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Use Mystery Shopping For Competitor Research

When it comes to competitor research, you have a few options. You could send different staff members into your competitors’ businesses — stores, restaurants, multi-family dwellings — or you could lurk on their social media accounts and see what they’re doing.

Or you could hire mystery shoppers to do some secret competitor research on your behalf.

Normally, mystery shopping is done by a company on that particular company. For example, a wireless store will have mystery shoppers go into their own stores and figure out how things are going. They’ll get a question answered, upgrade their phone or buy a new one, and make sure the month’s promotional signage is in place. Then they’ll report all that back to the mystery shopping agency who shares it with the wireless store client.

You can do this for competitor research as well.

Black Friday shopping at Macy's. Department stores often use competitor research to keep track of each other.Mystery shopping agencies are equipped to send people out on shops, only they will share the data with the client. The difference is, the mystery shopper only knows they have to do a shop on a particular store, they don’t know the client is actually a competitor.

Some of the reasons to do competitor research with mystery shoppers include

  • Seeing how your competitors manage their customer experience strategy.
  • Getting an idea of traffic patterns for similar businesses.
  • Seeing what products and services your competitors are selling, and seeing if they perform better or worse than yours.
  • Learning what kinds of promotions and specials the competition is running.

Is Mystery Shopping for Competitor Research Legal?

Yes, it is. It’s not illegal. There may be some gray areas, if you’re a black and white thinker, but it’s no worse than a pizza executive from one chain ordering pizza from another chain to see how it tastes.

Social media makes it easy to keep track of what other people are doing too. Thanks to Twitter’s List feature, it’s possible to create a private list of all your competitors (that way, they don’t know you’ve added them; they get notified if you add them to a public list). Then you can watch everything they’re promoting and talking about with customers. It’s hardly spying since you’re watching public communications that they’re willing to share with everyone..

Since these kinds of things go on all the time anyway, competitor research is a light, light gray area.

In general, doing competitor research is a sound marketing strategy. Sure, you need to focus on your own core competencies and doing the things you do the best. Train your people so they’re doing their best, make sure your processes and policies are creating top-notch products, and provide excellent customer service. Then work with a mystery shopping agency to check up on everyone so you know you’re all doing your best.

If you can do that, your company will thrive and grow, and your competition will the ones chasing you. But it won’t hurt to do competitor research on them in the meantime, so you can see if they’re copying you and the great work you’re doing.

If you’d like to learn more about doing competitor research, or just mystery shopping your own brand, please contact us and speak to one of our competitor research experts.

Photo credit: Diariocritico de Venezuela (Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0)