What is an Accompanied Shopping Trip (AST)? | Market Research 101

accompanied shopping trip ast market researchThink market research and data is boring? Clearly you haven't heard about Accompanied Shopping Trips (ASTs) and shop-alongs. Not all methodologies involve sitting behind a laptop drafting an online survey or standing in front of a group of 10 people while your clients watch behind a one-way mirror. Several other beneficial in the moment methodologies exist to collect feedback in a consumer's natural environment.

In the case of AST, that natural environment just happens to be in a retail setting. As in the case of my wife (sample size of 1) there's not a setting that feels more at home to her than a store.

What is an AST, how does the process work, and what are the benefits?

You came to the right place.

ASTs can take place in any retail setting: grocery stores, clothing stores, electronics stores, etc.

What is an Accompanied Shopping Trip (AST)?

An accompanied shopping trip or AST is when a research interviewer joins a consumer as they shop a store. The interviewer asks questions as the shopper moves through their natural shopping behavior. In additional to asking questions, the interviewer also observes the shopper and adds ethnographic findings to the research.

Here is an example of an AST. A shopper is recruited to browse Best Buy for laptops. The interviewer meets the shopper at the door and introduces him to the research process. The shopper then moves to the laptop section of Best Buy while the interviewer asks a few basic questions about goals for the experience, top-of-mind brands, and how much they'd like to spend. As the shopper searches the inventory the interviewer both observes the shopper and follows-up by asking questions directly about the actions and behaviors of each unique shopper.

How Does the Process Work?

Similar to other market research projects, an AST follows a standard process. The project moves from proposal to kickoff, set up and design, fieldwork, and reporting. The proposal outlines the main objectives and reasons for conducting the market research. The kickoff explains the process, sets locations, dates, and screening criteria for the ASTs. Set up and design structures the recruitment screener and interview guide. Recruitment can be completed on-the-spot as shoppers walk into the store or they can be pre-recruited ahead of time. Fieldwork is the time period the ASTs take place. The analysis and reporting is the final step which highlights all of the key research findings, recommendations, and action items.

What are the Top Benefits?

The largest benefits of ASTs, shop-alongs, and intercepts is the ability to capture feedback in the moment. Feedback received while the experience is taking place or shortly after puts you into the mindset of the consumer and why they made the choices and decisions they made. This is far more accurate than following up a week or a month later with a survey.

Similar to IHUTs, the market research is conducted in the natural environment of the consumer. In the case of IHUTs users are asking to trial a product in-home and some IHUTs involve interviewers visiting the home to interview the user. Artificial settings like focus group rooms incur bias because participants are asked to provide feedback and explain decisions after the fact.


Accompanied shopping trips (ASTs) are an excellent way to better understand buying behavior. An AST project can be both qualitative or quantitative if enough of a sample of experiences is gathered. They provide you with reliable and valuable in the moment feedback that is near impossible to replicate with other market research methodologies.

Contact Our Market Research Agency

Drive Research is a market research agency in Syracuse, NY. Questions or need advice on an upcoming AST project or other market research project? Call us at 315-303-2040 or email us at [email protected].

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