Recruiting Consumers for In-Store Research: Step-By-Step Process

duball mall shopping mall

When one leading U.S. supermarket chain decided to conduct in-store research on their shelf displays in the coffee aisle, Drive Research was contracted for the study. 

Though there are many ways to replicate a shelf display or aisle, some studies require in-store research. 

Lucky for them, there are many market research options for grocery stores

One of the biggest industries worth over $800 billion, supermarkets are constantly changing due to consumer demand. And we couldn’t think of a better way to study that demand: market research. 

This particular case study outlines the step-by-step process for recruiting consumers we followed to source participants for this research project. 

Objectives of In-Store Research

Whether Drive Research is delivering the final results or only recruiting the participants for client-moderated interviews, having the key objectives of the research project is a must! 

When covering how to recruit for market research, there’s one thing we always stress the importance of: objectives! 

By understanding the objectives and goals for surveying grocery store shoppers, we are able to ensure recruited participants are able to provide the necessary feedback. 

The objectives of the grocery store market research were as follows: 

  • How shoppers engage with the coffee aisle in totality 
  • Understanding if the assortment is intuitive 
  • How to organize the aisle to encourage additional exploration 
  • Learning more about the shopper’s understanding of aisle organization 

💡 The Key Takeaway: When recruiting consumers for this most recent project, it’s essential we understand the main objectives prior to jumping in. 

Recommended Reading: Leveraging Consumer Insights to Fuel Marketing Strategies

Determining the Methodology for In-Store Research

Once the objectives for consumer recruitment are determined, we need to choose which form of research will be most effective to reach those objectives. 

This can be pre-determined by clients, or upon Drive Research’s recommendation. 

While there are many different market research options for grocery stores, our team recommended in-store interviews across 3 stores in Cleveland, Ohio.

To account for any drop-off and to achieve the client’s goal of 5-6 completes per store, 7 participants were recruited per store, for a total of 21. 

The interviews lasted approximately 60 minutes each. As a thank you for their time and feedback, participants were provided with a $150 gift card following the completed on-site interviews. 

Here are three more market research methodologies perfect for retail and grocery stores.

💡 The Key Takeaway: We found in-store interviews with consumers to be the best fit for this project. To effectively recruit consumers, an incentive is often a good strategy. 

Determining the Target Consumer

Before we can begin our campaigns to find qualified participants, we need to determine the target audience for recruiting consumers

For this project, our retail market research company utilized a client-provided screening questionnaire. This questionnaire was programmed on our platform for online surveys to pre-qualify potential participants.

To qualify for this research project, participants must me the following criteria: 

  • Be available on the test dates, at the available test times 
  • Be willing to wear a mask during the research interviews 
  • Aged 22 to 65 years old 
  • Have a household income of $30,000 or more per year 
  • Not be employed in any of the following industries currently, or within the past 12 months: 
    • Advertising
    • Public relations
    • Market Research
    • Manufacturer, distributor, or retailer of food and/or beverage products 
    • Grocery or mass merchandiser store 
  • Have not participated in a market research project within the last 6 months
  • Have never participated in a market research project related to coffee 
  • Have consumed coffee made at home in the past month 
  • Make and consume coffee at least weekly 
  • Purchase packed coffee from the end client’s location most often 
  • At least share the responsibility of purchasing coffee for their household 
  • Purchase ground, whole bean, and/or single-serve coffee 
  • Buy packaged coffee for at-home use at least once every 4 to 6 months 
  • Shop in-store at least some of the time 

While those were the qualifications, we also utilized quotas to ensure representation of demographics and various relevant criteria. 

Drive Research recruited a mix of the following:

  • Gender 
  • Coffee drinkers in participant’s household 
  • Number of coffees consumed per week 
  • Brewer type (Single-serve, multi-serve, espresso, combo, pour-over, etc.)
  • Coffee type purchased and consumed (ground, whole bean, single-serve, instant, etc.)
  • Coffee packaging purchased (bag, canister, brick, other) 
  • Frequency of consuming coffee
  • Brand purchased 
  • Those with and without children in the household
  • Marital status
  • Employment status
  • Highest level of education
  • Ethnicity
  • Household income 

💡 The Key Takeaway: Our criteria for consumer recruitment was ultra-detailed to ensure we were gathering the highest quality data.

Recruiting Relevant Participants

Then, we launched recruitment!

Despite our only brick-and-mortar location being based in upstate New York, our qualitative recruiting company is able to reach participants in many cities and states by using multiple processes. 

These sources to find participants for in-store market research include:

  • Our in-house nationwide panel
  • Targeted social media ads 
  • Trusted and verified partner network 

For this research project, we used a mix of both our in-house panel and targeted social media ads to locate qualified participants within traveling distance to the in-store interviews. 

Once a participant completed the pre-screening questionnaire, our recruitment team conducted re-screening and began scheduling phone calls. 

The purpose of the rescreening phone calls is to confirm the core qualification criteria, as well as making sure participants will be able to provide thoughtful, thorough responses during their research interviews. 

We were able to recruit all 21 participants within 7 days of launching our pre-screener - a week ahead of our 2-week timeline!

💡 The Key Takeaway: When recruiting consumers for this project, we used both our in-house panel and targeted social media ads for the best possible outcome. 

Recommended Reading: [Ultimate Guide] How to Use Social Media to Find Market Research Participants

Scheduling and Confirming Participants

Once a participant is scheduled, we move them into our confirmation process.

This process determines whether participants are engaged and intend to participate and results in far better show rates than automated market research recruitment.

in-store recruitment process by drive research

Step 1: Consent Form 

An essential step in our consumer recruitment process, all participants received a consent form through our online signature platform. This document stated that all information shared during this project would remain confidential and gave consent to have the research interview recorded.

Step 2: Confirmation Email

Participants receive a confirmation email outlining the following study highlights: 

  • Day and time of the interview
  • Address of the interview 
  • Instructions on where to proceed upon store arrival
  • A reminder that a mask was required 
  • Contact information for their point-of-contact 
  • A request to arrive 5-10 minutes early to allow for check-ins 

To remain on the project, all participants are required to reply with a “yes” response to confirm the receipt and their agreement to participate. 

Step 3: Calendar Invites

All participants receive a calendar invite they are asked to accept. This calendar invitation includes highlights from the confirmation email. 

Step 4: Reminder Calls

The day before the in-store interviews, Drive Research conducts reminder phone calls with attempts to reach participants live on the phone. Recruiting consumers effectively relies heavily on follow-ups–calling them is one of the most effective ways to do this.

During these calls, we confirm participants: 

  • Have the address of the interview location
  • Will arrive 5 to 10 minutes ahead of their scheduled time 
  • Agree to wear a mask throughout the interview 

Step 5: Reminder Texts

On the day of the research interview, participants receive a final reminder text highlighting key information about the research project. 

If at any point a participant becomes unresponsive throughout the confirmation process, our team moves forward with replacing them. 

💡 The Key Takeaway: Recruiting for research involves closely monitoring participants to ensure they understand what they will need to do upon arrival. These are done in the form of reminder calls, calendar invites, and more.

Results of the Grocery Store Market Research

The in-store surveys were held over 3 consecutive days in March at 3 store locations. 

With any research project, especially those requiring travel, drop-off may be experienced. A total of 7 participants were recruited per store to account for any fallout. 

In total, 18 interviews were conducted (an 85% completion rate!), surpassing our client’s minimum of 5 completes per store! 

💡 The Key Takeaway: Always make sure your bases are covered, in case of fallout. In this case, we gathered more complete interviews than we had originally planned. 

Contact Our Qualitative Recruitment Company 

Drive Research is a market research company located in New York. Between our hands-on recruiting methods and ability to reach consumers across the United States, our team of pros can find who you need to conduct in-store interviews. 

Want to learn more about our market research services? Reach out through any of the ways listed below.

  1. Message us on our website
  2. Email us at [email protected]
  3. Call us at 888-725-DATA
  4. Text us at 315-303-2040


Ashley Reynolds

With nearly 10 years of experience in market research, Ashley has worked on countless quantitative and qualitative research studies. As a Fieldwork Manager at Drive Research, she’s involved in every stage of the project, especially recruitment.

Learn more about Ashley, here.

subscribe to our blog




Qualitative Recruiting Market Research Case Studies