Mystery-Mapping: Use Secret Shopping Programs To Craft Customer Journeys


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Capturing accurate information about customer behavior can be a major differentiator between achieving growth or experiencing stagnation for brands in any industry. This is especially true in the modern age, because improved technology has granted customers more divergent paths-to-purchases than ever before. As a result, organizations must strive to provide a consistent experience across these growing pathways. One key to unlocking this information is to implement mystery-mapping practices, which is the practice of focusing a mystery shopping program on several specific elements to craft an overall customer journey map.

In the mystery shopping industry, there has been a trend away from widespread or overall brand evaluations. Rather than trying to capture an expansive understanding of the way customers perceive your total brand image, these programs are used to capture details about specific instances. Mystery mapping is the practice of taking the data provided by these different programs to craft a larger-perspective. This can be very helpful for brands because it allows them to not only update a potentially stale Customer Experience, but also to find specific points along the customer journey that serve as significant moments in the shaping of your overall brand perception.

If your organization has never completed mystery shopping or journey mapping programs before, it can be difficult to figure out the right starting point. Depending on the industry you encompass, customers will have different ways that they conduct the research that will eventually lead them to your website or brick-and-mortar location. It is important that your organization finds a partner that is able to expertly design a unique measurement program that allows your team to easily navigate along the theorized customer journey.

Mystery shopping is an effective way of creating these maps because it provides an unbiased, outside-in perspective of your daily brand performance. Like any research project, start by creating a hypothesis of what your team believes the typical path-to-purchase would look like, and then instruct the evaluators to confirm your suspicions. Different assignment guidelines will determine the target for each individual evaluator, who will complete their analysis of the prescribed moment and submit their opinions directly to your organization. Once you have analyzed all of the necessary moments, you can begin to confirm whether or not the theorized customer journey you created at the beginning of the process is the actual way that customers are finding your brand in reality.

There are so many different ways to acquire this kind of data, but ultimately your brand needs a program that ensures data integrity and actionable information. Otherwise, the necessary investment could wind up being labeled as wasteful or unnecessary. As a result, most brands will find third-party vendors that have displayed expertise at designing, implementing, and reporting on the information provided by these programs in a secure and efficient manner. The best practice to guarantee success is to find a partner with the ability to handle the many different needs of a mystery mapping program, rather than segmenting the tasks to different organizations. Find a vendor that is able to not only design and provide a mystery shopping program but is also able to clearly report on that data in a way that your team is supremely knowledgeable about the potential paths customers may take before purchasing a product.

Daniel Bakst
I am the Social & Digital Marketing Associate for Second To None. Second To None is a Customer Experience research firm helping brands measure their existing CX via mystery shopping, voice of customer surveys, sales/marketing compliance audits and related custom research programs. We serve leading brands within the retail, restaurant, ecommerce, banking, healthcare and education sectors. I graduated from the University of Michigan in 2016 and continue to live and work in Ann Arbor. Go Blue!


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