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A Mystery Shopper Can Outperform Focus Groups at Supermarkets

Hiring a mystery shopper to visit a supermarket can give managers valuable insight into their customers’ experience and views, without conducting expensive (and sometimes ineffective) focus groups.

Supermarket

Supermarket (Photo credit: david.alliet)

Working with a mystery shopper agency means sending several shoppers to the store so they can measure different factors that management wants to focus on, and provide objective, anonymous feedback about the store and their customer experience.

While focus groups can give in-depth feedback about their experience, they are not always as effective as a mystery shopper because:

  • The group is a small sample size. Only a few shoppers are speaking for an entire customer base. Several shoppers can visit a store several times over a longer period of time.
  • It is hard for people to provide objective feedback face-to-face, such as in a focus group, so they soften serious complaints, sometimes rendering them unimportant.
  • They do not want to bite the hand that feeds them. They know they are speaking about “their” store, and may hold back.
  • They overthink things. In an effort to provide the best feedback, they focus in on very small details that actually are not that important, which can cause managers to lose focus as they chase those unimportant details.

Using a mystery shopper avoids these problems. For one thing, a mystery shopper is usually limited in the areas they can cover. If a supermarket wants to focus on the selection and stocking of the shelves, they will not be subjected to a 30 minute discussion about shopping carts for kids.

A mystery shopper can look at employee behavior. Employees behave differently when management is watching. But what about during the overnight shift, or when the manager is in another part of the store? Are employees providing good information and service, or making pleasant conversation with customers? The mystery shopper can provide that kind of information.

Focus groups are usually only qualitative. That is, they only provide descriptive information. But for ideal marketing research, a mystery shopper can provide quantitative data used to measure trends, determine performance issues, and even find the need for additional training.

Mystery shopping in a grocery store will usually consist of a mystery shopper making their usual rounds through the store, selecting the products they need or products that store management wants them to purchase, visiting a particular section, and then making their purchases. The shopper will go home, file a report with the mystery shopping agency. From there, the report and data will be sent off to the supermarket’s corporate office for further action.

Mystery shopping a supermarket is an effective way for the large chains to monitor how their individual stores are doing on certain key performance indicators, and to measure whether they are meeting corporate expectations. By working with a mystery shopping agency, stores can easily and effectively find the information to help them improve their customer experience, win loyal shoppers, and increase total sales.

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