What??!  No Shops in My Area??!  Here’s Why You Might Not See a Shop.

Every so often we get a post or a question that goes something like “I live in Overland Park, KS and there are no shops in my area!” or “I used to do lots of shops for ____ in my area, I performed them well, and now I hardly get assigned them anymore…what gives?”

Fair questions…and a lot of times, you might be feeling that you have been slighted, but that’s not the case (if there has been an issue, you would know, as we would have called you to work through any past deficiencies).

So what is going on?

Well, there can be several reasons for shops drying up in a certain area…here are some of the most common:

1. The Client Has Cut Back on Shops.

Even though we appear to be sluggishly pulling out of the Great Recession, we are doing so…sluggishly! These poor economic times have caused some clients at all marketing firms to cut back on their marketing and PR dollars, including their mystery shopping programs. It could be the location you shopped was scheduled to be shopped 3 or 4 times a month in the past during better times; that has since been cut down to 1 time a month….now if there were 4 shoppers a month each taking an assignment, and now we are down to 1 hypothetically, then 3 shoppers are going to lose that assignment until better times when the client re-ups their shop volume again.

2. The Client Suspends or Ends Their Program.

Even worse than #1 above, tough times can cause one of our clients to suspend or end their program until better times, or for good. We have had clients who have filed bankruptcy or gone out of business, and so there goes their shopping program. Often, clients have personnel changes…and sometimes the decision maker who has brought their business to Shoppers’ Critique moves on, and a new person comes in and puts their stamp on the company by bringing in a new marketing firm.

3. The Client Requires Shopper Rotation.

Yes, it really is true, some clients demand unique impressions. It is not a frequent demand, but it does happen. So they may not want a shopper to shop the same location more than once a quarter or once a year! We are currently negotiating with a potential new client who will require no more than one visit per year from the same shopper…they want rotation and varied observations.

4. The Client Requires Location Rotation.

A client may have 600 hundred locations, but they are only going to shop 200 a month. So hypothetically, assume we shop Macy’s, you live in Oviedo, FL and there is a Macy’s department store there, and you can’t find Macy’s in Oviedo on the assignment list. It could be because it is not included in the current dispatch of shops for the current month, as it would appear only once every 3 months in this type of rotation. It likely appeared the month before and was completed, or it would show up in the following month (but then not again for 3 months).

5. They Have a Demographic Profile That We Must Use.

Similar to #3 above, it doesn’t happen with the majority of clients, but we always have a handful of clients who only want observations from a certain demographic, i.e. only from a certain age pool, with (or without) young children, etc. Why? Usually because the bulk of their customers fit that demographic, and they want the shopper to blend in with the majority of their other customers. We don’t have the discretion to break this rule with clients, except in rare instances of emergency shops.

6. The Client Has No Shops or Few Shops in Your Area.

Some of our clients are regional in nature, and may only be in the northeast. Some are national (or international) BUT MAY CHOOSE to only shop locations in the northeast (or a particular area they perceive as a trouble area). Some national and international companies are de-centralized to the point where each regional division selects its own marketing firm and mystery shopping program…so you can have a global or national company using 5 different mystery shopping providers at the same time, each with a different region. Finally, sometimes the client is the national/international corporation and they only are committing to shop “company-owned” locations and not franchisees; sometimes it’s the other way around, and the client is a franchisee with many locations, and so we are only doing their stores.

7. Quick Triggers!

Getting mystery shopping assignments for certain areas can be very competitive. We have hundreds of thousands of shoppers in our database who have access to our assignments. There are some areas where we have such a high concentration of secret shoppers that assignments fly off the shelf. We have some other areas of the country or around the world where we wish that were the case! But if you are in a shopper-heavy area, you may need to stay on top of our dispatch notices of new shops to get a jump on the competition. We now notify our shoppers who are on Facebook and Twitter when a load of shops will be posted in advance so they can be reminded to check the website. So keep checking here, and if you tweet, then sign up at ShopsAlert on Twitter!

So you can see, these are challenges presented today in consumer intelligence. There could be a number of reasons why a certain shop doesn’t pop up in your area, and none of them are really personal to you at all…just the way the business flows during these crazy times. If you are having trouble booking assignments in your area, please be patient and keep trying. Business is generally picking up again; companies are adding back shops and growing their programs, and new business is coming on board all the time…but, like with everything else in the economy, it is all happening at a pace slower than we would all like.

Bottom line is that we appreciate all the efforts of our mystery shoppers, and we are pleased to have you as a valuable part of our Shoppers’ Critique International family!