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“Kimberly Nasief aims to help companies gain glimpse into consumers’ minds via mystery shopping”

Kimberly Nasief-Westergren aims to help companies gain glimpse into consumers’ minds via mystery shopping

Monday, March 17, 2008 — Business First

A woman posing as a customer walks into a bar where an alcoholic beverage is being promoted. She scans the place, checking to see if advertising materials are in place.

She chats with the bartender to see whether he recommends the drink. Then she places her order and makes a mental note of the level of service, the cleanliness of the bar and the quality of the drink. Within 24 hours of leaving the venue, she files an online report that details her experience.

That, in a nutshell, is mystery shopping, a practice that allows companies to gain customer feedback and improve on operations, training and marketing efforts.

Companies have used mystery shoppers for years to get an inside view of customer experiences.

But Louisville business owner Kimberly Nasief-Westergren believes her new firm, Measure Consumer Perspectives LLC, can take that practice one step further. Matching shoppers with industries

Launched in January, Measure Consumer Perspectives offers mystery-shopping services in a variety of industries.

Like the competition, Measure searches its database of several thousand mystery shoppers nationwide, who work as independent contractors, to find a shopper who fits a client’s preferred demographic.

But Measure is finalizing another piece of technology, a behavioral test, that will let clients tap into shoppers’ motives.

Beyond basic demographics, the company can get a picture of how a mystery shopper thinks and acts. Measure Consumer Perspective then can use that information to select shoppers who mirror a specific consumer profile instead of recruiting a general shopper to handle the job.

The feedback that person offers becomes much more valuable because it allows the company to replicate the consumer experience, Nasief-Westergren said.

She is working with technology vendors who have developed the behavioral component, which will be integrated into Measure Consumer Perspective’s existing system. Rapidly expanding client roster

The new service is scheduled to launch in early April, Nasief-Westergren said, but the concept already is attracting customers.

Measure has signed nine clients, ranging in size from Louisville’s Tony Boombozz pizza chain to Regis Corp., a Minneapolis-based company that operates more than 12,000 hair salons worldwide.

Entree Vous, a Lexington-based company that offers take-and-bake meals at 52 franchised locations across the country, also has signed with Measure.

Carrie Prewitt, marketing director for Entree Vous, said her company is at the very early stages of the mystery-shopping process.

But the company is working on advertising initiatives for stores in Colorado, and she believes sending mystery shoppers into those locations will help Entree Vous to better monitor its progress.

Prewitt, who has worked with other mystery-shopping firms in the past, said she has been pleased with the system that Measure has in place for contacting shoppers, and she is intrigued by the idea of behavioral testing.

“Any time you can drill down and identify specific characteristics, it’s very valuable,” she said.

Nasief-Westergren said the company is on track to handle about 24,000 mystery-shopping excursions in its first year, and she anticipates it will generate at least $500,000 in revenue.

She expects to become profitable by the second quarter of 2008, although several deals are in the works that could help the company cross that threshold by the end of the first quarter. Lean business model

Measure Consumer Perspectives was formed with a model that allows it to expand rapidly.

The company outsources many of its administrative functions, including financial oversight, the recruitment of shoppers and the editing of incoming mystery-shopping reports.

Analysis of the consumer feedback and any related reports are generated in-house.

Nasief-Westergren plans to bring another business-development employee on board within 45 days.

The company also has a part-time employee who will transition into a full-time role with the company, which would give the company four full-time workers.

Nasief-Westergren is enthusiastic about where the company is headed. “I feel like we have a fresh perspective on the best practices within the industry,” she said. Mystery at work

For entrepreneur Kimberly Nasief-Westergren, there is little mystery surrounding the practice of recruiting undercover shoppers to gain valuable consumer feedback.

In 2001, she started Marketing Endeavors, a Louisville-based mystery-shopping firm. For six years, she learned the industry as her business grew.

In August, Nasief-Westergren sold her stake in the company to her two business partners and started working on a new firm, Measure Consumer Perspectives LLC.

The decision to launch a new venture stemmed from her desire to concentrate solely on mystery shopping. Marketing Endeavors had started doing market research in other areas.

Measure Consumer Perspectives will keep its focus narrow, she said, which will allow it to form partnerships with other market-research firms instead of competing with them. Measure Consumer Perspectives LLC