Best practices for using a secret shopper program at your centers

Secret shopping is, perhaps, one of the most underutilized tools landlords have at their disposal. “Shops” provide an objective, third party evaluation of a retail store or restaurant and can help a property owner identify issues that are affecting tenant performance.

At one point in time, implementing a center-wide secret shop was expensive and time consuming. Thanks to automated online services, that is no longer the case.

More on that later.

Here are three simple best practices for creating an effective secret shop program in any size center.

Be consistent

To get a true reading of any single or multiple business, schedule an ongoing secret shop program; monthly to start and then moving to quarterly if the situation warrants.You’ll also want to be sure to shop businesses at different times of day and days of week. A store might schedule their A team on peak days but put their inexperienced staff on at slow times which may adversely affect customer experience. It’s also a good idea to begin shopping new tenants shortly after opening to pinpoint any potential issues early on. 


Let your tenants know you're implementing a secret shop program but without specifics of the actual shop dates or times. Just by knowing a shop is imminent will encourage some owners to up their game immediately!Once you have the completed reports, review the results privately with each individual tenant. Discuss opportunities to use the information to make improvements. And don’t forget to acknowledge and compliment their successes. It’s important tenants don’t view the shops as your way to catch them doing something wrong! A shopping program isn’t a trap but a way to gather information that will help businesses level up!

Reward improvement

As you complete the regularly scheduled shops, reward those tenants who make the most improvement. Do it publicly (without sharing details) with other tenants so the winner can take pride in their efforts. This type of recognition also instills a healthy sense of competition within your center, encouraging all to strive a little harder.

Whether you decide to shop specific tenants or launch a center-wide program, a secret shop program is an excellent and inexpensive benefit for both tenant and landlord. 

Start your own automated program easily provides a simple online solution for secret shop programs small and large. The site provides category-specific questionnaires along with the option to customize questions. Shops start at under $100 and set up takes just a few minutes. 

To learn more about, listen to the EASY+RETAIL+TECH podcast featuring founder Ron Welty.

To get a discount code to receive 6 shops for the price of 5, go to and use code word ANGEL.

When a tenant is riding a wave, the crash can be brutal

Elevating the lowly sandwich board!