InfoScout is one of America’s Top 100 Fastest Growing Companies

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3 years, 3600% growth.  As you might imagine, a lot of things have to go right to experience the kind of growth that landed InfoScout at 84th among this year’s Inc. 5000.

The first among the dominoes to align for InfoScout was a large market of consumer goods and retailers, distraught by a lack of innovation among the incumbent consumer panel providers for nearly 30 years.  These clients already knew that there had to be a better way to understand the drivers of change in retail sales and market share, and they were just waiting for a disruptive start-up like InfoScout to come along.

Second, was a sea-change of technological advancements including more powerful smartphones, cloud computing, computer vision, crowdsourcing, and machine learning – all of which were necessary for InfoScout’s approach to work.

Next, we had to assemble an engineering team capable of harnessing all of these technologies to solve a seemingly endless series of challenges in a unified way. My CTO and co-founder, Jon Brelig, built a team that would engineer the diverse components necessary for success, including a portfolio of consumer mobile apps, a scalable transcription pipeline, and a SaaS analytics platform to derive insights from the data. And what better place to build this team than San Francisco – the epicenter of tech innovation.

Fortunately, key leaders at Procter & Gamble and Unilever were willing to bet on our nascent technology back in 2012 – before we’d even launched our first product – or we wouldn’t have been eligible for the 2016 Inc. 5000 list.  We must have done something right, because in every year since, our growth has been fueled more through deeper relationships with existing customers than by adding new clients.  The tremendous revenue growth we’ve seen comes entirely from our customers – a fact we don’t take lightly, as it only raises the bar in terms of the value we must deliver in exchange.

To rise to that occasion, we’ve recently benefitted from a series of partnerships that enable us to deliver new ways of measuring the true incrementality and ROI of advertising campaigns, retail promotions, new product launches, and brand building. With their help we hope to finally render this adage irrelevant among consumer brands: “I know that 50% of my marketing is working – I just don’t know which half.”

Finally, for all of the amazing technology behind InfoScout, we know that we could not achieve nor continue this growth without a great team of people who continuously find clever solutions to complex problems, who focus on their collective impact, and who strive to delight our customers in every interaction. Thank you, Team InfoScout!

(P.S. – Special thanks to Ajay Agarwal and Indy Guha of Bain Capital Ventures, David Frankel of Founder Collective, and Andre Gharakhanian of Silicon Legal Strategy.  You’ve been great partners at every step along the way.)

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 contactus@infoscoutinc.com 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.

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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.
 
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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 contactus@infoscoutinc.com and we’ll be happy to help you out!.

America Loves ‘Click and Collect’

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Recently, our friends over at CNBC asked us to take a closer look into services that allow people to shop online and then pick up the items in-store—also known as “Click and Collect.” Through a survey to more than 1,000 American shoppers, InfoScout determined that of the 34.6% of Americans who have tried Click and Collect, half of them (49%) tried it for the first time in 2015. As CNBC concluded, “Like it or not, ‘click and collect’ is here to stay“.

 

Although two-thirds of America have yet to try this type of service, its staying power is clear because those who use it, love it. Fifty-four percent of shoppers who have used this service, used it during the 2015 holiday season. Along the same lines, 95% of shoppers who used this service during their 2015 holiday shopping indicated that they were very likely to use it again for their 2016 holiday shopping (vs. only 1.6% who said they would be unlikely to do so again).

 

This shouldn’t come as a surprise, since the overall satisfaction ratings on the service are strong. Jaron Waldman, CEO of San Francisco based Curbside, a click and collect app, tells us that across his clients (which include the likes of Target, Best Buy, CVS and Sephora) “56% of people who try it come back and order again”. He also pointed out that many of the shoppers on the Curbside app are also members of Amazon Prime, but they “like the flexibility of picking it up when and where they want, in under an hour”.

When asked about the reasons why they chose Click and Collect for their purchase, one word really stood out among our survey respondents open-ended answers: convenience.

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“Cheaper than shipping it to my house” – Ann from Cincinnati

“Easier and then I was guaranteed to get the item I wanted without any hassle” – Jessica from Tulsa

“Faster than having it shipped to the house but still able to get the online deals.” – Chris from Seattle

 

Even though love is in the air, the Click and Collect trend is still far away from completely replacing regular grocery shopping trips. More than half of all respondents who used Click and Collect throughout 2015 reported only using it between two and five times when, on average, they do 72 fill-up or stock-up trips over the course of a year.

 

You may be asking yourself: Who are the retailers capitalizing on the trend? Topping the list with a commanding lead was Walmart (where 69% of respondents indicated they’ve used Click and Collect service, followed by Target (34%), Kohl’s (17%), and JC Penney (15%).

 

About the Data:
For this study, we surveyed 1,000 of our panelists who have used a “click and collect” service. InfoScout tracks the purchases of more than 350,000 Americans who report more than 300,000 shopping trips every day through our Receipt Hog, Shoparoo, and Receipt Lottery apps.

Walmart and Kohl’s Winning Share Among Shoppers on Black Friday

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InfoScout analyzed the baskets of more than 160,000 Black Friday transactions made from midnight through 1:00pm Friday at brick-and-mortar retailers to see how shopper spending shifted compared to last year’s big event.


Walmart, Kohl’s, and Best Buy are the stores capturing a greater overall share of Black Friday dollars, along with a greater proportion of trips and shoppers. Early data shows Target experiencing the largest declines in terms of transactions and dollars.

 

About the Data
More than 300,000 Americans snap pictures of their everyday shopping receipts via InfoScout’s mobile apps: Shoparoo, Receipt Hog and Receipt Lottery. The first 161,849 receipts reported by 1pm on Black Friday were analyzed to provide a quick read on this year’s performance by retailer.

 

Stay tuned to the InfoScout Blog for further analysis of Black Friday 2015. For further information, please contact press@infoscoutinc.com.

PlayStation wins Black Friday among Millenials; Nintendo slides further among GenXers

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It is now well-known that video games are no longer purchased and played exclusively by young people. In fact, recent analyses show that the average video gamer is 31 years old, and about 40% of gamers are over the age of 36. Game developers are acutely aware of these facts. Otherwise, we would not be blessed with perpetual installments of Super Mario, Final Fantasy, Halo, and so on.

 

By contrast, Millennials are widely regarded as picky consumers who place comparatively less emphasis on brand loyalty. They live in the moment and their shopping consideration sets are comparatively more flexible.

 

When presented with a sales promotion, are Millennials more likely to shift their video game buying habits compared to older gamers? Between Microsoft’s Xbox, Sony’s PlayStation, and Nintendo’s Wii, who “won” Black Friday by enticing gamers to their brands?

 

To answer this question, InfoScout established a baseline group of 2,364 people who purchased video game products in October 2015.   We then contrasted their purchases to those of 1,020 Americans who purchased a video game, console or accessory during the 2015 Black Friday promotion period (starting at 6PM on Thanksgiving, and running until the end of day Friday). Gamers in the baseline group of October buyers versus Black Friday buyers were segmented into Millennial (ages 18 – 35) and Middle Age (ages 36 – 55), to compare their dollar spend on Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo products.

 

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Based on the evidence above, Sony PlayStation clearly “won” Black Friday 2015 among Millennials, stealing 7 percentage points of market share directly from the Microsoft Xbox.  Millennials are notoriously fickle, and Sony clearly took advantage at Microsoft’s expense.  By contrast, Middle Aged video game buyers’ preferences only changed slightly (away from Nintendo) during the Black Friday shopping spree, with Xbox capturing a slightly higher share of those gamers’ wallets than PlayStation.

 

About the Data

More than 300,000 Americans snap pictures of their everyday shopping receipts via InfoScout’s mobile apps: Shoparoo, Receipt Hog and Receipt Lottery. The first 250,000 receipts reported from shopping trips on Thanksgiving night and Black Friday were analyzed to support the real-time insights above. For further information, please contact press@infoscoutinc.com

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’.

 

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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!

 

American Beer: Millennials are Changing How the Country Drinks Beer

InfoScout dives into beer purchase data to show that Millennials are more likely to defect from premium beer to craft beers

 

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With nearly 100 million shopping trips recorded, and almost as many lines of code written, our team at InfoScout has created the best way to meticulously measure the consumer’s path to purchase.

 

At the end of the day, a natural consequence of all the hard work that takes place in our office is cold beer. And we’re not alone. America spends a whopping $100 billion on beer each year. So important that we’ve previously uncovered that it takes a hurricane to stop Hawaiians from buying beer. Beer is essential in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

 

And by far the preferred type of beer in America: light tasting lagers. The industry has even progressively consolidated around those main popular brands, the most recent example being the merger of AB-InBev and SABMiller. Although, the tides seem to be changing.

 

If you compare our free brand dashboards for Budweiser, Miller, and Coors—defined by the industry as ‘premium’ beers—to those of the craft brands Blue Moon and Shock Top, you’ll notice how the latter tend to attract a significantly younger shopper. Some retailers, like Kroger (America’s biggest grocer) have begun to purposefully bet on the growing craft beer category.

 

To learn more about the shift in taste and why focusing on it might be a winning strategy for retailers, we decided to investigate further. Specifically, we focused on a group of Kroger beer buyers who used to buy premium beer, but no longer do so. Unsurprisingly, these shoppers were more likely to be:

 

  • Millennials (ages 21-24)
  • Single
  • Low Income (<40,000 annually)

 

In place of the ‘premium’ beer brands, these lapsed shoppers decided to spend their money on beers that are positioned as ‘craft’:

Brands Lapsed Shoppers

 

Of equal importance, we wanted to know which premium beer brands were hit hardest by these lapsed shoppers who are searching for something less ‘macro’. Among the premium brands, the biggest losers turned out to be Bud Light and Coors Light with a -3.5% dollars spent each, followed by Miller Lite with -1.1% dollars spent.

 

Much has been said about this generation’s shopping habits leaving traditional grocers out of the picture. But grocers like Kroger seem to have found a way to bring them into the store and our data shows that their strategy is working. Among millennials who buy craft beer, Kroger captures 12.5% of their overall grocery related spend versus just 6.8% among millennials in general. In contrast, Walmart’s share of millennials wallets is actually lower among craft beer buyers.

 

Of course, during our panel analysis, it wasn’t always the case that consumers stopped buying ‘premium’ beer at Kroger because they wanted to get craft beer. Frequently we observed legacy beer drinkers lapsing not from the premium category, but from the retailer. That is, some consumers continued to buy products like Bud Light, just not from Kroger. Where did they end up buying their premium beer instead? Our Lapsed Shopper analysis revealed the top five retailers picking up the slack:

 

Retailers Lapsed Shoppers

 

What remains a mystery is what consumers (not breweries) consider to be ‘craft’ beer. Many of the craft brands millennials jumped to are still manufactured by the big name breweries that also manufacture the popular premium brands. Is it about the size of the brewery? Or is it about the taste of the beer? Find out in our next post on American Beer.

 

Did this article create any business questions you want answered? Want to know more about how America is purchasing beer at Kroger and other retailers? Get in touch with us to see how InfoScout and the largest purchase panel in America can help your business truly understand the beer consumer’s path to purchase.

Healthy Eating Is Not A SNAP

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The White House and USDA are strong advocates of healthy eating, providing U.S. citizens guidance on how to achieve balanced nutrition on a reasonable budget. But is the federal government’s food assistance program able to help those most in need meet its own recommendations? In light of the recent changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the team at InfoScout wanted to find out.

In 2013, SNAP – also known as food stamps – provided an average monthly benefit of $133 per person and $275 per household in 2013, reaching 48 million people across 23 million households. SNAP benefits were decreased by about $10 per month per person in November 2013, reducing the maximum benefit to $189 per individual. Given this reduction in benefits, we decided to explore the extent to which beneficiaries of the program could eat healthily on the reduced budget of $189. Let’s find out.

The USDA’s ChooseMyPlate.gov website provides a plethora of information for a healthy lifestyle, from weight management and physical activity tools and guidelines to tips for eating healthy when eating out. The site showcases various cookbooks including a 7-day meal plan that meets a recommended 2000-calorie diet with the right balance of food groups and nutrient intake, all at a “moderate cost”.

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So we try to answer the question: can an individual relying solely on government benefits afford to follow the government’s recommendations regarding a balanced diet?

Over the past two years, InfoScout has established America’s largest and richest source of household purchases across all retailers at the item level. With this data we are able to dig into real-world food spending patterns to find out.

We began by looking at each recipe and its ingredients within the USDA’s 7-day meal plan. We took each ingredient from the USDA recommended menu and paired it with the top-selling product corresponding to that ingredient from our InfoScout database, where we’re able to see per-basket SNAP purchases. Factoring in the packaging sizes and prices per serving of each ingredient, we calculated the price of each meal.

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We found that a single adult following the USDA recommended 2000-calorie diet would spend nearly $8 per day, or $240 per month at current food prices. That’s $51 more per month than the maximum benefit allowable under the SNAP program. Put in practical terms, this means that even with a perfectly-planned and executed grocery budget, a SNAP recipient would only be able to feed themselves until the 24th day of the month, and run out of financial support before dinner.

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This gap becomes even more prominent as the household size grows. For each additional household member, the incremental allotment decreases. So while an individual can get $189 each month, a household of two gets $347, or $173.50 each. As these per-person benefits decrease, the cost of feeding each person remains the same. So as you can see, that gap grows tremendously as the need increases.

As the household size grows, so does the gap between the home's benefits and its food expenses.

With healthy diets clearly so far out of reach for the 47 million Americans relying on the government for support, it is no surprise that those in the lower income brackets turn to higher-calorie, though often nutritionally-poor, meals. We found that, compared to high-income consumers, lower-income Americans have a 30% shift in their food expenditures towards snack foods (like potato chips, cookies, and candy) and away from nutritional foods (like yogurt, fruits, and vegetables). While the USDA-suggested diet clocks in at about 247 calories per dollar, our study of the most purchased snack foods yielded an average of 672 calories per dollar, with popular brands of chips leading the pack at an incredibly efficient 752 calories per dollar.

Calorie counting doesn’t stop at the grocery store, especially with more and more fast-food chains accepting food stamps. A quick study of Burger King, KFC, and Subway, where a standard meal-deal includes an burger or sandwich, side of fries or chips, and a soda yielded an average price of around 250 calories per dollar – effectively the same cost per calorie as the buying groceries to follow the USDA suggested meal plan. And since fast food doesn’t require any meal-planning, grocery-shopping, or cooking, it’s unsurprising that low-income consumers often prefer a meal on-demand. The problem, of course, is that a fast food diet can easily result in 230% excess fat and 370% more sodium than recommended, all while offering fewer key nutrients.

Moreover, low-income consumers can stretch their food budgets further with choices like McDonald’s McDouble sandwich which packs 390 calories for just $1 – that’s 58% more calories per dollar than buying healthy foods at a grocery store. If a person could live off McDouble’s alone (not that anyone is suggesting that’s a good idea), they’d save $90 per month compared to a healthy diet of home-cooked meals and be able to feed themselves via food stamps throughout the entire month.

Whether it’s the relatively cheap meals on-demand offered by quick service restaurants or the low-cost calories of snack foods like potato chips, we should not be surprised to know that lower income Americans (especially women) are more likely to be overweight or obese while also experiencing poorer health and shorter lifespans. With the rapid rise from 11% of American households receiving support from the SNAP in 2008 to 20% of households in 2013, at a cost of nearly $80 billion, it’s no wonder that the programs merits and funding have been hotly debated in Congress. At InfoScout, our intent is not to fuel the debate as to whether SNAP funding should be increased or decreased to support more or fewer participants. Instead, we believe the data begs for further debate over fundamental policy questions such as:

~ Should SNAP offer greater incentives towards purchases of healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables to help improve the healthy outcomes that everyone desires from such a program?

~ Should the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program even allow the purchases of junk foods and fast foods that fail to meet basic nutritional standards? (Especially considering the fact that these foods offer lower costs per calorie to those Americans who can’t afford to follow a healthy meal plan.)

~ How should we prioritize healthy eating amid a growing base of people relying on federal support, and the associated growing costs?

In the meantime, we welcome your thoughts and feedback as we continue to study real-world purchasing behavior.