Have you ever wondered how your competition is doing?
You decide to open a business. It’s been your passion for a long time, and you finally have the expertise, education, and knowledge to do it. However, you need to know how your competition is doing.
Your competition may have been in the market or industry for years. You need to figure out how to set yourself apart from them. Or maybe you have been in the industry for years and there are up and coming business to watch out for.
One of the best way to do this is through market research, or secret shopping your competition.
Learn how to secret shop your competitors, what to research when doing so, and why secret shopping etiquette is important.
Secret Shopping Your Competitors
Visit in Person
This is probably the easiest route to take. Depending on your business or location, this can be very feasible. Visiting in person works best based on how far you can travel to visit them in person.
For example, if you are in the food establishment business, this is a no brainer. Go in and try their food, look at their prices, and see how their customer service is. Or maybe it is a printing shop office, go in and place a small order. See their prices, turnaround time, quality, etc.
If you can’t go in person, this is a great option to check out your competition. Call as a customer and ask some questions without giving yourself away. Calling is great because you can see if they answer the phone how their customer service is, and understand who runs the establishment.
If you don’t have time to call, and can’t visit in person, check out their website or send an email.
Websites have a lot of information about their services and prices. If the website doesn’t have it, send an email and see what information they give you.
Use The Services
Try their food, order their product, or sign up for their subscription. Whatever their service is, you should be experiencing it first-hand. How you experience it is how the customer experiences it.
There are some businesses who are only using social media as their main platform. Go ahead and like, follow, or subscribe to your competition. You should know what they are doing. Look for patterns of weaknesses and strengths in their business. Use that as leverage to stay ahead of your competition to give your customers a better experience.
What to Research When Secret Shopping
Secret Shopping pricing is huge. You need to know if your competition is higher or lower priced than you. Look at sign up fees, monthly fees, al la carte pricing, and yearly fees.
Business Hours and Location
How are your hours different than theirs? Look and see if they are open after normal business hours, weekends, or holidays. Also research their location. See if they have more brick and mortar stores than you. Or if it’s an online service, how many people are searching for you and them.
Social Media Presence
Now days, consumers are going to social media to see your presence. Look at where they are: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, or Pinterest. Choose around 2 platforms yourself and become really strong at them. See how consistent your competition is, if they aren’t, you can be.
Customer reviews are gold. The more reviews you have, the better you look, the higher you rank, and the more customers want you because you seem bigger and better. Check out your customer reviews and have them posted.
Many people don’t think to secret shop customer service. Customer service can set you apart from your competition. What places come to mind when you think of amazing customer service? Chick Fillet, Zupas, Ritz Carlton, and Zappos for example.
It is also very important to secret shop your competitions' services. Are you offering more or are they? If it isn’t about quantity, how about the quality of the service or product?
Secret Shopping Etiquette
Don’t String Someone Along
If you are secret shopping your competition, don’t string them along. You need to understand that if you really aren’t going to use their services or products, know when to cut it quits with their business or sales team. You wouldn’t want someone doing that to you, show the same courteously. Secret shopping is meant to have a understanding of someone’s else’s business, not giving false hope. Plus if they find out who you are, that would be really embarrassing.
Don’t Get Caught
As previously mentioned above, don’t let them find out who you are. Don’t get caught when secret shopping. You want to be incognito for numerous reasons. You don’t want them on your radar because then they might do the same to you. You will need secret shop them again in the future, getting caught will make it that much harder. Plus, it just isn’t classy.
Be Courteous Of Time
You wouldn’t want someone wasting your time, so don’t waste someone else’s time. Find what you need, then move on. Plus, you want to use the information you learn by spending time in making improvements on your business if necessary.
Don’t Copy, Be Original
Once you do learn about your competition, don’t copy them. Learning about them is a tool, a baseline to compare where you are. Customers know when you are trying to copy. Be original, and set yourself apart from them.
How Often Should You Secret Shop? At least once a year.
Once a year will help you know where they are and how you compare, if you need to make changes for your upcoming year, and will just help you be educated in the business. However, it truly depends on what industry you are in. Sometimes it may need to be more or less. Only you will know how often that it.