Instantly has access to an army of more than 350,000 primary grocery shoppers across the United States (c.62% are women) and 55,000+ in the UK, who have downloaded its app to their smartphones and agreed to participate in real-time market research tasks when they go shopping in return for small instant cash incentives and gift cards.
When they spot a new product, they scan the barcode, upload photos of it on shelf (which show where it is positioned vs competitor products plus the price tag) and answer multiple choice questions such as: How likely are you to buy this product in the next 30 days based on the price it’s being sold for here?
Alternatively they may be asked to what extent they agree or disagree with statements such as:
- This product will replace a product that I usually buy.
- It makes sense that this brand launched this product.
- This product meets a consumer need that other products don’t.
The app also asks consumers whether they regularly shop the category in question (so survey results won’t be skewed by, for example, men being asked about feminine hygiene products, or people that never buy coffee being asked about coffee).
Users can subscribe to one or several data sets by category (Instantly currently tracks 20+ CPG categories and is expanding shortly into apparel, toys and other areas) and follow product sightings over time and across any region.
We’re one of the first companies to really apply crowd-source solutions to grocery shopping
But can’t food and beverage companies get this kind of data via other means?
Yes and no, Instantly chief marketing officer Andy Jolls told FoodNavigator-USA.
While brand managers can buy scanner data from SPINS, IRI or Nielsen to track sales of their own new products or those of competitors, this can be prohibitively expensive for smaller companies, and takes several weeks to become actionable, said Jolls.
And even if you can afford it, sales data on a spreadsheet does not explain what products look like; what different retailers are charging for them across the country; where and how they are merchandised in store (are they buried on the bottom shelf of the snacks aisle or given prime real estate in a new display by the deli counter?); or provide any insights about what shoppers actually think of them (would they buy them if the price were a lower?), said Jolls.
We know products are on shelf before brand managers do
Similarly, while Mintel tracks new product launches via its Global new Products database (GNPD), and market research firms can be commissioned to do focused consumer research for you, these options can be slow and expensive, he said.
“Let’s say you’ve got a challenger brand that’s only available in one part of the USA and it’s gaining amazing traction, or it’s in a retailer that’s not covered by Nielsen or IRI, or it’s not been picked up by Mintel or other research firms in a timely fashion. The tools currently available often don't pick these trends up for weeks.
“We’re picking up this data from tens of thousands of shoppers in real time; it’s way more affordable than comparable services; and it comes with insights that other firms don’t provide. We know products are on shelf before brand managers do.
“We’re one of the first companies to really apply crowd-source solutions to the grocery shopping task so we’re asking real consumers real questions while they are actually shopping and that is not available anywhere else.”
He wrote back to us that day and said, ‘You saved my ass.’
Initial feedback to the Product Watch tool, which Instantly has been testing with CPG clients for a couple of months, has been extremely positive, claimed Jolls.
“Sometimes it can take CPG companies weeks or months to see how their product is being distributed and how it’s doing.
“Just last week the boss of one of our clients [a soup brand] walked into the office and said there is a new children’s organic soup on the market from one of our competitors, what do you know about this?
“He was able to immediately pull up our interface and say yes, we know it’s there it’s in these 14 stores, this is the average sales price and here are some photos of it on shelf. He wrote back to us that day and said, ‘You saved my ass.’ That’s the power of real time data. We are ahead of the existing data sources as our shoppers go into stores every day and our shoppers tell us what they see.”
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