Mall intercept interviewing involves questioning shoppers in shopping malls (shopping centers). Interviewers, stationed at mall entrances or locations inside the mall, stop shoppers, qualify them, and either interview them immediately or invite the qualified shoppers into central interviewing facilities that are located at the mall.
This method of interviewing, which is second only to online and phone interviewing in popularity, is a relatively low cost method of conducting personal interviews. Many businesses use mall intercept interviewing to determine consumer reaction to new products.
Mall intercept interviews, however, may not provide accurate information about all consumers because certain types of people may not be interviewed either because they do not shop at malls or they refuse to be interviewed while at malls.
Mall intercept interviewing permits in-person interviews without incurring the expenses connected with sending interviewers to the homes of consumers. Door-to- door interviews can cost four times as much as mall intercept interviews because of interviewer time and costs incurred traveling between houses and finding consumers at home who agree to cooperate with the interviewer.
Mall intercept interviews allow the researcher to show the respondent large, immobile materials such as a television commercial or new products such as video cassette recorders and videodisc players. These materials can be set-up in central facilities and shown or demonstrated to many shoppers.
Kitchen facilities available in many shopping malls are valuable for marketers of prepared foods. Shoppers can be asked to taste and evaluate foods immediately after they have been properly cooked in the kitchens.
The visual contact between shoppers and interviewers permits observation of respondent characteristics which is not possible with telephone interviews. Mall interviewers might use these observations either to select specific types of shoppers for participation in the interview or to determine if the respondents appear to understand the questions.
Mall intercept interviewing requires a number of decisions which directly relate to the usefulness of the information. The shopping malls and the locations in or outside those malls where shoppers will be stopped need to be selected.
The time of day and day of week for the interviews are also critical decisions when planning mall intercept interviews. The actual interview situation requires careful planning to ensure that neither the interviewer nor the questions lead shoppers to either refuse to participate or to provide incorrect answers.
It is desirable to interview shoppers of more than one shopping mall because of the variations among customers of different malls. Some malls may be patronized predominantly by lower or middle socioeconomic classes while other malls may attract primarily upper-class customers.
Frequently, the customers of malls can be determined by examining the characteristics of neighborhoods surrounding these malls. The actual malls chosen to be included in the study will depend both on the type of customer of interest and the malls which permit interviews. Owners/managers of some malls do not permit any interviewing of their customers at the malls.
If possible, shoppers should be sampled at each entrance of the mall because of variations in customers of the stores located near each entrance. If shoppers are sampled inside the mall instead of when they enter the mall, interviewers should intercept shoppers in several areas of the mall to ensure that the sample adequately reflects the characteristics of shoppers of different stores located in the mall.
Shopper interviews should be conducted at randomly selected times of day and on randomly chosen days of the week. Customer characteristics vary by time of day and day of week. For example, weekday shoppers may be more likely to be unemployed than nighttime and weekend shoppers.
If possible, the number of shoppers sampled at each entrance/location, time and day should be proportional to the traffic at each location and during each time period. For example, if 10% of the shoppers of a mall enter by the North entrance, 10% of the customers who are interviewed should be shoppers who entered at this entrance.
Random selection of shoppers as they pass a specific location at a shopping mall can produce nonrepresentative samples. Shoppers who visit the mall frequently are more likely to be included in the sample than those shoppers who visit less frequently.
In the case of customers of one shopping mall, reported frequency of visits ranged from once a month or less for about one-third of the shoppers to 6 or more visits per month for slightly less than one-fourth of the mall’s customers. Frequent visitors to shopping malls may be quite different from less frequent visitors. Youn-ger customers and women may visit shopping malls more frequently than older customers and men.
Sex, age, and race quotas may be used when selecting shoppers for mall intercept interviews to help ensure that all shoppers regardless of frequency of mall visits are adequately represented in the sample. Sample quotas based on easily observable characteristics such as sex, may not ensure, however, that the sample is representative.
Generally, it is desirable to include a question about frequency of visits to the mall as part of the interviewing process. The results of this question can be used to adjust study findings to reflect the relative importance of shoppers who visit the mall with different frequencies.
The responses of infrequent shoppers are assigned disproportionately more weight than frequent shoppers because infrequent shoppers are less likely to be interviewed than shoppers who visit the mall more often.
It may be necessary to offer shoppers incentives to obtain their consent to participate in mall intercept interviews. Many shoppers are not willing to take the time to complete interviews while they are in a shopping mall. Refusal rates for mall intercept interviews have been reported to exceed 50 percent. Shoppers who refuse to participate in mall intercept interviews may be quite different from those customers who are willing to participate.
Interviewers used for mall intercept interviewing should be selected and trained to ensure that they ask questions properly and conduct any other parts of the interviewing process, including product demonstrations, correctly.
Similar to other types of personal interviews, the appearance and behavior of mall interviewers may bias answers provided by respondents. Respondents may misunderstand questions or may try to provide answers they feel would please interviewers. Moreover, respondents may give socially desirable answers in response to personally sensitive questions.
Timing of the interviewing process is also important because most shoppers are in somewhat of a hurry. Mall intercept interviews should not require more than 20-30 minutes.
Results of mall intercept interviews can be a useful aid for marketing decision makers. However, it is necessary to evaluate these results to determine the extent of inaccuracies in these results. Users of the data from shopping mall studies should examine both the method used to select respondents for the study and the circumstances surrounding the interviewing process.
Typical questions to be asked about the selection process include:
- Was the study conducted in malls that have customers who are representative of target markets?
- Were the sampled customers randomly selected from different areas of the mall and from different shopping days and times?
- What proportion of the shoppers who qualified for the study refused to be interviewed?
- Were quotas or weighting procedures used to ensure that the results are representative as far as shopping frequency of respondents?
Interviewer training and supervision are just two aspects of the interviewing process which need to be considered. The interviewer may not be either asking questions properly or accurately recording the responses.
The interviewing process may also result in incorrect responses because either the respondent may be distracted by other members of his shopping party or by his desire to start or resume shopping.
Mall intercept interviewing with consumers shopping at malls or shopping centers is a popular method of conducting personal interviews. Conducting personal interviews in a central location such as a shopping center where consumers are available in large numbers can be much less costly than attempting to interview consumers at their homes.
Mall intercept interviews also provide the opportunity to prepare and demonstrate products in central facilities. It is not necessary to incur costly transportation and setup costs for in-home demonstrations. These central mall facilities may include kitchens, focus group facilities, and computer-assisted interviewing equipment.
Other types of interviewing such as phone, online, mail may be preferred to mall intercept interviews for several reasons, including the cost and the unavailability of certain types of customers. Mall intercept interviewing may be more costly than telephone, online and mail.
In addition, mall intercept interviewing may be inefficient if a marketer is interested in purchasing agents or some other employee of businesses. Telephone interviews or online surveys of people who are identified beforehand as the type of business person of interest may be less costly and quicker than using mall intercepts.
Applications to Small Business
Many small retailers and other small businesses market to consumers who could be efficiently interviewed in shopping malls. The market areas of these businesses may coincide with the markets served by regional malls.
Mall intercept interviews could be used by small businesses to develop a better understanding of their customers and their needs. In addition these small businesses, which can ill afford marketplace failures, might consider using mall intercept interviews to determine consumer reaction to changes in marketing programs, including product and price revisions.
Synonyms: mall intercept interview