Mystery shopping is used as a tool by companies to evaluate the shopping/buying experience of its customers. Companies then use the feedback to make improvements regarding their employees, facilities and processes. Mystery shopping provides valuable insight for businesses, which is why companies are willing to invest in it. However, with today’s technology along with the presence of social media, companies can quickly gain this priceless feedback from thousands of customers with little or no investment. With this being the case…will traditional mystery shopping soon be obsolete?
Customer Feedback Through Social Media
I’m willing to bet that almost any company website you visit has at least one of these icons somewhere on their homepage. According to Facebook, more than 2.5 million websites have integrated with Facebook, including over 80 of comScore’s “U.S. Top 100 websites” and over half of comScore’s “Global Top 100 websites”. Facebook currently hosts more than 500 million active users. So that’s 500 million people on one site from which companies can acquire feedback instantly.
At a conference recently, the head of research for a very well known company presented, focusing on how they have begun to recruit focus group members and have private panel discussions all via Facebook. Fans of their page comment about products and the company uses that feedback as part of their research. Also, when new products are introduced, they review all comments on their Twitter page to gage whether or not the product will be successful. This may not sound like a very legitimate way to perform research, but essentially it’s the same as mystery shopping. People are trying their products or having an experience in their stores and then providing feedback.
There’s An App For That
As we’re all aware, there are apps on the market for just about anything you can think of. So it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are mystery shopping apps now available. One app is called Field Agent and is available for iPhones. With this app, you are asked to perform tasks or take surveys on behalf of companies. The tasks could be taking a photo of a display at a particular store or navigating a website and answering questions about how easy it was. The “agent” is paid for completing the tasks within a set timeline. With this app available for any business to use and the social media sites providing instant feedback, it may seem unnecessary to continue traditional mystery shopping.
Will Do I Still Have Job?
So what does this mean for market research firms like us? It’s becoming easier for companies to attain customer feedback themselves. Still, it is important to remember that this information needs to be assessed by a research analyst with the proper qualifications and experience. Also, the information gathered by social media sites needs to be looked at subjectively, since it can be lacking integrity.
We could try to fight this trend and convince clients of the need for traditional mystery shopping or we can embrace it and use it as an add-on to traditional mystery shopping. Instead of looking at this as a negative for traditional market research, let’s view this as a new tool that will expand our research efforts!
Stacy Martinez, Assistant Project Manager