How to Become a Mystery Shopper: Tips, Benefits, and FAQs
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If you’re looking for a fun and flexible way to make some extra money, then becoming a mystery shopper may be the perfect gig for you! Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about how to become a mystery shopper.
What is a mystery shopper?
A mystery shopper, or secret shopper, is someone who is hired by a company to anonymously visit their business and provide feedback about the quality of their service.
A mystery shopper is expected to act like a real customer, and their goal is to provide an honest assessment of the business they are visiting.
Businesses that use mystery shoppers typically want to know whether their brand standards are being met, and if their employees are doing what is expected of them.
What will you have to do?
You will be given specific instructions on what the business wants you to do. For example, they may want you to ask specific questions, try out a new product or service, or they may want you to assess the cleanliness of the store.
Making money as a secret shopper can be very interesting, especially as your shopping trips will involve talking to employees and checking out the business as a whole.
Some of common assignments might include:
- Evaluating product placements and store displays
- Asking staff for product information
- Making purchases and checking prices
- Inquiring about certain things, like a specific item or special offer
As well as reporting on the outcome of your assignment, you may also be asked to provide a detailed written report about your experience - such as the friendliness of the staff and the overall customer experience.
Who can be a mystery shopper?
Almost anyone can become a mystery shopper! If you have some free time and flexibility, then mystery shopping may be a great fit for you.
Most secret shoppers are stay-at-home parents, retirees, students, or people who are looking for a flexible way to earn some extra money.
What qualifications do you need to be a mystery shopper?
There are no formal qualifications required to become a mystery shopper. However, some specialist assignments may require you to have a certain level of expertise. For example, if you’re mystery shopping a financial institution, then it would be beneficial to have some knowledge about banking products and services.
Additionally, most businesses will require you to be at least 18 years old.
What makes a good mystery shopper?
There are a few qualities that make a good mystery shopper.
First of all, you should be observant and detail-oriented. You will need to be able to remember small details and report back on your experience.
Secondly, you should be friendly and outgoing. Mystery shoppers need to be able to interact with employees and customers in a natural way.
Finally, you should be reliable and punctual. Mystery shoppers are often given tight deadlines and need to be able to submit their reports on time.
How much free time do you need to be a mystery shopper?
The amount of free time needed to become a mystery shopper varies depending on the type of assignment.
Some assignments can be completed in an hour or less, while others may take several hours to complete.
You can typically choose which assignments you want to take on, so you can work around your schedule.
When and where can you mystery shop?
This will also depend on the specific assignment. Some mystery shopping assignments can be completed online, while others will require you to visit a physical location.
There is often some flexibility in when you can complete the mystery shopping assignment, but some mystery shops will need to be completed at a specific time or day.
Is it worth being a mystery shopper?
Whether or not being a mystery shopper is worth it depends on your individual circumstances. Like many gig-economy jobs, the freedom and flexibility to choose your own assignments can be a big draw - but it comes at a cost.
If you enjoy shopping and trying out new products, then being a mystery shopper can be a fun way to earn some extra money. However, if you need regular hours and a regular income, then mystery shopping may not be the best fit for you.
What are the benefits of being a mystery shopper?
There are many benefits to being a mystery shopper. For starters, it’s a great way to earn some extra money or try some free meals. Mystery shopping can also be a fun and easy way to explore new places and try out new products.
Additionally, as a professional mystery shopper, you may enjoy having a real impact by providing businesses with the feedback needed to improve their operations.
What are the disadvantages of being a mystery shopper?
Of course, as with any job, there are also some drawbacks to being a mystery shopper.
One of the biggest disadvantages is that work is not guaranteed and you will be competing for jobs with other mystery shoppers.
Mystery shopping can sometimes be repetitive and you may find yourself doing the same tasks over and over again. Especially filling out forms…
Completing paperwork, or online forms, is a significant portion of the job. These can be quite lengthy and tedious, but they must be completed as part of the assignment.
How much money can you make as a mystery shopper?
Most full-time mystery shoppers are self-employed and earnings can vary greatly. One secret shopper reported earning £30,000 – £40,000 per year after signing up to multiple mystery shopping agencies.
Indeed.com reports the average salary for a mystery shopper is £9.55 per hour in United Kingdom. But this should be taken with a grain of salt, as the majority of mystery shopping jobs do not pay hourly but instead give a flat fee for the entire assignment.
How much you can earn as a mystery shopper will depend on a few factors, such as the location, the complexity of the tasks, and the availability of other mystery shoppers.
It’s not uncommon for secret shopping assignments in a big city, like London, to pay significantly less than the same task in a smaller town. This is because there is more competition for mystery shopping jobs in big cities.
The type of secret shopper jobs you take will have a big impact on how much you get paid. The lowest paid jobs are usually digital mystery shopping, where you might test an app or website. These jobs might have the lowest pay, but they’re fast to complete and don’t require any travel.
At the other end of the spectrum are complex in-person assignments, like hotel mystery shopping, usually have the highest payouts. Video mystery shoppers, who use a hidden camera to record their every move while at the store, may earn up to £300 per day.
Can you keep the products you buy?
This will depend on the specific assignment.
In some cases, mystery shoppers are given a budget to spend and are able to keep whatever they purchase. In other cases, the products or services need to be returned after the assignment is completed.
Some experiences, like a meal, spa treatment, or a stay at a hotel cannot be returned and so you will get to keep these for free!
However, unless you’re provided with a budget and travel expenses, it’s important to carefully check the total payment you will receive for your secret shop against what you will need to spend to complete it. If you’re not careful, you could end up losing money on the job.
How to become a mystery shopper?
If you’re interested in becoming a mystery shopper or a mystery diner, the best place to start is by signing up with a mystery shopping company or applying to an agency.
There are many companies that provide mystery shopping services to businesses, so you’ll need to do some research to find the right fit for you.
Once you’ve found a company you’re interested in, you’ll need to apply to be a mystery shopper. The application process will usually involve a grammar test to ensure that you will be able to produce a detailed report, as well as a background check.
After that, you’ll be able to start taking on mystery shopper jobs and earning money!
What are the best mystery shopping agencies?
There are many different mystery shopping agencies out there. Each will have a different focus, so it’s important to find mystery shopping jobs that are the right fit for you.
Some agencies focus on retail stores, while others may focus on providing mystery diners to restaurants or secret guests to hotels. There are even specialist agencies that focus on specific industries, like the automotive industry.
Some of the best mystery shopping agencies include:
ABa: A UK-based mystery shopping and CX agency that focuses on the Retail, Banking/Financial, and Grocery sectors.
Market Force Information: With over 600,000 shoppers globally, Market Force are a key player in the mystery shopping industry. They provide services for a range of industries, including Retail, Automotive, and Leisure/Entertainment.
Ipsos MORI: As the world’s largest provider, Ipsos mystery shopping programs cover almost every industry and region.
Storecheckers UK: An MSPA Elite member and UK-based secret shopping agency that covers Retail, Entertainment, and Casino/Gaming sectors.
Tern: A multi-sector mystery shopping agency that is a great choice for specialist services, like audio and video secret shopping.
Which mystery shopping companies are legitimate?
There are many legitimate mystery shopping companies out there, but there are also many scams. It’s important to do your research to make sure you’re signing up with a legitimate mystery shopping program.
One of the most important things to search for is whether the firm is a registered company, and if they are a member of the Mystery Shopping Professionals Association (MSPA). The MSPA aims to improve overall quality within the mystery shopping industry and has established an open and transparent operating association with clear governance rules.
The biggest red flag to look out for when applying for mystery shopping jobs is if the company asks you to pay a fee to join their program.
You should never have to pay anything to become a mystery shopper - if a company is asking you to pay a fee, it’s most likely a scam.
How to avoid mystery shopping scams
Shopping is a lot of fun, and it’s even better when you get paid to do it. But, as with anything else, there are unfortunately many scams in the mystery shopping industry.
The best way to avoid these is to follow these simple tips:
- Always read the terms and conditions of each mystery shopping job before accepting it.
- Only sign up with legitimate mystery shopping companies.
- Never pay to join a mystery shopping program, even if it’s said to be for training or certification.
- Never send money by bank or wire transfer as part of an assignment.
- Never deposit a cheque into your account and send the money back.
- Never pay for a list of mystery shopping jobs.
The following sources can help you find more information about mystery shopping scams and how to avoid them:
- The Federal Trade Commission’s publication on Mystery Shopping Scams
- The Mystery Shopping Professionals Association’s page on Scams
- The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) page on ID theft scams
Mystery shopping is a great way to make money on the side, and there are many legitimate companies that offer these opportunities.
If you’re interested in becoming a mystery shopper, the best place to start is by signing up with a mystery shopping company or applying to an agency.
Be sure to do your research before accepting any assignments, and never pay to join a mystery shopping program - if a company is asking you to pay a fee, it’s most likely a scam.
Finally, always read the terms and conditions of each mystery shopping job before accepting it, and make sure that you’ll get value for your time.
Have you ever been a mystery shopper? Does your business hire mystery shoppers? We want to hear about your experiences.
Tom is the co-founder of TRACX, a no-code marketing platform that allows local business owners to collect customer feedback and create engaging marketing campaigns. With over 17 years of experience in entrepreneurship, product development, and marketing for businesses large and small, Tom is currently responsible for developing product and marketing strategies for TRACX.