What is a Secret Shopper?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 20 July 2019
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Secret shoppers are individuals that are hired to patronize various retail businesses and report their findings to an employer. Sometimes referred to as mystery shoppers, the secret shopper will enter the establishment and make a purchase of some type. During the process of the visit, the shopper will make note of how the staff interacts with customers, the quality of the merchandise offered, and even the general appearance and cleanliness of the areas accessible by patrons.

There are many reasons for employing a secret shopper. One of the most common examples is found with businesses that offer franchises. In most cases, a franchise owner is expected to operate his or her business in compliance with standards set by the parent company. From time to time, a secret shopper will visit the franchise and make sure that the general operation is within the guidelines set in the franchise agreement and thus ensures that the franchise is providing a positive public relations image for the parent company.

This process of store review by a secret shopper can be employed in just about any retail setting. A secret shopper may focus on visiting various restaurants and reporting on the level of service provided, the quality of the food, and the environment provided in the restaurant’s dining area. Even factors as the cleanliness of restrooms may be included in the overall store evaluation.


A secret shopper may also visit a department store or a specialty clothing store for the purpose of providing first hand experience about the quality of service a customer can reasonably expect. In situations of this nature, the secret shopper is likely to focus on the way the goods are displayed within the store, the level of service received from the store associates, and the ease of selecting and making purchases. From this perspective, the secret shopper helps a company to make sure customers are being treated with respect and that the goods sold meet the quality standards set by the company.

It is not unusual for the results of the reports made by a secret shopper to be used in the creation of new marketing approaches. Observations made by the shopper may point out hidden strengths that could be promoted and help increase the number of consumers who shop in the stores on a regular basis. At the same time, the reports handed in by a secret shopper may prevent counterproductive habits and practices from developing and thus discouraging consumers from entering the stores.

Secret shopper jobs are available as full time and part time positions. In most cases, the compensation package involves covering the cost of the items purchased as well as providing either a set fee for each visit to a store or an hourly rate for services rendered. In general, companies that employ a secret shopper tend to assign a specific territory to each shopper, making it possible to obtain reviews of several stores within a common geographic area. This helps to minimize both travel time and expenses. However, there are secret shopper positions that require a fair amount of travel. One example would be a secret shopper tasked with reviewing various aspects of a hotel or a resort.



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