Mobee: Mystery (Shopper) Machine

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Posted September 4, 2013 by Tony McMillen in Business
Everybody On Their Smartphone

If you’re good at something, never do it for free. Especially when what you’re good at is spending money. At least that’s how downtown Boston–based Mobee sees it.

Confused? Not to worry, it’s all quite simple: When you’re in downtown Boston, what are the two things you’re bound to see? Shopping and smartphones. Each is so ubiquitous they’ve actually become nearly invisible. Everywhere you look, people are carrying bags filled with their latest purchases and/or playing with some newfangled app or dutifully texting. Some people are even using these complex, futuristic devices to place actual phone calls, if you can believe it! Point is, Mobee, a company founded in Cambridge, noticed the relationship between smartphones and shopping and saw a golden opportunity.

“It’s a free iPhone (and soon to be Android) app for people to earn cash, gift cards, and other rewards just for providing feedback and data at the places they already go to,” explains Erika Gordon, community manager for Mobee.

So what exactly is it like using the app as a customer?

“Our users answer brief questionnaires about their experience on topics like store cleanliness, customer service, speed, and product quality at the places they are going to for lunch, coffee, or errands,” Gordon says. “Have you ever noticed that just about everyone sits on their smartphones while waiting for their food to be ready? We’ve harnessed that time to gather key metrics that are valuable to upper management. We then take the data and package it up into reports for the business so they can view trends across multiple locations.”

Reports like those could prove invaluable to many businesses, particularly start-ups looking to get a leg up.

Gordon agrees. “We have a platform that can revolutionize an archaic industry,” she says. “The power of our company is behind its ease for customization and flexibility. We want to help businesses improve and focus on specific metrics so they can take action and make the necessary changes.”

Of course, one has to wonder: What sets it apart from other companies that provide similar services—such as competitive intelligence, Nielsen/IRI data, secret shoppers, internal audits, etc.? Why should a start-up or any company choose them?

“What we offer is an exciting, new alternative to current industries like mystery/secret shopping,” says Gordon. “For example, the mystery shopping industry is a billion-dollar industry, but it still runs on pen and paper! These companies send one person to an assigned location, a place the person may never decide to go to on their own.”

“We provide brief questionnaires that are customized for each business,” Gordon continues. “Geofencing within the app proves that the shopper was actually at the location. . . . We also send users on ‘missions.’ The experience is more gamified for an engaging experience that [the] user is excited about.”

Playing on your phone

Ever noticed that everyone sits on their smartphones while waiting for their food? Photo credit: Phil Campbell.

This gamifying aspect speaks to a generation raised on Nintendo and Xbox. After all, weren’t many of us already brought up completing missions, earning points, and trying to collect the most gold coins? We’ve already honed our mystery shopper skill set from hours and hours of searching dungeons only to find that our princess was in another castle. So acclimating to the Mobee app and approaching our everyday consumer experience as a sort of real-life video game makes perfect sense for us. And like our favorite video games, this one is user friendly.

“Every mission ranges from 50 to 1,500 points and there may be multiple missions at locations,” says Gordon. “Our rewards start small so users can start redeeming after just one or two missions. Dunkin’ Donuts gift cards are only 200 points! Rewards go higher, up to $50 and $100 denominations for places like Amazon, Target, or Best Buy. There is also a PayPal option for those who want the cash.”

After residing in Cambridge over at Dogpatch Labs, the company made the journey to downtown Boston. When asked about the new location, Gordon says, “I think our team couldn’t be happier with it. A ‘right time and place’ situation landed us an unbelievable two-story space in the dome of Old City Hall. A very historic, old building with a young team full of creative energy is an incredible mix!”

She goes on to say, “the downtown Boston area is great too, and over the past few months we’ve watched the neighboring streets populate with a ton of other mobile and tech start-ups. It seems like the Cambridge-to-Boston move is turning into a big trend this year!”

People who have taken a recent stroll to the area can definitely attest to this. That is, of course, if they can take their eyes off their smartphone screen long enough to look.

Speaking of which, you can download the app for your iPhone here.

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