What is Mystery Shopping

Mystery shopping saw its start in the 1940s. When it began, it was used primarily in banks and retail stores to assess the integrity of the employees working there. Private investigators would pose as employees in an attempt to discover if any other store employees were stealing or compromising the success of the company.

Secret Shopper Survey Graphic

The term “mystery shopping” was coined in the 40’s when it began being used to define the services used by everyday customers that were investigated by these shoppers. Since, it has evolved into an industry that evaluates many different areas of customer satisfaction within several different industries. Today, mystery shoppers use materials that include questionnaires and video and audio equipment to document their experiences. Materials that are far and away more advanced then when mystery shopping began and evaluations were based on the word of the shopper.

As the industry grew into the 80’s and 90’s it expanded rapidly because of the presence of the Internet. Market research companies began cornering the market in terms of mystery shopping and businesses stopped hiring individuals to evaluate their businesses and instead turned to market research companies for the service. Now, most mystery shoppers can find work online via these market research companies who train, and provide work for their employees. Today mystery shoppers provide customer service information for restaurants, retail stores, fast food chains, banks, gyms, movie theaters and even car dealerships.

There are some instances where market research companies are hired to provide mystery shoppers to evaluate housing services, churches, as well as government-run organizations such as law enforcement facilities, park services and hospitals.

Today mystery shopping offers a much broader service to the company in which it investigates than it did years ago. It is used more as an indication of customer service and satisfaction rather than simply a method for policing bad employees. As such, mystery shopping has boomed into a $1.5 billion dollar industry that exists worldwide. Companies all over the world turn to mystery shoppers to help them evaluate how customers view their business and products. In today’s world with so much mystery shopping being done via the Internet, the turn around for assessments and information is quicker and more comprehensive, making mystery shopping an industry that is sure to continue growing.

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