Pros and cons of new mystery shopping technologies

As smartphones and mobile devices fall into the hands of more and more consumers, businesses are racing to stay on the forefront of the latest advances and trends that allow them to effectively connect with their customers. But is it possible that businesses are focusing too much attention on trendy new technologies that might not even be improving their performance?

Technological developments in the world of mystery shopping are starting to radically alter the way businesses handle market research. As smartphones and mobile devices fall into the hands of consumers, businesses are racing to stay on the forefront of the latest advances and trends that allow them to effectively connect with customers.

But is it possible that businesses are focusing too much attention on trendy new technologies that might not even be improving their performance? The world moves at a fast pace, and while many new developments seem attractive, it is sometimes best to focus on the more tried and true methods.

Here are some ways technology is changing the world of mystery shopping, along with their pros and cons:

Mobile platforms
Perhaps the biggest trend most recently among mystery shopping companies is the incorporation of mobile software into the day-to-day business operations. It seems that almost every year, a new company comes out with an innovative mobile application that streamlines the entire mystery shopping experience, from assignment completion to report writing.

Pros

  • Mobile applications are highly user-friendly. Rather than logging into a complicated back-end system on one computer, a mobile application can allow mystery shoppers to easily access and upload important data from virtually anywhere while on assignment.
  • The ability to complete a mystery shopping report from a mobile device also allows the shopper to be more discreet while taking notes and collecting data.

Cons

  • The problem with the abundance of mobile applications in the industry, however, is that it creates the illusion that anyone can be a mystery shopper. Popular applications such as Yelp and TripAdvisor, for example, allow users to act like mystery shoppers, in a sense, by writing reviews about their experiences at restaurants, stores, or hotels. Mystery shopping providers should not view these applications as a legitimate alternative to mystery shopping, as many are prone to bias and do not adequately meet the demands of market research.

Experiential Mystery Shopping
Another recent advancement is a concept called Experiential Mystery Shopping, or EMS. When stores employ EMS strategies to their market research, they ask highly specific questions about customer experience in order access a wide array of data points about the entire shopping experience.

Pros

  • Data is a powerful tool in research, and the general rule is that more is better. By focusing mystery shopping efforts to account for more specific aspects of the customer experience, companies can easily tweak their models as necessary.

Cons

  • EMS often requires much more thorough and exhaustive reports. This increased difficulty might make it harder for companies to find competent mystery shoppers, or it might force them to heavily screen new applicants.

Any business needs to have a strong grasp of the technological advancements in its industry in order to stay relevant and experience growth. However, it's important to still think critically when incorporating new tools into pre-existing models. In some cases, a great new technology might not make sense for every single business. A smart mystery shopping company should continue using the strategies that work well and consider new ideas in areas that aren't up to speed.