Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to combine shopping with earning a little money? That’s the selling point for mystery shopping companies, which offer you a chance to earn as your shop. Of course, the company is getting something out of the arrangement. This article will explain all the details and what you need to look out for if you want to become a mystery shopper.
Mystery shopping companies offer a chance for you to earn money as you shop. All you have to do in return is report on your findings. They’re free for you to sign up for – though some require you to complete tests – and can pay well once you’ve built a reputation. Market Force, ESA Retail, and Tern are the best mystery shopping companies in the UK. BeMyEye is a strong app-based choice, as well as being a great supplement to the other three.
What Are Mystery Shopping Companies?
Mystery shopping companies exist to conduct consumer research.
Companies send “secret shoppers” into retail stores to purchase products, with the intent being to either test the product itself or to gather information about the store’s service and its employees. The idea is that you – as a mystery shopper – are unknown to the store or its employees, removing any bias from the proceedings.
As for who hires these companies, it could be one of two parties. A store may hire the mystery shopping firm itself to conduct research into its own processes and employees, with the goal being to improve the experience it’s providing. Alternatively, a competitor may hire a mystery shopper to check out the other store to see what they’re doing differently.
Either way, the process is the same. You work for the mystery shopping company as a “secret shopper” and collect data based on the assignment you’re given.
How Do Mystery Shopping Companies Work?
Though the process varies slightly between mystery shopping companies, you’ll usually follow some key steps:
- Sign up for a mystery shopping company’s website. You’ll typically be asked for your contact details, as well as to agree to the company’s terms and conditions.
- Check for available assignments, which may range from making telephone calls to visiting a store in person.
- Apply for the assignment you like and wait for the company to get back to you. If you’re successful, you’ll usually receive a call or email.
- Complete the assignment per the brief you receive and submit the information required.
- Receive your payment from the mystery shopping company. How quickly that payment comes depends on the company, though you may have to wait up to a month while the company checks the information you sent and, if needed, answer any questions you’re asked.
How Mystery Shopping Companies Make Money
Given that they provide a direct service to a client, mystery shopping companies get paid directly by the companies that hire them. Some clients will pay on a “per shop” basis, meaning they’ll lodge a request for a mystery shopper, the shopping company assigns and completes that request (with your help), and the client then pays for the information they received.
Others may keep a mystery shopping company on a recurring contract, which could involve several shop visits per month looking for specific things, such as customer interaction quality. Whatever the method, the mystery shopping company pays you for your work out of the money they receive from their client.
How Much Money Will I Make With Mystery Shopping?
The answer partly depends on how much time you’re willing to put into the gig. Save the Student reports that some of its correspondents have earned between £30,000 and £40,000 per year as mystery shoppers. However, that wage comes with a caveat – the shoppers do the job full-time and have a reputation for delivering quality work.
If you’re starting out – or don’t intend to make mystery shopping a full-time gig – Indeed has a more realistic picture of what you’ll earn. It says the average hourly wage is £13.38 per hour, though this varies depending on where you are and which mystery shopping company you use. It’s also worth pointing out that some assignments may come with fringe benefits – such as hotel stays – but these are occasional bonuses rather than regular parts of the job.
The Best Mystery Shopping Companies UK
Mystery shopping has become a hugely popular way to gather insight for companies. Some sources report that almost 85% of companies use them, meaning there’s a clear demand. Obviously, that demand leads to a ton of mystery shopping companies cropping up, which is why you need to know which are worth your time. Here are the 4 we recommend checking out.
1 – Market Force
Often dubbed the biggest mystery shopping company in the UK, Market Force certainly has strong credentials. It’s part of the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA) – an industry body that oversees mystery shopping standards – and carries an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.
For you, as a shopper, the sheer variety of jobs that it offers makes it an attractive proposition. From buying products in stores to eating meals – paid for by the company – its tasks are varied enough that you’ll rarely feel like you’re stuck in a monotonous grind.
The downside is that the pay isn’t amazing. Expect to receive between £3 and £15 per task, depending on complexity, which is a touch lower than other companies offer. You’ll have to weigh the proposed earnings against the time taken for the task. For instance, a set of £3 tasks might be more trouble than they’re worth if they require you to travel and complete paperwork.
2 – BeMyEye
BeMyEye is far from the best-paying mystery shopping company around.
Most of its jobs fall in the £3 to £6 range, so you’ll have to stack several up per hour to generate a decent wage. But on the plus side, BeMyEye makes that easy with a mobile app that categorizes available jobs based on their distance from you. Add to that the jobs usually being quite quick – earning you cash for about 20 minutes of work – and it’s a good choice for those who want something that can provide quick jobs in a pinch.
The company also has no tests for you to take upon joining, meaning the entire job set is open to you once you’ve signed up. Think of BeMyEye as a solid supplement to a mystery shopping company that offers larger jobs.
3 – ESA Retail
A quick look at ESA Retail’s client list gives you an idea of the sort of tasks this mystery shopping company provides. It works for KFC, Aldi, Marks & Spencer, and many other major brands – a credibility shot that shows you they operate a legitimate company.
The pay is solid, too, with tasks averaging at £10. This makes them a good choice for those who want to make a solid hourly wage. And like Market Force, ESA Retail offers a ton of variety. One task may send you to a local casino, with the next seeing you tuck into some chicken at the local KFC.
Payments are delivered monthly to your bank account. So, you rack up completed tasks, with the money going into a pot that’s delivered like a wage at the end of the month.
4 – Tern
Tern is the mystery shopping company to go for once you’ve gained a little experience and want to see about turning mystery shopping into a stronger career.
Like the other companies on this list, Tern offers simple tasks that pay about £5 each. But where it separates itself is in its more complex tasks, which can see you receive payment of around £40. These tasks tend to place more demands on the shopper, such as asking specific questions or buying a large number of groceries.
Payments are made to your bank account using BACS, though there are some caveats here. Occasionally, Tern pays you by refunding the task fee on the cost of the items you bought, meaning you don’t earn money but instead get a discount on the product purchased.
Top Tips for Mystery Shopping
Succeeding as a mystery shopper is possible as long as you’re savvy about it. Despite the impression you may get from marketing, it’s not an easy job. Follow these tips to maximize your earning potential:
- Plan ahead and bundle mystery shopping assignments when possible. A trio of £5 assignments can add up to £15 in an hour if you’re shopping at three stores that are close to one another.
- Always check how you’re getting paid. If it’s in cash, then great. But if you’re being paid via a refund on an item you’re buying, only accept the job if the item is something you were going to buy anyway.
- Choose assignments that fit with your personality and interests. That lets you bring some more knowledge to the information you submit, which improves your reputation and makes it more likely you’ll be accepted for later tasks.
- Read the instructions related to the assignment before accepting. The task itself may only take a couple of minutes. But if the paperwork associated with the task takes a long time to fill out, it may be more trouble than it’s worth.
Things To Avoid When Mystery Shopping
It’s usually fairly easy to tell if a mystery shopping company is legitimate, especially if they Trust Pilot reviews or a list of established clients. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be wary – follow these tips to avoid getting scammed:
- Be aware that you don’t receive instant payment, in most cases. The reports you submit have to be validated by both the mystery shopping company and their client before they get the okay.
- Avoid tasks involving items you don’t plan to buy or platforms with which you have no experience. They take longer to complete and could leave you with products that you have no interest in owning.
- Never take a job without checking how it pays first. Do you receive the fee as cash? Or, are you getting a refund on the item with no actual payment?
The key to mystery shopping is to understand your own strengths as a consumer before leveraging those strengths for the company you choose. Get it right and you’ll be able to develop a decent side hustle – ideal for students with some spare time – or even build a solid career if you’re willing to put the time in. Just remember to always check how the fees are paid. You don’t want to end up wasting your time on products or tasks that aren’t relevant to you.
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