How Mystery Shoppers Can Complement Your Brokers and Field Teams

As a brand, do you have a way to get your products into new stores? Do you know what your products look like inside existing locations? Have a way to measure how product placement affects the bottom line?

If you can answer yes to any of these questions, you have existing relationships with brokers or field teams. Brokers and fields teams are two crucial components of any successful brand manufacturer. However, they’re not always operating at full capacity, and it can be a challenge to make the most out of these relationships and get the best return on investment for your brand.

That’s where a third group comes into play: mystery shoppers. How do mystery shoppers fit into your existing structure of field teams and brokerages? Let’s find out.

What Are Brokers, Field Teams, and Mystery Shoppers?

These three groups might have some similarities, but they’re different enough that how each is structured can differ between organizations. Here is how we’re defining brokers, field teams, and mystery shoppers.

Broker Definition (and What They Can Do)

There are a lot of different types of brokers in the world, but in retail, brokers are the link between the brand manufacturer and the retailer. Brokers are useful because they come with connections to retailers and distributors. They also have experience pitching emerging brands to retailers and can handle a lot of the legwork that goes into getting your products on store shelves.

In addition, brokers can speak about your brand to the retailer, sometimes educating the stores on how to position and sell your products. This can save you a ton of time compared to doing it internally, and it can also help you protect your brand image and build relationships with both retailers and shoppers.

While brokers, field teams, and mystery shoppers can overlap duties at times, each has its own strengths and weaknesses.

Field Team Definition (and What They Can Do)

Field teams are the business unit that handles retail execution in the field. Job functions include merchandising, planogram compliance, store associate training, display execution, and other duties within the realm of sales and marketing. Overall, field teams are responsible for making sure your brand is set up properly inside stores, and that the retailers can sell your products effectively and within your brand guidelines. They also handle launching any promotions or marketing campaigns.

Often, a field team will be an internal team, not a third-party, but that’s not always the case. Either way, they’re dedicated to managing your brand’s in-store presence and overall retail execution strategy.

Mystery Shopper Definition (and What They Can Do)

Unlike brokers and field teams, mystery shoppers are everyday folks with little to no affiliation with your business. This is, in fact, a positive—as that means you can access more people than otherwise possible, helping you with problems of scale and budget.

Backing up a bit, mystery shoppers are regular folks who will go into physical stores on your behalf, often with a list of questions to ask and photos to take, capturing on-the-ground data about your brand and the store. Hiring mystery shoppers can be more affordable than an internal team, and the fact they can be any shopper around the country means you get more eyes and ears inside stores. Once there, mystery shoppers can take pictures of the shelves or displays, talk to associates, or measure anything else you want as long as it’s accessible by shoppers.

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How Brokers, Field Teams, and Mystery Shoppers Work in Harmony

As you can probably tell by now, brokers, field teams, and mystery shoppers each bring unique value to the table. You may be tempted to skip one of these groups, but there are a lot of positives to be had if all three work together in harmony.

Brokers First

For starters, turn to brokers to get your products inside stores. The biggest benefit here is their existing relationships with retailers. Use those connections to get your products in the best stores for your brand. Make sure your brokers are also well-educated on these products, as they can help prepare the store associates to sell them. You can also use brokers to report back on the competition, as they’re traveling into many different stores and see a lot of shelves during their day-to-day.

Mystery shoppers are regular folks who will go into physical stores on your behalf, often with a list of questions to ask and photos to take, capturing on-the-ground data about your brand and the store.

Then Field Teams

However, brokers are still third parties. You need a team you can trust to get into those stores to ensure everything is executed properly. This is where field teams come into play. The brokers set it up, and the field teams knock it down—they get your displays up and running, make sure any promotions are running, and manage overall shelf health and brand presence to maximize your sales potential. Field teams aren’t really the ones who will build those initial relationships with retailers, though, so that’s why brokers are still needed for that first step.

Finally, Mystery Shoppers

Lastly, you want a way to measure the execution and effectiveness of your marketing campaigns—basically, a way to check in on the work the fields teams have done. This is for mystery shoppers. Even if you have the largest field teams, you still can’t get eyes and ears inside all stores across all regions. Mystery shoppers can.

Importantly, mystery shoppers can also prioritize your field teams’ efforts. With the data captured inside stores, you can see which locations are least compliant and need the most work. You can also learn the “why” behind the sales data coming in. Sales down in this store? Send in mystery shoppers, and find out that your displays are barely stocked.

Create a Holistic Retail Execution Strategy

All in all, you likely need a little bit of help from all three groups in order to have the best chance of success. While brokers, field teams, and mystery shoppers can overlap duties at times, each has its own strengths and weaknesses. It’s best to use a mix to get a strong return on investment.

With brokers, you get connections and help to launch products inside stores. What you don’t get is an internal team or hands-on retail execution on the ground. Field teams can be your go-to staff for setting up displays and promotions, educating associates, fixing compliance, and optimizing your brand. But they can’t be everywhere at once. Mystery shoppers can get into more stores, capturing data that back up your assumptions and show your field teams where to go and what to do.

By using all three, you can create a holistic retail execution strategy that puts your brand in a position to succeed.

Matt Ellsworth

Matt is the Sr. Manager, Marketing & Demand at Wiser, the leading provider of actionable data for better decisions.

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