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Market Research 101: What is a Shop Along?

The first month of school always seems to fly by, right? Getting to know new people, meeting and dreaming about your newest crush, finding your place in the class, and of course sizing up your new teacher—yup, that first month just flies by.
So why should it be any different with Market Research 101 where, we are shocked to realize, we have already completed our first month of Market Research learning? So far, we’ve covered panel surveys, customer intercepts, and focus groups, and today it’s time for shop-alongs.

Uniquely equipped to provide qualitative depth in a variety of situations, and equally useful online and in-store, shopalongs are a powerful tool for businesses looking to better understand their customers’ journey, experience, and overall perception. So, take your seats, please, Market Research 101 is back in session.

What are Shop-Alongs?

A market research shop along is a qualitative voice of the customer market research methodology through which businesses can gain insight into their ideal customer journey, navigation, and overall experience. In shop-alongs (no, nobody has ever agreed how to spell it consistently), preselected shoppers are asked to shop an online or brick & mortar location according to their typical shopping habits, and then answer any questions businesses might have about this experience.

Shop alongs are run by experienced moderators who provide prompts and follow-up questions to ensure the shopalong provides penetrating answers to the questions retailers care most about.

market research shop along men shopping

What are Shopalongs Used For?

Shopalongs are useful for retailers and manufacturers alike, both of whom have interest in understanding how customers understand and navigate their products and services. Grocers, health care providers, and even restaurants can all benefit from variations of the shop along methodology.

Reasons for running shop alongs in a single location or system wide can include:

  • How changes to a location’s layout affect customer navigation, experience, satisfaction, and basket size.
  • How customers perceive and interact with in-store or online marketing campaigns.
  • How product changes affect brand perception.
  • Understanding omnichannel entry points and purchase motivators.
  • Much, much more.

What’s the Difference Between Shop Alongs and Mystery Shops?

Like Shop-alongs, mystery shops also involve sending preselected shoppers into specific locations to evaluate customer service standards, experience, and perception. Despite this similarity, however, there are key differences between shop alongs and market research mystery shops:

  • Mystery Shops are a strength-in-numbers approach in which multiple shoppers are separately dispatched to evaluate a location. Shop Alongs, on the other hand, emphasize depth within a limited and relatively smaller shop count.
  • Mystery shops are generally unrevealed, meaning that store employees rarely are aware when and by whom they are being evaluated. Shop-alongs are always revealed.
  • Shop along participants are always available for follow-up questions, adding more depth of inquiry and qualitative information than mystery shopping, which is a one-off engagement.

How Does TrendSource do ShopAlongs?

A good shop always starts and ends with a good moderator. Moderating a Shop Along can be tough— it's difficult to emphasize the topics the client is most cares about while also keeping the interaction fluid, natural, and spontaneous.
Our moderators are experienced professionals who know what questions to ask and when to ask them to get the information that matters. And our expansive Field Agent network means that wherever your customers are shopping, we can send somebody along for the ride: we guarantee 100% coverage and completion in the United States and Canada.

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It is a long established fact that a reader will be distracted by the readable content of a page when looking at its layout.