The mystery shopper as a means of conducting market research is often overlooked, but it is a cost-effective means of obtaining market feedback. When evaluating your construction product supply channel it is a great way of checking to see if what their senior management tell you is actually happening on the ground.
Competitive Advantage have conducted a variety of forms of mystery shopper for the construction sector. Typically, they involve posing as a contractor and asking builders merchants for information, but they can involve other approaches, for example contacting construction product manufacturers to benchmark the level of technical support offered.
Monitoring what happens at the trade counter
Competitive Advantage recently completed a mystery shopper for a roofing product manufacturer. The product in question was made of a superior material to their competitors. The key piece of information that came from this mystery shopper was that the majority of merchant counter staff did not know the difference in material, leading them to recommend products based on price.
In my experience, what happens at the builders merchant’s trade counter can often be difficult for their senior management to control, but it may also be the case that commitments have been made which have not been followed through.
Put simply, conducting a mystery shopper can provide independent confirmation of what your stockists promise.
Issues that we have encountered, when researching construction products distribution channel, include:
- Despite a favourable rebate agreement to be the lead construction product, the brand is not being offering first
- A premium construction product being used as a price comparison to sell a lower cost construction product which can often be described as “the same”.
- Construction product characteristics not mentioned or incorrectly explained, meaning that product benefits are not being used
Monitoring pricing is often the reason to conduct a mystery shopper. It can give indications of variations between brands but also across regions and distributors. Differences in construction product prices indirectly shows what the features of a premium product are worth.
As with our recent project a misunderstanding can be highlighted. Showing how your product can be incorrectly compared to other products, products of cheaper price and inferior quality.
This intelligence can be used to inform your pricing strategy. It can support annual negotiations with building merchants and stockists. It can also identify in-branch training requirements and highlight the need to develop promotion, to engage directly with the contractor or installer.
This form of research can also provide competitor intelligence. As well as providing insight into price levels it can also identify primary competitors by region and stockist. Gaining an invaluable insight into how your competitors’ offering compares in relation to yours.
Benefits of a Mystery Shopper
- Know what is said at the Trade Counter about your products and your competitors
- Evaluate the commitments made to you by stockists
- Identify what and where training and communications are needed to support your brands
- Understand price levels and differences
- Gain competitor intelligence
- Verify information fed back by stockists and the sales team
Conducting a mystery shopper survey will provide you with detailed insight into the way your construction products are sold. The mystery shopper can determine price levels in the construction market, provide practical examples your sales and marketing team can learn from and also arm them with information they can use in their negotiations with distributors or internal departments.
When a mystery shopper is linked with more traditional research amongst specifiers and installers it can also help to give a good understanding of the channel influence leading to a purchase decision.