Mystery Shopping in Australia – How Does it Work?

Mystery shopping is an increasingly popular type of market research. It is conducted by businesses to determine the kind of experience customers and potential customers have when interacting with them. Information gathered may include anything from the way a customer is treated to the quality of a product or service, and the results are used to improve business operations.

What is Mystery Shopping

Is it New?

No. This type of research has been around since the 1940’s and has also been known as 'secret shopping' and 'shadow shopping'. The rise of Internet based businesses has sparked an increase in this type of information gathering, which has also come to be seen as a good alternative to cold call telemarketing.

What Does a Mystery Shopper Need to Do?

Shoppers are usually required to go to a place of business in person; however, they can sometimes conduct their research by calling or visiting a business online. Each assignment is unique; some require that a product or service be purchased while others may simply entail an enquiry be made of a business.

Almost every assignment will proceed according to the following steps:

  1. First an assignment is allocated providing the details relating to the job. This includes the rate of pay, the location of the business, a time frame in which to complete the visit and a set of questions or factors to look out for.

  2. The shopper is then required to approach the business pretending to be an ordinary customer. If a purchase is required, the shopper will be instructed beforehand of the type of purchase and how much to spend, and any costs involved are reimbursed.

  3. Following the shopping experience, which usually takes less than an hour, the shopper is given a short period of time to complete a survey relating to what happened. Most companies will allow 24 hours to complete this survey; however, some require that you do so on the same day as your shopping visit.

Is there Support Provided?

While your shopping visit will be unsupervised, most companies offer a 24-hour support line for their shoppers, with any problems or concerns investigated by their support team.

Do you need Experience?

You do not need to have any specialized experience to do this type of work effectively. While some companies require that you complete their training course before you are allocated assignments, these courses are generally based on common sense. The main skills or experiences that will help are an ability to be observant, objective, detail oriented and maintain confidentiality.

How Much Money Can you make?

While rates of pay can vary considerably, it is safe to say that the majority of people don’t get rich from this line of work. Very few people work full time as shoppers, with most completing assignments on a part time basis to supplement their income. However, once you have established yourself as a reliable worker, you may be considered for higher end assignments, which pay a considerable amount more. Be aware that some businesses will pay you in vouchers or gift certificates, in which case you should only accept assignments that offer things you are interested in.

Is there a lot of work Available?

Shadow shopping work is available in Australia throughout the entire country; however, there is often more work available in the larger centres such as Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide. If you are willing to travel you will have more opportunities available, but because travel costs are rarely covered you are best to stick to your local area and locations that are easily accessible to you.

Do you need certain equipment?

All you need to get started is access to the Internet and an email account, because almost all of the major companies are based online. Having your own computer will make it easier to keep an eye out for assignments, but if you can get online at the local library or a friend’s house that will work just fine too.

What are the Benefits?

  • Get paid to shop
  • Enjoy free products and services
  • Work as much or as little as you want
  • Help improve customer service

Is It Anti-Worker?

Some might consider pretending to be a customer and taking notes on your experience to be a form or snitching, but this is certainly not the case. Workers are told during their training that shadow shoppers will be used, and the only time a worker will be in any trouble is if they provide consistently poor quality service. More often than not this type of market research can be extremely useful as part of the training process, and can make it easier in the long term for workers to do their jobs effectively.

How to Apply?

Each business has its own application process; however, almost all of them involve setting up a basic profile explaining who you are, where you live and why you think you’d make a good shopper. You may also be asked to provide a few details about your lifestyle such as how often you eat out, your hobbies, etc. Your application will often be the main criteria used to determine your eligibility for assignments, so take your time and answer all of the questions honestly.

Which Businesses are Best?

While there are a large number of secret shopping companies operating these days, only a few have been around for long enough to establish a reputation as being trustworthy. Some of the most trusted companies include the Realise Group, BestMark Mystery Shopping, GetPaidToShop, Shop Angels and Performalogics. Any business that is part of the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA) will usually be a safe choice.

Beware of Scams

Unfortunately, not all shopping businesses are legitimate, so you need to be careful to avoid scams. Using your common sense will usually be enough to keep you safe, for instance never agree to pay for training and under no circumstances should you transfer large amounts of money into someone else’s account. Googling a business is also a great way to find out if others have found them to be trustworthy or not.