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The mystery shopping research market is back in the game after the pandemic. A strong rebound is expected

BUSINESSThe mystery shopping research market is back in the game after the pandemic. A strong rebound is expected

As per estimates, in 2022, the mystery shopping research market in Poland was valued at 27 million PLN. However, this was a drop from the 2020 value of 36 million PLN. This decrease was largely due to the impact of the pandemic. Had it not been for the pandemic, the market would have been considerably larger. However, it is now evident that this sector is rebounding. Furthermore, in the next 5 years, its value could expand to 50-60 million PLN annually. Additionally, mystery shopping’s share in the revenues of research companies should increase from 3-4% to 6-7%. The main momentum will come from small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as public and local institutions, as they invest more in such studies. Rapid progress can be seen in the FMCG sector and broadly understood retail. The most active clients continue to be corporations in the fuel, finance, and pharmaceutical industries.

Post Pandemic Market Rebound

Currently, mystery shopping studies account for approximately 3-4% of the revenue of research companies. According to estimates from industry organizations such as PTBRiO and OFBOR, in 2020, this market in Poland was worth 36 million PLN. The most recent data available, from 2022, suggests a reduced valuation of 27 million PLN. The decrease in value is due to the pandemic naturally interrupting these studies. If it had not occurred, we would be dealing with a higher figure now. Changes are now noticeable as this market is beginning to develop faster. Companies are beginning to realize the benefits of using the mystery customer method.

This market is expected to grow even more rapidly in the coming years. In the next 2-3 years, its share in the revenue of research companies is predicted to rise to 6-7%. The projected growth will be mainly linked to Poland gradually embracing this type of capability. Companies that previously did not do so are starting to slowly change tactics.

Of course, mystery shopping will never be the main source of income for research agencies in our country, but over time, it will bring them increasingly higher revenues. Over the next 5 years, the value of this market in Poland could grow to 50-60 million PLN annually. The main reason for this will be the desire for improvement, as well as ongoing monitoring of customer service quality, and service testing by both the private and public sectors.

A key aspect of market development will also be widespread education of potential clients about the advantages of mystery shopping. The number of entities conducting such studies will also increase, giving customers a wider range of companies to choose from. This will have financial benefits as the market becomes more defined. Prices for such services will also be lower due to increased market competition, which will encourage smaller entrepreneurs to use them more frequently.

Small and Medium Companies Drive the Industry

Examining the market, it can be observed that over the last few years, most such studies have been ordered by companies and corporations in fuel, finance (including banks and non-banking financial institutions), pharmaceutical, and FMCG industries. However, the most dynamic progress (post-pandemic) can be seen in the FMCG sector, and in the whole broadly understood retail sector. These are industries that due to inflation had to compete heavily in the market and were therefore more likely to commission such studies. Furthermore, it is clear that the popularity of this method in among retailers is consistently and consistently growing the most in the market.

Interestingly, small companies with a few to several sales or service points are increasingly ordering these types of studies. Service quality, sales recommendations, or space arrangement are crucial aspects of the sale process, but that’s not all. Entities that have not ordered professional studies before are opening up to research services, seeing potential in them as they observe large corporations. Most importantly, they realize that the cost of the study in relation to the benefits is worthwhile. Small companies undertake these activities on a smaller scale, proportionate to their “backyards”.

An example may be a local entrepreneur operating in the gastronomy industry in Mazovia who commissioned a mystery shopping study in his premises and simultaneously at competitors. The analysis of the results showed what improvements were needed in his restaurants, where they were better or worse than others, as well as their strengths and weaknesses. Following the overall analysis, the restaurateur implemented relevant changes, which, as he later reported, allowed for a revenue increase of about 8-10% year-on-year. This happened even despite a weaker market trend, clearly reflecting that small entrepreneurs can also achieve tangible benefits.

In local markets, more examples like this can be witnessed. Therefore, smaller and medium enterprises, including micro-entrepreneurs, could primarily drive the estimated growth in the mystery customer’s segment as they begin to explore the benefits of such studies more profoundly.

Mystery Client in Public Institutions

Not only companies but a new player in the form of public sectors and largely understood local government are availing of mystery shopping services. These entities will form the second important link that will bolster the mystery customer market in the coming years. More and more institutions realize that the community evaluates them, often negatively, and they need to keep up with this knowledge. For example, in 2022, as many as 12.3 thousand such visits took place at Social Insurance Institution. Just like ZUS, more and more institutions are beginning to commission such studies. Instances of using this method in local governments and companies owned by them are also known.

Of course, the main objective of these actions is to identify those areas that perform least efficiently, to improve their standings, and often the reputations of individuals running a particular institution. This is not surprising. In Western Europe, mystery shopping studies have long been carried out, which significantly improve the quality of public services, assuming that conclusions are correctly drawn, and recommendations are effectively implemented. In the West, offices, hospitals, health centres, as well as all kinds of city services are widely audited. Then, post-audit recommendations are usually implemented to improve the functioning of a given institution.

This trend, as it can be seen, has arrived in our country and year by year, more institutions will be using it. This, of course, will bring the public many benefits, as usually after such an audit, changes are implemented for better customer service. In return, it will provide additional revenue to the industry.

The commentary was authored by Łukasz Zieliński, an expert of the analytical and research market from the international company SYNO Poland.

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