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Web Mystery Shoppers

Online Mystery Shopping With Web Mystery Shoppers

By Cathy Stucker 

Did you know that Web sites get mystery shopped? I talked with Tema Frank, president of Web Mystery Shoppers to learn more about how online mystery shopping works.

Web Mystery Shoppers looks for some of the same shopper qualities as other mystery shopping companies. Of course, shoppers have to be reliable and complete assignments by the deadline. They want people who have a critical eye and who can express themselves in writing.

Tema Frank says, “We need people of all backgrounds, all ages, all levels of computer experience.” In fact, they are actively looking for relatively new Internet users. More experienced computer users are able to “work around” problems that might stop less-experienced customers from buying.

As with other mystery shopping jobs, you should not expect a steady income from online mystery shopping. Payment is typically made by check within two or three weeks. Overseas shoppers who do not want to receive a check in U.S. or Canadian dollars are sometimes paid via other means, such as Amazon.com gift certificates.

After you apply, you will be asked to complete an unpaid training assignment. According to Tema, “We give you a scenario and send you to the Web site. You alternate between two screens–the client Web site and the questions. As you go through the site you fill out a questionnaire answering questions about what you are experiencing, how what you are getting differs from what you expected, and whether you would still be on the site if you weren’t being paid to be there.”

The scenario might be something such as looking for a gift for your mother or your 10-year-old nephew, selecting items for your home, or other typical customer situations. A “budget” will also be specified, such as, “You are shopping for a gift for your 10-year-old nephew. Your budget, including shipping and taxes, is $25.” You will not actually purchase the item, but that is what you are to shop for.

The training assignment is shorter than a paid assignment. Expect to spend 30 to 40 minutes on the training assignment, and about an hour on a paid assignment. Paid assignments may include testing the site’s search function and evaluating customer service by sending an email inquiry or making a telephone call.

Online shops typically do not require that the shopper actually complete a purchase. If entry of a credit card number is required, the client may provide a dummy number so that the shopper does not have to use his or her own credit card.

Although most mystery shopping companies edit shopper reports to eliminate spelling and grammar errors, Web Mystery Shoppers does not. They learned early on that there can be value in errors such as misspellings. In reports for a banking client, many shoppers spelled “mortgages” as “morgages.” This showed the client that they needed to optimize for the spelling error, so that people who search for information on “morgages” would find their site.

Web Mystery Shoppers clients include banks, retail, florists, travel, B2B, non-profit, and government agencies. According to Tema, “The usual clients I have are typically not the same ones that hire the store-based mystery shoppers.”

So what does Tema Frank see as the future direction of mystery shopping? She anticipates that companies will want “360 degree mystery shopping, shopping all channels through which the company operates” to make sure that the customer experience is consistent whether the customer is dealing with a brick and mortar store, Web site, catalog, call center, or other outlet.

About The Author

Copyright Cathy Stucker. Cathy Stucker has been a professional mystery shopper since 1995. She is the author of The Mystery Shopper's Manual, the only book endorsed by the Mystery Shopping Providers Association. Learn more about mystery shopping and getting mystery shopper jobs at Cathy's mystery shopper blog at http://www.MysteryShoppersManual.com/

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Last Update: 15-Mar-2009

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