Mystery Shopper 101: How to Start, Grow, and Succeed in Mystery Shopping From A to Z
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Mystery shopping is quite an elusive industry…in fact, some people don’t even know it exists! Mystery shoppers come from all walks of life and when they do their jobs correctly you won’t even know they were there. They pose as normal, everyday customers and don’t ever reveal themselves as mystery shoppers. You could have been standing next to a mystery shopper in any business that you went to over the last week!
So what do mystery shoppers do? It can be as varied as observing how a store employee handles a customer complaint, making sure that signage for a store’s new sale is placed in the correct locations, or making sure servers are promoting a certain beverage with customer meals. Mystery shoppers can basically be there to assess almost anything!
Mystery shoppers work as independent contractors, meaning that they own their own businesses. As such, they are responsible for finding available shops and keeping up with all the paperwork involved in owning a business. This means they must track their own income and expenses related to the work they do mystery shopping. Expenses could include mileage or other transportation costs, supplies, membership dues, unreimbursed purchases, and more. They are also responsible for completing business taxes for their mystery shopping business in addition to their own personal income taxes.
Since all mystery shoppers own their own businesses, competition can be very fierce. Finding available shops used to be quite difficult, but with the rise of technology in the industry, specifically the introduction of shop aggregators, finding available shops isn’t so hard anymore. Some of the best shop aggregators out there are Jobslinger and MS Job Board, both of which are managed by major mystery shopping platforms, Sassie and Shopmetrics, respectively. Even though there are literally hundreds of mystery shopping companies out there, most use one of three major mystery shopping platforms – Sassie, Shopmetrics, and Prophet. This makes is easy for the platforms to aggregate all available shops from participating companies into one place, and as a result, makes it so much easier for shoppers to find new work! These shop aggregators are worth their weight in (virtual) gold, especially for new shoppers trying to get a foot in the door.
Mobile aggregator apps are one of the fastest growing segments in the mystery shopping industry, and it’s not hard to tell why! Almost everyone owns a mobile device of some sort, and now with a quick visit to your device’s app store you can download a shop aggregator app like Gigspot, PrestoMaps, or iSecretShop. Once downloaded, you can view available shops near your current location, apply for shops, and complete all parts of the shop right in the app! No more having to remember tons of details and then spit them out into a report later that night. Mobile apps make mystery shopping easier, quicker, and more profitable.
Working in an industry like this can be a little lonely, since you’re prohibited from openly discussing any of the details of the places you mystery shop, but social media has done a lot to bring community into the industry. Facebook alone has dozens of groups dedicated to not only posting available shops, but also allowing shoppers a place to discuss, rant, vent, and resolve issues. In addition to social media, there are several forums dedicated to mystery shopping that all shoppers, both new and old, find very useful. Volition, Mystery Shop Forum, and Mystery Shopping Solutions are some of the most popular and useful forums to find available shops and connect with other shoppers, both in your area and worldwide!
Overall, mystery shopping is unique, fun, and interesting. Mystery shoppers experience variety in their work that most other industries could only dream about, all while making a huge difference to the businesses and employees they shop. Observations made by mystery shoppers can literally change the entire future of a business! From an employee getting a raise to a company implementing a brand new training program for all staff, mystery shopping reports are essential for successful business to get to the top and stay there. Join this fast-paced, ever-changing industry and help make businesses where you live better!
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