Becoming a mystery shopper probably won’t earn you a comfortable salary, but it could lead to a flexible way of bringing in a bit of extra money and a few free goodies along the way. We’ve put together a short guide on the pros and cons, along with some helpful resources too.
What is mystery shopping?
Working as a mystery shopper forms part of a market research plan for agencies and retail companies. It’s a way that retail outlets and service industries can ‘check up’ on their own companies – from ensuring specific products are reaching the ideal customer, to checking the customer service/cleanliness of a restaurant, or ensuring the right information is given to you. Companies use mystery shoppers because they are not directly connected to their outlet, and allows for a neutral non-biased experience.
The rate of pay used to be pretty good when the job was relatively unheard of. However, there are now around 500,000 people registered as mystery shoppers in the UK, all looking to up their income. Some roles are very specific and the rate of pay will reflect that. Let’s find out some more….
What sort of projects could I do?
There’s a fairly wide range of projects available, but not always in a nearby location to you. You will have to think carefully about the time and costs involved to travel to the location and how this affects your rate. Some agencies offer better pay and projects than others. Typical projects could include:
Visiting a retail store and asking for a specific product – to check these products are reaching their target market.
Shopping for a new car – you may need to browse a specific car show room, asking a specific set of questions, to test the salesman’s knowledge. You may have to secretly record your visit.
Enjoying a paid-for meal to test the service, quality and speed of the food delivery and outlet.
Depending on demand and your location, you could end up visiting just one outlet during a week, or five outlets in one day. The agency you sign up with will be aware of the places you have visited, so you won’t generally be asked to go back there again. You may well be allowed to keep any products you have to buy as part of the product, and be re-reimbursed for the purchase too.
Are the projects always in-store?
Not always, with the increase in on-line shopping, some assignments are to be carried out on-line. Assignments are sometimes available to be carried out online or over the phone, allowing you to work at home. These jobs may well look at testing out the advice given to you over the phone which is great customer research for the company involved. As online shopping increases, the demand for these roles is set to increase too. Your role may be to exchange a conversation via social media with a customer service department, to see how they treat their customers.
What do I need to be aware of?
- Take into account any travel expenses you may need to pay out for.
- You may need to have specific equipment, such as a phone camera or a device to secretly record your conversation with the retailer.
- You could also need to spend time reviewing the experience and feeding that information back to the agency.
- If you are offered a job to test a meal out, you may only be given a fixed amount to cover the meal. Check if you will be paid upfront, or if any costs are re-imbursed to you.
- Check if you need to provide any reports, voice recordings or photos during your assignment.
- You may find that remembering the experience after the event – you’ll need to notice specific aspects to do with the store, timings, food experiences etc and will need to update a report afterwards. Don’t think you can sit back and get merry enjoying a free meal – you’ll need to be fully aware of every detail and be prepared to remember it to feed back to your agency.
- You need to be very detail-orientated. As you build up a good relationship with an agency, you may well be given more jobs to complete.
- Don’t ever join up with any agency that asks for money up front.
How much could I earn?
There isn’t a set rate per hour for mystery shopping – jobs tend to be priced up per assignment. You could be looking at anything from £8-£20 for your time, but competition can be fierce in some areas. Generally the more specific the assignment, the more you will get paid. Experienced mystery shoppers who are sent on numerous assignments in one day could earn around £150 for that day.
Fancy signing up?
We’ve rounded up some key mystery shopping companies for you to look at. Remember anyone who asks you for money up front is in the wrong, so not worth dealing with.
- Market Force
- Mystery Dining by HGEM
- Retail Maxim
- International Service Check
How much do mystery shoppers get paid?
Mystery shoppers can expect to earn anything from £8 per hour upwards depending on the job. Experienced shoppers can work on multiple gigs in one day and earn around £150.
Can mystery shoppers film you?
In general yes, mystery shoppers can film other people as part of their research. They will be aware of data protection and legalities involved in not misusing any recordings. CCTV operates in most stores as well which records customers and staff.
What’s it like being a mystery shopper?
The role really varies. You need to be diligent and attention specific. You need to be prepared to spend time assessing your given assignment and reporting back detailed criteria on the customer experience