How to Become a Mystery Shopper in the US: A Guide

How To Become a Mystery Shopper in the US: A Guide

Mystery Shopping is an easy and interesting way to earn extra money, or to try new products and services while you are out and about. Have you ever been curious about becoming a Mystery Shopper? This simple and straightforward guide will help answer your questions and get you out shopping.

What is Mystery Shopping?

Mystery Shopping is a method of research used by many of the world’s leading brands to help them understand how customers experience their products and services. A Mystery Shopper is provided a specific set of activities to perform – often referred to as a “task” - after which they answer questions about that experience, typically through an online portal or app. This information can then be used by companies to provide specific feedback about the experience, and to summarize common trends across a number of experiences, which in turn helps companies to improve training for staff, understand which elements of the journey might not be working as expected, or monitor quality and compliance with regulations – and much more! Mystery Shoppers are compensated for their time, and sometimes get exciting perks, like free train tickets or taxi rides, meals in restaurants, or products they can keep.

How does a Mystery Shop task work?

As a flexible and independent worker, Mystery Shoppers can select the visits that suit them. With Ipsos, once you’re signed up, all tasks are visible on our desktop site or mobile app. You can customize your preferences in terms of how far you are interested in traveling, what kinds of tasks you would like to see, etc.

When you see a task that you would like to complete, you can apply to be selected. Many tasks are self-assigned, meaning that they will automatically be approved for you to complete! The next steps are easy, but very important:

-          You will receive some form of Shopper Project Guidelines; this will outline the specific steps you need to take during your task. This might include visiting a particular location, making a phone call, pre-booking an appointment, asking particular questions or presenting a particular persona. Always read these instructions carefully, making special note of the location and any particular things you need to say or do during the task. Some tasks require you to complete a certification or quiz – this is to demonstrate that you have read the guidelines. You must pass to continue to the task!

-          You might be prompted to select a date that you will complete your task – this is to help us manage completion, so select the date that you can reasonably conduct the visit.

-          You will then proceed to conduct your task – more on this below in the types of mystery shops. Make sure to take any required photos or recordings to evidence your task!

-          Once you have completed the task, you’ll then return to the app or desktop portal to answer questions about your experience. It is important you do this as soon as possible following the task, so that the details of the experience are fresh in your mind. Once everything is answered, submit your task.

-          Your task will then go through a validation process – this is checking that everything is answered and ensuring that we don’t have any questions about your answers. Always ensure that you check our emails in the 5 working days following submission to ensure a prompt response to any queries from our QA team.

-          Once validated, your task will be processed for pay!

What are the different types of Mystery Shops?

We often say that if you can have an experience, we can Mystery Shop it, and that’s not an exaggeration. There are all kinds of Mystery Shopping tasks available, including some that don’t even require you to leave your home.

In Person Mystery Shop Visit – you will visit a specific location to conduct your task. These tasks can range from making an inquiry about purchasing a product or trying on an item of clothing, to visiting historical sites or having a meal in a restaurant. Sometimes a purchase is required, which should normally be reimbursed to you, but often tasks don’t require any purchase at all. These visits sometimes include an audio recording which you can do from your smartphone, or video recording which can require special equipment.

Telephone Mystery Shop - These are similar, but don’t require you to go anywhere. You would make a call to a particular company and make your inquiry over the phone. Sometimes this might include telling us about any automated systems you needed to encounter to get to a live agent, too.

Digital Mystery Shop – This spans any kinds of tasks that take place online or in an app, from ordering food through a delivery service, to contacting a bank via Live Chat, to visiting a website and searching for particular information.

Dining Mystery Shop - This is a specialized kind of In-Person visit, which will require you to have a meal at a restaurant. Often this will require specific items be ordered to measure against a food specific requirement, and sometimes might require you to visit with another person or with kids. These will often have more photos required as well – but the benefit is a nice meal for free!

What are the requirements to become a Mystery Shopper?

To become a Mystery Shopper with Ipsos all you need is to be 18 years or older, have a smartphone and regular access to the internet. You also need a valid US SSN or TIN. It’s that easy! If you’ve never done Mystery Shopping don’t worry; our briefing process will help guide you, and each project provides detailed instructions for how to carry out the task.

You can decide whether you want to travel distances or participate in recorded visits, or if you prefer to stay close to home. It is entirely up to you!

What are the skills needed to become a Mystery Shopper?

To be a successful Mystery Shopper, you will need to be organized and accountable. You are someone with a good attention to detail and the ability to recall details – of the task we’re asking you to undertake, but also for what the interaction was like so that you can fill in your report. You will have good reading and writing skills in English so that you can follow the guidelines and fill in your report. And most importantly, you are keen to try new things and share your feedback to help companies improve the experiences of the products and services they provide!

How much money can you earn as a Mystery Shopper?

Tasks fees are set based on what we are asking of you, and how long it might take. Some tasks will have a lower pay but might involve you getting a free meal or train ticket, while others might have a more generous fee if specific product ownership, gear (like audio or video recording), or activity is required. Most tasks range between about $8 - $15.

How do you register to become a Mystery Shopper?

In order toregister as a mystery shopper– you’ll need to provide your name, address, SSN or TIN. Once your account is approved, you’ll be able to see tasks immediately available in your area. From there, watch the training videos provided in the Certification section of our site and once you’ve taken the quiz, even more tasks will be available to you! From there, visit the app regularly as new tasks are posted every day and all work on a first come, first served basis.

As the largest provider of Mystery Shopping services in the world, Ipsos are leaders in this field, working with many of the largest brands and providing an array of interesting tasks for members of our Mystery Shopping panel to complete.

For further information, have a read of our mystery shopper FAQs.


We hope this has helped answer your questions about Mystery Shopping and get you excited about trying it out today. The best way to learn is to sign up and try a task – and if you are ever stuck, don’t hesitate to reach out to our friendly shopper support team for help,