Graduates Win with Aunts and Uncles

Graduation Season is here! The time to celebrate a lifetime of accomplishments and the beginning of a promising new stage. Parents couldn’t be prouder, Grandma is definitely going to cry, and aunts and uncles apparently get generous.

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According to one of our recent surveys, more graduation gifts are purchased for nieces and nephews than anyone else. This makes sense, especially in bigger families where people likely have have more nieces and nephews than sons or daughters. So what are they gifting?

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Graduates received mostly gift cards this year, with greeting cards and actual cash also among the popular gift-giving options. Other gifts like coffee and cars—much needed elements of adulthood—get honorable mentions. Female grads were more likely to receive flowers, while male grads were more likely to receive electronics.

When deciding what to gift a graduate, the number one consideration was “something that would be useful” in the next stage of their life. One curious data point also related to this decision is that uncles and aunts were more likely to ask the family and friends of the grad for gift recommendations, while mom and dad were more likely to ask the grad directly.

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Gift card purchasers are twice as likely to buy a greeting card in the same shopping trip during graduation season than during the Christmas season. The difference suggests that shoppers try to get gift and greeting cards in the same trip for graduates, while spreading the purchase of those two categories across more trips during the holiday period.


Another tip for all retailers out there: an overwhelming 61% of shoppers return to buy their graduation greeting cards at the same retailer where they bought their Mother’s Day card. So if you’re capturing that Mother’s Day shopper, you’re more likely to capture the graduation greeting card shopper.


As to which retailers people prefer for purchasing their greeting cards, the usual suspects of Walmart and Target show up on top. There is also a considerable showing from the dollar channel (Dollar Tree and Dollar General), which achieved significantly high unit sales but underperformed in dollar sales, a common trait for the channel due to its usually lower price points.


In summary, parents need to step up their gifting game. Spoiling uncles everywhere are going for the cash game while parents skew towards the traditionally more emotional and thoughtful greeting cards.
As a marketer, are you interested in knowing more about seasonal gifting in your category or other aspects of shopping behavior? Are you curious about which brands of gift cards these graduates received? Get in touch with us at and we’ll be happy to help you out!

Spring Cleaning: Scrubbing Deeper with Household Products Purchase Data

Spring Cleaning is a time when consumers use their daily household cleaning products to scrub deeper than just the surface. This holds true for panel data as well; sometimes the most impactful insights are hidden from plain view, waiting to be discovered with a little extra elbow grease. For example, take a look at some top-line metrics for common products in the household category.


This view gives us a quick bird’s-eye view of how each subcategory is performing. For example, bath tissue has a relatively high basket size of about $95, suggesting that it’s purchased on large stock-up grocery trips. Bath tissue also has the highest purchase frequency, meaning that the category is purchased (by each household) an average of 7 times per 52 week period.
Interestingly, dish detergent and fabric softener have almost identical purchase frequencies of 4.0 and 4.1 (respectively). However, these numbers are just averages. They don’t tell us anything about the underlying distribution. Datasets with similar means but different distributions can be problematic; imagine if we treated {0, 5, 10} the same as {4, 5, 6}. An insights professional looking to understand these categories more thoroughly will want to scrub a little deeper past the surface.

A shopper histogram is the perfect complement to shopper metrics because it takes the averaged metrics and shows you the full distribution of the data. The graph above paints a bigger picture than the averages alone for these two categories. Here, we see the underlying distribution for each category’s purchase frequency. Fabric softener is a divisive category; shoppers either buy it all the time (8+ times per year), or very rarely (just once per year). By contrast, dish detergent has a steadier distribution; more shoppers fall near the mean (buying 4 times per year).


Why is this important? As a marketing manager, it’s easy to make assumptions based on data averages. Shopper metrics alone would lead you to believe that two disparate categories have identical purchase cycles. In reality, fabric softener has two shopper segments of ‘extremists,’whereas dish detergent has fewer ‘extremists’ and a greater number of average, once-per-quarter shoppers. It’s easy to miss these crucial segments by glancing at a bird’s-eye view of the data.
Want to ‘scrub’ even deeper? Are you curious about which brands in the household category are favored by your shoppers? Get in touch with us at and we’ll be happy to help you out!.

You Won’t Believe Which Brands Dominated Black Friday at Walmart

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Wrangler? Hanes? Better Homes and Gardens? Seriously?!

That’s right, gone are the days of Black Friday dominance by iPads, Xbox consoles, and Samsung TVs. An early read of 15,000 receipts from shopping trips to Walmart between 6:00pm Thursday and noon on Black Friday indicates a very different kind of Christmas this year.


Without further ado, here are Walmart’s hottest products this Black Friday 2015:



About the Data

More than 300,000 Americans snap pictures of their everyday shopping receipts every day via InfoScout’s mobile apps: Shoparoo, Receipt Hog and Receipt Lottery. The first 15,000 receipts reported from trips to Walmart on Thanksgiving night and Black Friday were analyzed to provide a quick read on this year’s hottest items based on unit sales. For further information, please contact

Shoppers Have Already Made Gift Purchases Ahead of Black Friday

Yesterday, we asked our panelists how they are preparing their holiday gift shopping, going into what is undoubtedly the most important shopping event of the year: Black Friday.

To our surprise, the majority (66%) answered that they’ve already bought their first gift. Only (12.8%) say that they’ll be buying their first gifts of the season during Black Friday Weekend.

A factor at play here might be the fact that every year, special sales events happen before Black Friday, like Sam’s Club pre-Black Friday sale last weekend.

What type of gifts are shoppers getting this early in the season, and for whom? Over half of those gift purchases (53%) were considered the primary gift for the recipient. So these early buyers aren’t just accumulating stocking suffers, they’ve already knocked off some of the most significant items on their list, Of those recipients, 56% were children and 44% adults.

Also of note is that 46% of those early gift purchases made by our panelists were made online. This is a noticeably high number when compared to the normal ratio that online sales have against brick & mortar stores, which either indicates that early holiday shoppers tend to shop online, or that online retailers are in for a very healthy 2015 holiday season.


About the data:

The insights for this writing are powered by a pre-Black Friday survey completed on November 17, 2015 by 250 of our over 300,000 active panelists. To find out more about this shopping season, stay tuned for our real-time coverage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Press contact for additional insights or data to support custom stories: CJ Acosta

Client contact for real-time insights throughout the holiday shopping season: Ben Ahn

Samsung, PS4 and iPad Win with Consumers at Sam’s Club pre-Black Friday Sale

On Saturday, November 14th, Sam’s Club held its first sale of the holiday shopping season. An early ‘leak‘ of the day’s deals had delighted shoppers taking to online forums to debate which ones were the best. With 4,272 Sam’s Club shopping receipts from Saturday’s sale submitted to InfoScout through our nationally representative panel of over 300,000 Americans, we decided to tally the votes based on which deals shoppers actually bought.



The most outstanding performance goes to Samsung which sold 1.5-times as many TV’s as its nearest competitor: Vizio. Samsung led the charge with a ‘sound bar bundle’ that seemed to resonate a lot with consumers. We’ve previously seen the effectiveness of this ‘bundling’ technique being used for game console sales.


Speaking of bundles and games, the PlayStation 4 bundle with the ‘Uncharted: The Nathan Series Collection’ game sold more than three times as many consoles as the Xbox One bundle which included an extra controller.


Apple’s iPad Air 2 edged HP Notebooks by a 3-to-2 margin within the converging category of laptops and tablets. The iPad Mini, by contrast, barely even registered in comparison.


The real winner here was Sam’s Club which saw a significant increase in shopping trips and gained a 4% in its share of wallet among known Sam’s Club shoppers when compared to the same Saturday one-year ago. To find out if Sam’s Club just shifted sales a bit earlier in the season versus actually increasing their overall share of the Christmas shopping season, stay tuned for our real-time coverage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Press contact for additional insights or data to support custom stories: CJ Acosta

Client contact for real-time insights throughout the holiday shopping season: Ben Ahn

American Beer: What is Craft Beer?

The second in a series where InfoScout dives into beer purchase data. In the first article we focused on how Millennials are changing the industry. In this one we look into what shoppers conceive as ‘craft beer’.




In the first article of this series we discovered how the times are a-changin’ for the consumption of beer in this country. The Millenial generation seems to be shifting the country’s taste from mainstream lagers to more complex and robust craft beers. But the data from those lapsed shoppers showed that it was mostly Blue Moon, Leinenkugel’s and Shock Top picking up the slack. All of these craft brands belong to either Anheuser-Busch InBev or MillerCoors. Although these ‘craft’ beers may taste far different than their ‘premium’ counterparts, they are still owned (and often manufactured) by the very companies that Millennials seemingly eschew.


Mainstream lagers have long dominated the market since the repeal of Prohibition. Fueled by an aftershock of the Temperance movement, Americans became complacent with lighter flavored lagers for decades. However, the 1990s brought small-batch ‘craft’ alternatives to the market, which featured more pronounced flavors. Premium beer manufacturers took note. They knew they couldn’t change their existing lighter tasting beers without alienating older, loyal generations. Instead, they started secretly buying or manufacturing their own craft beers, capturing a younger segment of the market not content with drinking what they consider to be less than full-flavored.


But we are left with a very important question: What constitutes ‘craft beer’? Is it the size of the brewer? Is it the taste of the beer?


We hypothesized that consumers might not be paying attention to the size of the operation as much as the taste of the beer itself. The only way to test this hypothesis is to directly ask consumers what they think, and our trigger survey capabilities allowed us to do just that.


First, we assessed the degree to which a beer’s popularity and a beer’s parent company matters when it comes to craft beer. Consumers indicated that these factors were only of middling importance; just 7% and 11% (respectively) indicated that these factors are very important.


Shopper Opinion On the Label


But when asked about flavor and ingredients, we observed a stark contrast. Consumers feel that taste and ingredients are of paramount importance when it comes to making up a craft brew with these factors getting an 81% and a 31% percent respectively.


Shopper Opinion In the Bottle


Blue Moon provides an illuminating example into the situation at hand. It is a Belgian white beer manufactured by MillerCoors, and it is marketed as a craft beer due to its taste and ingredients, which include coriander and orange peel. Some brewers disagree, however, about whether Blue Moon can be labeled as ‘craft’ when it is brewed by such a massive institution. These brewers have brought a class-action lawsuit against MillerCoors, claiming the company uses deceptive marketing tactics to persuade consumers to buy what they would deem to be ‘inauthentic craft’.In general, most people placed very little importance on the size of the breweries or parent company. This works in favor for big beer conglomerates who don’t want their huge business size to be seen as hindrance for being crafty.


But it also works in favor of small time brewers who can let their products do the talking without the need for big brand budgets. Curiously enough, when measuring “brand strength” among the craft beer brands, we introduced our very own (and very non-existent) brand of craft beer: “Concentric Brewing” which managed to get “recognized” by 18% of survey participants as “Definitely Craft” (up there with Guiness and Lagunitas):




As startup people we can’t agree enough with craft beer shoppers: A carefully crafted product makes all the difference.


Want to learn more about what we are crafting at InfoScout that makes it easy to produce insights like these? Get in touch!


The Family Dollar Saga Part One: Why Antitrust Concerns Are Overblown

Family Dollar Tug of War

There’s a fierce tug of war happening this month between Dollar General and Dollar Tree over the future of Family Dollar.  In late July, Dollar Tree announced its intention to acquire Family Dollar.  Not content to sit idly by and watch the two smaller chains combine forces, Dollar General extended a higher bid of its own for Family Dollar. Despite General’s offer being roughly $460 million richer, the Board of Directors at Family Dollar rejected the higher offer in favor of Dollar Tree’s lower offer. In doing so, Family Dollar’s Board claimed that a Dollar General-Family Dollar combination would face more significant antitrust hurdles with federal regulators. We are data geeks at heart over here at InfoScout, sitting on a treasure-trove of consumer shopping data, so we decided to put this antitrust claim to the test.

Though the official merger guidelines of the FTC are long, broad, and a better sleep inducer than a glass of warm milk, in practice antitrust concerns typically revolve around a Key Findingsfew key principles relating to “market power”. The FTC seeks to limit mergers that would enhance market power in a manner that leads to higher prices, reduced output, less innovation, or reduced service for consumers. The FTC puts particular emphasis on anticipated pricing effects, and takes a negative view of mergers that they believe will lead to higher prices.  So, how likely is it that a Dollar General acquisition of Family Dollar would lead to higher prices for consumers?

Dollars and Sense: What We Can Learn From Each Retailer’s Prices

Infoscout Dollar Store Data

Our consumer panel includes 78,957 households who have shared with us their receipts from over 470,000 shopping trips to the three major dollar store chains thus far in 2014. The first thing we looked at in our analysis was average item level pricing levels for these three major dollar chains across the country. We found that Family Dollar’s average price per item purchased was the highest, at $2.20 each. Dollar General came in next at $2.08, and finally Dollar Tree at $0.97. This isn’t too surprising given the business models of each chain, with Family Dollar and Dollar General offering plenty of merchandise above $1.00, while Dollar Tree tends to stick to the traditional dollar store model by offering a unique rotating assortment of smaller packaged items that can be offered at a price point below $1.00. Dollar General and Family Dollar carry a very similar assortment of products (as opposed to Dollar Tree), as they both sell a significant amount of grocery type consumable products. This allowed us to drill-down into specific, popular products where they overlap to compare prices. For most products, Family Dollar’s average sales prices were higher than Dollar General’s corresponding prices.  Given Dollar General’s already lower pricing, it seems unlikely that the Federal Trade Commission could successfully argue that their acquisition of Family Dollar would result in higher prices at Family Dollar stores.  If anything, we would expect Dollar General to leverage its purchasing power and economies of scale to drive down prices even further.

Dollar Store Item Pricing comparison

But what might happen if Dollar General did raise prices at Family Dollar stores after an acquisition?

Substitutes for Consumers and a Lack of Market Power

Do adequate substitutes exist for consumers?   To answer this question, we looked at both shoppers’ opinions and their actual shopping behavior, and found overwhelming support that dollar store customers have good substitutes which they are already shopping.

Family Dollar consumer survey data

When surveyed through our mobile platform, Family Dollar shoppers made it clear that low pricing is the primary reason for their patronage.  So, given Walmart’s de facto status as America’s low price leader, we then asked Family Dollar shoppers if they consider Walmart a good substitute. Over 80% of those surveyed responded that yes indeed, they consider Walmart a good substitute. In fact, less than 10% of the Family Dollar shoppers surveyed said they would be unlikely to switch to Walmart if Family Dollar raised prices. Clearly, raising prices would be a very bad strategy for Family Dollar, and would likely send a slew of their shoppers Walmart’s way.  It is interesting to note, however, that only 44% of Family Dollar shoppers consider traditional grocery stores to be a good substitute.

Dollar Store Cross Channel Shopping

Of course it’s not just what consumers say, but what they actually do that really counts. When it comes to actual shopping trip behavior, the data is even more conclusive. We studied those consumers who have shopped at dollar stores so far this year and found that in any given month, over 90% of dollar store shoppers also shopped at supercenters such as Walmart, Target, or Kmart. Dollar store buyers do not appear to have a lack of access to stores they consider substitutes. Additionally, over 90% of dollar store shoppers also visit traditional grocery stores each month. Further, we found that for dollar store shoppers specifically, dollar stores as a whole have only accounted for roughly 2.5% of their total spend on fast moving consumer goods thus far in 2014. This tiny share of wallet across the industry, combined with consumers active shopping at potential substitute stores, means that it would be very difficult for a dollar store chain to raise prices and not lose customers en masse.   Consumers, therefore, would not be trapped if prices were raised at Family Dollar.


Interestingly, although dollar store customers cross shop other mass and grocery retailers, most do not typically shop at more than one dollar store in a given month. Close to 80% of the shoppers at these three major dollar chains only shop one of the chains in a given month. Antitrust regulators would have a difficult time arguing that merged dollar chains will have an incentive to reduce customer access by consolidating or shutting down stores. By shutting down large numbers of stores, dollar chains would be unlikely to retain affected customers, and would instead be losing them to other retailers.

Whole Foods’ 2007 acquisition of Wild Oats is a useful and comparable case study. The FTC tried to challenge that combination on the grounds that Whole Foods and Wild Oats compete in a tightly defined natural food grocer market, but ultimately lost that fight because the reality is that natural food grocers compete in a larger price competitive grocery market. Our data conclusively shows that the same factors apply to Dollar General’s bid for Family Dollar.   Simply put, the combined chains would still hold less than 4% of the US market for fast moving consumer goods – insufficient to justify an antitrust-based challenge by the FTC.

Although we find no basis for the Board of Family Dollar to reject Dollar General’s offer on the grounds that the acquisition could be blocked by the FTC for antitrust reasons, there may be other reasons why a merger with Dollar Tree could make more sense.  Which suitor should the Family Dollar board ultimately pick?  Stay tuned for Part Two where we will present more consumer insights around who’s the better business fit.


Cruel Summer


Summer is in full swing, and in this new, warmer season, most of us would care to shed not just a few layers of clothing, but also a few pounds. Thus begins the inevitable annual fitness battle against inertia and bad habits…all for the sake of the desirable ‘bikini body’ (and the male equivalent!).

84% of Americans surveyed by InfoScout stated they wanted to lose weight or get in shape for the summer. Yet 67% also said they don’t get enough exercise. If only someone could wave a wand and allow us to get fit without all that excruciating effort!

No pain, no gain…

The simple truth is that most Americans plan to lose weight through a tried and true formula of more exercise (81%), healthier eating (68%), and nutritional supplements (16%).

In terms of exercise, women were much more likely to favor walking (49% of surveyed women vs. 35% of men) while men were more likely to favor weightlifting (26% vs. 9% of women).

You are what you eat…

In terms of supplements…not surprisingly, when we investigated sales among InfoScout shopper panelists, we also found that weight/fat loss products peak in sales dollar volume from January through June in the run-up to summer (and quickly trails off after that).


This makes sense given typically different fitness goals of weight/fat loss (70% of women vs. 58% of men) and muscle building (3% of women vs. 16% of men).


On store shelves in time for the summer

We’re also keeping our eye on several new ‘healthy’ snacks that recently launched.  We invited InfoScout panelists who had tried the products to rate them, including:


Are we in the midst of a gummy supplement bubble?

Lastly, according to a study of transaction data from InfoScout’s panelist shopper database, sales of adult gummy and chewable nutritional supplements grew 4.5x faster than the nutritional supplements category in January, February, and March 2014, suggesting adults are increasingly embracing their inner child.  To dig deeper into the data, InfoScout surveyed consumers and asked respondents their preferred format for taking nutritional supplements. Most respondents stated they preferred their supplements in capsule form (28%), although chewable gummies and candies ranked second most popular (20%), beating out bars, cookies, gels, powders, and ready-to-drink items. Once a bribe to entice kids, gummy vitamins have taken off with sweet-toothed adults.

The trend is picking up steam. Even Martha Stewart, who was always best known for cooking and crafts, has jumped into the market. Around June 2014, she launched a new line of Martha Stewart gummy supplements, which included an email blast with the following announcement:


Want to know what everyone else got for Christmas?

This holiday season, InfoScout tracked the item-level purchases of 125,000 panelists across all brick-and-mortar retailers to identify this year’s biggest winners and losers.  It’s no surprise that those products dominating the sales activity on Black Friday continued to sell well through Christmas.

As mentioned in our previous posts, this year’s top gift was the Apple iPad mini 16GB and the top game console (and second highest grossing product) was the XBOX ONE.  As a direct result, the biggest losers were Android & Microsoft Tablets as well as Sony’s PlayStation 4 which sold well in November, but also sold out before the holiday season.  The year’s biggest surprise goes to Beats by Dr. Dre coming it at #6 with its premium headphones.

Top 15 Holiday Gifts in 2013


* Sales Rank based on gross sales in dollars from Thanksgiving Day through Christmas Eve 2013.