Wait… am I saying that you can get paid to shop???
Yep, it’s true – no clickbait here! Companies want your feedback to improve their products and your shopping experience. And sometimes, a survey just won’t cut it.
If you were lucky enough to stumble upon this article, I’ll show you how you can turn your next shopping trip into a money-making move.
Read on to learn how you can get paid to shop-along with your favorite brands and companies.
What is a Shop Along?
Shop-alongs are a type of interactive study used by companies when they want real, live data on how purchasing decisions are made. They are valued by companies because they can ask questions in real-time and delve into consumer behavior more-so than in a survey or product review.
Companies use shop-alongs to figure out why customers may pick another brand over theirs, gain insight into branding, packaging, ads, and more. The studies are usually conducted in retail stores, malls, grocery stores, and even car dealerships! Basically, anywhere where you are making a purchase.
Now, to be clear, shop-alongs aren’t shopping sprees. They are a controlled tool for market research, so it’s more focused on the company’s objective than yours (sorry)!
Still- as a participant, it can be a fun way to examine your own behavior and maybe learn a trick or two that will help you distinguish between the 10 bottles of ranch on your next grocery run.
Shop-alongs vs mystery shopping
Though the two market research methods have similarities, there are key differences as well. Most notably, mystery shopping (like its name suggests) focuses on stealth and secret. Mystery shopping is also done independently.
Shop-alongs, on the other hand, are out in the open and are done with a moderator on-site conducting the research with all parties there and aware. Shop-alongs can be done one-on-one or with a small group of other participants.
Both types of studies are controlled in what the participant buys and/or considers and have a goal or desired outcome.
How do shop along studies work?
First, sign up with a local market research firm that offers these types of studies. Study options will vary depending on where you live. Check out our blog for focus group guides based on major U.S. and Canadian cities.
We list a few national companies that we know offer shop-alongs further down in this article.
Once you sign up to a database and fill out the required demographic information, you may be eligible for a shop-along study. Choose one that interests you and fill out a pre-screening survey. After that, someone will contact you with further details if you qualify.
Going for a shop along Study? Here’s what to expect
Typically, a moderator will meet you at the shopping site. They will give you a brief on the goals or purpose of the study, then walk with you around the store. They may record the session, with your consent (typically given during the screening process).
The moderator will ask questions and prompts to guide the experience and gain insights into your patterns. Per Sis International, some questions may include:
- How easy is it to find the product?
- How long did it take to find the product?
- Are you distracted by anything along the way?
- Does the placement of the product make it stand out?
- What is the influence of a brand, a coupon or special price?
- Does the package provide desired information (text and images) about the contents?
Once the shopping part is over, there may be some follow-up questions or debriefing with the moderator.
How much should I expect to earn for a shop along?
There is no real consensus on how much you can get paid specifically for shop along studies. However, taking from the similar field of mystery shopping and focus group companies that offer shop alongs, you can typically expect $50-150.
According to Drive Research, consumers received $125 for a grocery shop along. Keep in mind, compensation will largely depend on factors like time, location, company resources, etc.
Are shop-alongs COVID-friendly?
Most shop-alongs are conducted in person due to the nature of observing behavior. However, mobile shop-alongs may be the preferred method if you are uncomfortable going out.
Some companies utilize mobile applications such as Shopalong as a market research tool to get feedback in-app as a participant shops. Some market research firms, like e-FocusGroups specialize specifically in online studies, including shop-alongs.
In-person shop-alongs are probably a bit less frequent nowadays, but if you are invited to participate in one make sure that proper guidelines and COVID-precautions are taken into consideration.
What are the best companies to shop-along with?
We frequently list companies that offer shop-along studies in metro U.S and Canadian cities on our blog. Some national companies that advertise shop-alongs are:
Offering 15 locations across the U.S, Fieldwork is one of the more popular firms. They frequently rank top 5 in our city guides. They focus primarily on focus groups, but advertise other studies, such as shop-along interviews.
This firm is in 18 malls in the U.S. You can sign up online, but they also frequently solicit participants WHILE your shopping, if you’re the more spontaneous type. Of course, you don’t get to choose when/if you will participate that way, but it’s nice to know who to look out for if you’re in the mood to do a shop-along.
This is a smaller firm, but they are well-received across their locations and generally offer a pretty good selection of studies year-round. We don’t know how many are shop-alongs, but it’s worth signing up to see.
Check if these companies are in your city! If not, don’t despair, many local firms also offer shop-along studies. As always, we recommend you sign up for a few at a time to get the most opportunities. If you find one we haven’t mentioned in our city guide, let us know and we’ll list it based on our ranking!
Final Thoughts on Shop-alongs
Shop-alongs are a great study option if you are looking for a more fun, interactive way to participate in focus groups. They are typically offered through traditional market research firms, so look out for them the next time you sign up.
Many shop-alongs are still conducted in person, but more mobile shop-alongs are starting to pop up, which allow for increased safety and flexibility. Sometimes this is through an app like Shopalong, but often companies will implement their own infrastructure, so signing up for studies online like normal is still a good way to go.
If you want to learn more about market research and how to participate in focus groups, check out our guide. Otherwise, let us know what you think of shop-alongs in the comments! We love to hear from you all.