Traditional Market Research Techniques Versus Mystery Shopping
Traditional market research techniques such as quantitative research (e.g. surveys) and qualitative research (e.g. focus groups) have played important roles in shaping the public’s understanding and acceptance of market research. The dominance of traditional market research in the minds of market research buyers, however, has led to a blind spot regarding alternate research techniques that may be more suitable to their research needs. One such alternative research technique is mystery shopping.
What are the some of the weaknesses of traditional market research?
1. Lack of immediacy: surveys and focus groups, for example, take place hours, days, weeks and months after the respondents experienced the activity about which they were being surveyed;
2. Reliance on memory: because of the lack of immediacy, respondents are forces to rely on memory to explain their actions and motivations, and, as a result, they may provide explanations that are inaccurate or false simply because they want to provide an answer (any answer) to the interviewer;
3. Truthfulness: respondents are not under no obligation to tell the truth about what they did or why they did it;
4. In short, the data provided by traditional market research is subject to human foibles, as explained above.
How does mystery shopping overcome the weaknesses inherent in traditional market research?
1. If recorded, mystery shopping provides detailed and immediate profile of real-world interactions between buyers and sellers. No memory required. No fear of inaccurate or false information; and
2. Mystery shopping can provide vital information on selling techniques, how and why buying decisions are made, and any weaknesses a competitor may have found in your company’s offering.
So why consider mystery shopping?
Over the past 20 years I have come across many clients who, relying on traditional market research to monitor customer satisfaction and how they compare to competitors, completely missed on competitor activities that were resulting in lost sales and lost clients.
One client, a multi-national corporation providing business-to-business services, was losing literally millions of dollars in lost sales and clients. They could not understand what was happening despite spending significant amounts on traditional market research techniques. It was only when my company conducted a mystery shop campaign that the reasons behind the lost sales became evident: a competitor had found a major weakness in the company’s offering and was exploiting it during sales presentations. Clients and former clients knew of the problem but did not provide any feedback or responses to customer satisfaction or exit surveys. Once the problem was identified and corrected, there was a complete reversal in fortunes: the company went from millions of dollars in lost sales to millions of dollars in new sales.
Mystery shopping is a market research technique that has proven its validity over time.