked performers will (hopefully) feel a push to improve their execution, and this is good for your business.

3. Identify focus areas and opportunities for improvement in execution:

As the saying goes: retail is detail! Managing this many fine details on top of trying to grow your business from a macro perspective can be all-consuming. Mystery shopping reports allow you to narrow in on the execution gaps that arise consistently, and you can thus focus your efforts on these gaps. This allows you to most effectively manage your time as a manager.


Hopefully this overview gives you an interest in exploring the potential benefits of mystery shop programs. Professional mystery shop companies are available at various costs, and of course you could always hire or ask a friend or family member who would not be recognized by your staff to help out!

Good luck and if you would like help in developing a formal mystery shop program for your business, I would be happy to help.

Feel free to leave me a reply below or send me an email directly via Contact at the top of this page.

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