Paid to go shopping? Market research participation can be a tough job

One of the more fun research activities we recruit for at Saros is ‘accompanied shopping’ research — which also sometimes go by the name of ‘shopalongs’ or ‘consumer safaris’.

Whatever the researcher calls it, we always get a lot of interest when we put a call out for this kind of event, because for the correctly-recruited participant it’s an extension of what you love to do anyway: go shopping. Going shopping with an interested companion, who wants to hear all about it and then gives you money at the end of it — what’s the catch?

There isn’t one, honestly, apart from the fact that you must be carefully selected as eligible, generally based on your normal typical shopping behaviour, or other demographic factors that are of interest to the client. For example, they might be a clothing brand from the high street who are launching a new range targeted at a slightly older woman than their typical shopper. So we would be asked to recruit people who shop at that store — maybe at that specific branch — but who represent the mature segment they are interested in, because they have developed some specific displays and point of sale designed to catch your eye.

Usually the interviewer would meet you at the entrance to the store or some prearranged meeting point. Generally speaking the store would not be notified or aware that research is being conducted, because — whilst this is not a mystery shopping exercise — it is important that the shopping experience all round is as normal and typical as possible.

The two of you might have a chat beforehand, but the main part of the research is walking around the shop and talking about what you see, just as if you were out shopping with friends. Your interviewer will obviously want to guide your attention to specific displays, fixtures or whatever it is they need your reaction to, and will talk to you in a slightly more structured way than your mates might do. But essentially it’s a conversation; casual, relaxed and spontaneous.

Depending on the project’s scope and purpose there might be a follow up interview afterwards, an extension of your chat, perhaps in a nearby coffee shop. This gives the interviewer a chance to refer to their brief and check they have covered everything, and made a note or recording of your responses, and they might also want to check awareness and what you noticed. For example if there was a change to a display that neither of you had commented on — was it distinctive enough to catch your eye at the time, what about half an hour later did it register with you sufficiently to be recalled?

Because what often happens in retail is that changes are tested in a sample location first, before being rolled out on a larger scale. They might have a new product line or new point-of-sale that could potentially be appearing in hundreds of stores across the country, so before the investment is made to create that it’s better to test it in a small sample of stores that are regarded as typical or significant for some reason. Of course the quantitative proof of the pudding will be whether or not sales are impacted, and the big chains track that kind of thing very rapidly and accurately — but as ever, numbers and statistics only tell part of the story, what is selling and how much. The qualitative learning — why is that new display so powerful, how does it make shoppers feel when they approach it, how does it appear to fit with existing lines, what catches their eye first and draws them in to look more closely… none of this will be revealed in the test store sales figures.

These inferences can then be used to make slight changes, and optimise everything, for maximum impact on sales at the till — before the new display is rolled out across a nation’s shopping experiences

That’s why shopping research matters, the tiniest tweaks scale up to huge differences, if it’s research for a chain with a branch on every high street.

If you’d like to receive direct invitations to our research events, all over the UK and about a widely diverse range of topics not just shopping, then make sure you are registered with Saros!

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