Clark Street Mercantile


Clients often ask us: which SV method is right for my business? One of the most common strategy comparisons is customer satisfaction surveys vs. mystery shopping.

It’s a discussion that depends on a few factors. We’ve seen organizations thrive in each method, of course, but there are key indicators that help us predict which may be more effective. Read on to get an idea of whether you need to employ mystery shoppers or surveys to get the data you’re after.

When considering the following, choose which option more closely fits your organization’s current goals, strengths, and position.

Few Locations vs. Many

  • If you have one or two storefronts, you may not need to employ secret shoppers. In this case, surveys can best gauge the temperature of your customer experience.
  • With many locations, you’ll want to check in on key stores that create a representative sample. You’ll want eyes and ears in your brick-and-mortar (or online!) storefronts, and that’s the work of a mystery shopper. 

Longterm Data vs. Quick Facts

  • Are you running the long game? Would you like to measure and adjust to customer trends over time? Surveys can show data points over weeks, months, and years to help shape your corporate strategy.
  • Are you looking for immediate info? Mystery shopping can give you a place-and-time snapshot of someone’s personal experience at your storefront. (Note: Depending on the consistency of your mystery shopping practices, you can also use shopper experience data points over time.)

Penny Pinching vs. Strategic Budget

  • Is budget restrictive? Surveys provide a cost-effective solution for garnering preliminary customer data.
  • Do you have a significant budget for customer strategy? Investing in mystery shoppers provides a robust set of experiential data to help tailor your practices.

Lone Wolf vs. Competitive Environment

  • If you are one of the premier businesses in your field, or if you have a monopoly in your regional market, low-key (and low-cost) surveys can help you keep a pulse on customer trends, with little time and energy.
  • If you are facing steep competition in your industry (think big box retail, restaurant chains, financial services, the automotive industry, and senior living—just to name a few!), you may want to consider both surveys and mystery shopping. You can bet your competition is searching for every available tool, so it’s up to you to collect available data in all forms…and use it to its fullest.


If you’re still wavering between the two methods of surveys and mystery shopping, here’s the good news: you can’t go wrong. Both customer surveys and mystery shopping are time-tested methods used by our small business clients and “industry titan” partners alike.

Since the two are data driven techniques, it’s best to jump into the method of your choice, and take advantage of the rich information you’re collecting—adjusting sales techniques based on the findings. Request a free, no obligation quote today to learn more about the method best suited for your business.