There is no denying 2009 was a rough year. The crash of the real estate and financial markets in mid and late 2008 created massive layoffs and the elimination of hundreds of thousands of jobs around the globe. The stock market dropped almost 8,000 points at its lowest level, and still has not fully rebounded. This resulted in, among other things, the elimination of many people’s investment accounts. These events, and many more, created a snowball effect, making for one really long year.
2009 In Review. Mystery shoppers were not spared in the effects of the economic downturn. Last year saw fewer assignments as many retailers closed stores nationwide, and those retailers who remained in business scaled back expenses to survive the downturn. In addition, as more and more people suffered through the long unemployment lines, many more people turned to mystery shopping as a viable and legitimate way to make money. The effect was fewer jobs and more competition for those jobs.
The Future of Mystery Shopping. Economists are now projecting that the unemployment of the country as a whole will not return to a rate near or below 6% for at least five years. This means that the country will continue to struggle, and we will climb out of the recession very slowly. Pertaining to mystery shoppers, retailers and the service industry will continue to struggle as well. Mystery shoppers will likely not see a decrease in the number of assignments available and should eventually start to see a gradual uptick in the number of assignments available over the next year or two.
However, with unemployment decreasing only very gradually, we may see more people turn to mystery shopping. In addition, many companies are offering only very meager raises, if they are offering raises at all. These raises may or may not cover cost of living increases. This may cause even more people to turn to mystery shopping to help make ends meet. The result is that there is good likelihood that competition for mystery shopping assignments will continue to increase into 2010 and beyond.
Compensation. With retailers and the service industry continuing to reign in expenses as these industries struggle in the coming year, the fees on mystery shopping assignments likely will not increase much, if at all. As the number of assignments gradually pick up and compensation stagnating, 2010 will bring mystery shoppers the ability to make more money by working on assignments. That is, if additional assignments can be find as competition for the assignments increase.
This picture may look bleak for mystery shopping. However, keep in mind that many new mystery shoppers will quickly drop out of the industry as they locate other and more traditional jobs. Long term mystery shoppers should simply be prepared to endure this bump in the road.
Looking into the future often requires a crystal ball, and nothing is certain until it has already happened. After all, in 2007, only a small number of people accurately predicted the events of 2008 and 2009. However, looking at the history of the industry and the current economic indicators, we can get a good idea of what the future for mystery shopping may look like.