Filling the Online Consumer Goods Sales Data Gap

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Craig Smith  |  Founder & CEO

Companies and brands that sell consumer packaged goods (CPGs) have long relied on sales data from retailers, through systems like Walmart’s Retail Link, and syndicated market data providers, such as Nielsen and IRI, to guide business decisions. The vast majority of this data, and of CPG consumer purchases, comes from offline sales. This sales data is either collected directly at the point of retail sale, or in the case of consumer market research panels, from consumers personally scanning and logging physical receipts and shopping habits.

As CPG companies begin to focus more on e-commerce and dealing with online retailers due to shifting consumer shopping trends these traditional sources of market analysis begin to reveal large holes in their data when it comes to online shoppers. Unlike their brick and mortar counterparts, large online retailers do not currently openly share their broad product sales data with CPG brands or with companies like Nielsen and IRI. Several tech startups are stepping up with solutions intended to help plug this hole in sales tracking.

Receipt Scanning

One way that existing market research firms collect sales data that big brands subscribe to, without relying entirely on the retailers to provide them with the information, is through consumers in market research panels scanning their receipts. Apps and websites such as Receipt Hog and Ibotta encourage consumers to scan their receipts, whether they are from a local Wal-Mart or a small corner store, by offering incentives such as gift cards, discounts, and coupons in exchange for participating in market research. These scanned receipts are then processed and incorporated into data that allows CPG brands to see patterns in their consumers shopping trends and how things like price may impact a consumer’s decision to choose them over a competitor.

Ecommerce Receipts

Now, companies such as Slice Technologies, are taking this digital market research panel concept and applying it to ecommerce by collecting data from e-mail receipts. Slice, like Ibotta and Receipt Hog, collects user receipts by providing consumers a value proposition in exchange. In this case, they offer easy package tracking, shopping organization, and price drop tracking by connecting to a consumers email account and tracking their purchase confirmations and email receipts.

Slice Technologies started offering this sales data to CGBs in October 2014 with an initial consumer research panel of 2 million. With this data, Slice can look at things like competitive pricing and the impact it has on sales. According to Jaimee Minney, VP of marketing and public relations at Slice, “CPG has been a very hot area.”

Digital Research Panels

InfoScout, another digital market research panel start up, also utilizes smartphone apps to track their consumers. In November 2014, it began tracking e-commerce receipts from over 100,000 of its existing 175,000 households that use the app to track their offline purchases and scan store printed receipts. Their combination of online and offline receipt tracking, alongside flash surveys delivered through their apps, allows CBGs to see “individual households shift from brick-and-mortar to online, including which categories, how it starts, what the snowball effect is leading into other categories and how it changes frequency of purchase and loyalty to brands,” according to CEO Jared Schrieber.

Schrieber believes that these new, smartphone based digital consumer panels will continue to erode the power retailers have over online and offline CBG sales data. Amazon, for instance, is well aware of the value their data poses to CBGs and have recently begun offering their suppliers category sales data, beyond just brand sales, as an additional incentive to companies that spend more than $5 million annually on Amazon ads.

Precision Still a Problem

ComScore, one of the leaders in marketing analytics, has also moved forward with a digital panel of 2 million users who track their online spending through sharing their email receipts. While IRI has developed a 100,000 consumer panel based on the same smartphone scanning and tracking concepts pushed forward by the startups.

IRI Chief Information Officer Ash Patel sees a future where these digital panels may replace the majority of conventional consumer panel use. However, he argues that not even panels consisting of millions of users can give data that is as precise as sales figures coming directly from retailers. He hopes that dominant forces within the ecommerce sphere such as Amazon and will eventually be convinced to provide the same data to market syndicators as brick and mortar stores currently do.

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