The Tools of a Mystery Shopping Spy

All of us use technology in our shopping pursuits, even if it is just to file a report online. Many shoppers use recorders and smartphones, some do audio and video taping, and others take their tablets on location. I am a shopper who resolved in 2014 to take advantage of these great sources. Over the next several months, I will explore these technologies in this column to show readers how to use them to their best advantage.

Video Taping

Videotaping continues to be a hot and growing segment of the industry. Some MSCs require that a shopper use their equipment; other MSCs ask that the shopper use their own camera. What should one consider when looking for his or her own equipment? The type of shops being done and the MSC preference help determine which mode of camera should be used, be it a button, an eyeglass, a cell phone, a pen, a key chain, a purse, a briefcase or even an ear phone. Other questions to consider include: Is it better to go with a body-worn, wired DVR and camera or with the wireless camera and recording device in one? What camera brands do MSCs recommend and where can they be found?

Videotaping requires another set of skills for a shop. The shopper needs to know how to best capture his or her intended target in the frame and get the best voice quality without appearing awkward or stiff. What may seem like natural movements and reactions during a normal shop could result in a wildly weaving video. I will be offering tips from MSCs and video trainers for keeping a steady picture, framing one’s target and trouble-shooting problems that might arise. I’ll also present info on seminars offering training and advice for videotaping.

Shoppers need to be aware of the legal ramifications of audio recording in their states. There are 14, two party consent states, that is, states where you must let the person know you are audio recording them. I will explain how MSCs handle the latter situation and what the shopper needs to do to help be protected against potential lawsuits.

In another article I will cover the types of video shops being offered today. Common subjects are new home models and apartments, autos, jewelry stores and insurance offices. However, videotaping has also opened new opportunities for route shopping. Some MSCs fly their video shoppers to other parts of the country – even Hawaii – to tape at several locations. One MSC rep told me that her company loans “very vetted” shoppers a high-end car to visit several dealerships in a broad area. The possibilities are endless and the reports often require far less writing. If the taping has gone well, the tape is sent off and the shopper is done.

Audio Recording, Phones and Tablets

Many shoppers use recorders or the recording feature of their smartphones to audio tape their shop. Can a smartphone do the job of a recorder or does the recorder offer more advantages? If a shopper uses a recorder, what brands are MSC-recommended? In an upcoming issue, I will offer tips for getting the best sound quality on an audio shop.

Many shoppers are also taking their tablets on shops. Besides offering the ability to quickly file a report after the shop, are there other advantages to bringing tablets along? Are there better tablet models than others for the shopper?

What would you like to know?

Technology is a rapidly changing field. Is there something in the tech world you would like more information about related to shopping? Feel free to contact me through James with your questions.

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