InfoScout is a startup aimed at measuring consumer purchase behavior and users’ path-to-purchase journey in the offline, physical world. We talked with Jon Brelig, the company’s Co-founder & CTO, about how InfoScout captures this data through it’s mobile apps: Receipt Hog and Shoparoo.
Q: Introduce readers to InfoScout. What do you do?
A: While the online world is incredibly quantified and measured, the offline world is still a black box for brands and marketers who want to better understand their end consumers. We have two mobile apps that help us do that: Receipt Hog and Shoparoo. Both apps effectively incentivize users to simply snap their receipts after each shopping trip: Receipt Hog allows users to earn money for themselves while Shoparoo is a way to collectively fundraise for local schools.
Q: Why is Factual data important for Receipt Hog and Shoparoo?
A: Everyday, 100k+ receipts come into our data pipeline that we have to structure and understand. Part of that process is to identify what store the user shopped at. While big chains like Walmart are fairly easy to identify, local shops are much harder. Our solution is to extract elements like phone number and address from the receipts and use Factual data to match them up with the correct points of interest. We can then use all of the data Factual provides on places (such as category) to enrich our own analysis.
Q: What is the primary problem InfoScout solves? How did this lead you to your current products?
A: Brands and marketers alike have a healthy amount of data on topline sales: if sales are up or down, in which regions, for what products, etc. However, they have little visibility to the end consumer and understanding that user’s purchase behavior over time. Our household-level and item-level dataset helps unlock a number of questions the brands have:
- Sales are down. Are we losing households or are they just purchasing less? If we’re losing households, are they now buying another brand instead?
- I just launched a new item. For people that try it once, are they repeating?
- When someone buys my product, what do they purchase it with and what was their intent for coming to the store?
Q: What’s the coolest market stat that you’ve come across so far?
A: One thing we’re able to do is measure how users pay for items. An interesting statistic that we found from this was that consumers have an off the charts propensity to pay for Red Bull Energy Drinks with food-stamps, while they tend to pay for its cheaper competitor Monster Energy Drinks by other means.
Q: How do you handle online receipts and mobile payments?
A: We’ll soon be accepting e-receipts across both Receipt Hog and Shoparoo. The product is in beta with a few thousand users right now. For us, having data come in electronically is a win since we already have the infrastructure to handle and analyze it.
Q: Are there any technological advancements you’re looking forward to in the future? Do you face any technological limitations with your current product?
A: OCR, the technology that coverts images into text, is in need of major improvement as it was really originally designed for documents in a confined environment like a flat-bed scanner. With the onset of mobile and technologies like Google Glass, OCR breaks down quickly. There are some start-ups trying to re-think OCR from scratch in light of recent requirements from mobile; I’m excited to see what they might bring.
Q: What is your favorite app today?
A: I personally dislike paper— I’m ready for the whole world to go digital. I’ve found that in the meantime, the app TurboScan does a really nice job turning any piece of paper into a clean PDF. For example, whenever I get mail that is actually important, I use the app and email the PDF to myself immediately.
Q: What’s a particularly interesting feature about Receipt Hog or Shoparoo?
A: In addition to capturing their purchase data via receipt images, we often ask the user a few questions about a particular shopping trip. This combination of both concrete purchase data and qualitative survey data is unique in the industry. Often, purchase data is used to uncover a finding and then a survey can be conducted to better understand the core causality.
For example, over the last few years, dollar stores have seen a significant increase in sales while competitors like Walmart have remained relatively flat. Using purchase data, we identified that most of the users switching from Walmart to dollar stores were millennials. With this in mind, we conducted a test/control survey to better understand their switching motivation and found that the top reason for switching was the greater convenience afforded by expanding dollar store chains (read more about this example here).
- Julie Levine, Marketing Associate
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