When is a mall-intercept the best market research methodology?

As the name suggests, mall-intercept studies entail intercepting people at a mall in order to engage in a dialogue and gather their opinions about a pre-determined topic using either qualitative or quantitative techniques. As with any research methodology, there are pros and cons which must be carefully weighed before making a final decision as to which one is best suited to the research objective at hand.  There is no perfect methodology suited to every research objective.

For example, one of the most obvious uses of a mall-intercept study is gather opinions about the mall itself. Thus, a study could learn why someone came to this particular mall rather than any other mall, how much money they spent at a variety of different stores within the mall, how much time they spent at each store, which are their favourite stores, what improvements to the mall they’d like to see, would they like a mobile app for the mall, and so on.

fieldwork, data collection, central location, concept test, package test, recruitment, sensory test, taste test, IHUT, advantages, disadvantagesBut there are many far more interesting applications of mall-intercepts that have no direct relation to the mall itself. 

One of the best uses of mall-intercepts is for sensory tests such as taste and scent tests. Meat and other perishable products (e.g., fish, poultry, sauces, dairy, juice) can be safely stored and prepared at proper temperatures. Researchers can also ensure that the products are prepared and served according to the instructions. And, blind testing is often more accurate since a researcher is present to ensure products are not accidentally mixed up.

Mall-intercepts are also an effective way to conduct package and product tests. By locating these tests at a mall, you gain access to a wide range of people who are already conveniently available at the testing facility. There is no need to mail packages to people and no need to incentivize them for the additional time they would have spent making the journey to and from a testing facility. And, you can ensure that every participant works with a good quality product, and sees the same product and package layout. Consistency among participants is key. 

In some cases, research equipment is too fragile or expensive to ship to potential participants. In such cases, the equipment, e.g., biometric equipment, eye-tracking equipment, GSR (Galvanic Skin Response) equipment, facial expression measurement equipment) can be set up in a mall and be readily available as interviewers identify target shoppers in the mall.

And of course, when your product is so new, so confidential that photos cannot be risked, mall-intercepts are the perfect solution. With an interviewer ever present and always attentive, they can ensure that participants never aim a smartphone or smartwatch at the product. 

To conduct the best possible mall-intercept study, there are a number of factors to keep in mind:

  • Ensure the malls selected are in keeping with the research objective. Different malls attract different types of people so you may wish to avoid tourist and destination malls.
  • Conduct interviews at all times of the day and all days of the week so that you don’t automatically exclude certain types of people.
  • Prepare a detailed screener so that mall employees, recent participants, and frequent shoppers aren’t disproportionately represented.
  • Locate interviewers within sight of any alternate testing locations so people are reassured about the time required of them and their safety

We’d love to help you decide if mall intercept research would be right for your project. We have two permanent locations in Toronto and Montreal so please get in touch!


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Canadian Viewpoint is an MRIA Gold Seal field and data collection company that specializes in English and French Canada. Our offline and online services include sample, programming, hosting, mall intercepts, pre-recruits, central location recruitment, mystery shopping, site interviews, IHUTs, sensory testing, discussion boards, CATI, facial coding, and other innovative technologies. Learn more about our services on our website.

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