InfoScout Tells Brands Who Buys What By Getting Meatspace Shoppers To Photograph Receipts

Like Quantcast but for brick-and-mortar shopping data and not web traffic, launched to give consumer product brands insight into consumer demographics. With $5 million from Bain Capital Ventures, InfoScout machine-reads receipts photographed by 100,000 users of its Receipt Hog and Shoparoo apps. It combines this data with surveys to tell CPG brands like P&G who buys their products.

Brands are desperate to know what demographics they should be marketing to. Yet until now, that data was very hazy or tough to collect. It was easy to monitor sales by particular store and time of day, but not the age, gender, interests, income, ethnicity, education, and household size of who buys them.

One archaic data-collection method used by Nielsen and partner Information Resources Inc. is handing out bar-code scanners and getting people to scan everything they bought and key in how much they paid. It could take 20 seconds or more per item and only netted participants a tiny cash reward. That’s a ton of hassle. Getting parents to cut out UPC box tops from cereal and other products and hand them to raise money for their kids’ school is another high-friction way to get rudimentary data.

InfoScout ScanBut InfoScout came up with something much better: mobile apps. Users enter their demographic information, and then take a photograph of their brick-and-mortar shopping receipts. InfoScout uses machine vision to see what people bought where and what they paid.

InfoScout’s Receipt Hog app has a Tamagatchi feel, where you feed your digital pig photographed receipts to earn coins you can cash out for PayPal money or Amazon gift cards. Meanwhile, Shoparoo replaces box-top collection and lets people raise money for schools by camera-phoning their receipts. Together they have 200,000 registered users and 100,000 monthly active users, and pull in a whopping 40,000 receipts a day, up from 20,000 just two months ago.

InfoScout Apps

InfoScout has just been sitting on this data, waiting to get six months to a year’s worth so it could use natural language processing and machine learning to do longitudinal analysis on people’s shopping habits. Now it’s ready to share and sell the insights, so today it launches

Anyone can track up to five brands’ customer info for free. That includes detailed demographic info but also stats like whether Red Bull is bought more at convenience stores or supermarkets, what else was in people’s baskets, and did they pay with cash, credit or food stamps.

Beyond quantitative data, InfoScout’s in-app surveys provide qualitative data like what percentage of people bought Red Bull on impulse, if it was out of stock would they stay loyal and go elsewhere or buy another brand, how customers rate the product, and what words they use to describe it.

Red Bull Infoscout

The free version of could be helpful to mom-and-pops, journalists, and researchers but the startup is courting big enterprises to make money. Paid subscriptions will launch in December and let businesses track unlimited brands and get deeper reports on demographic, psychographic and shopper profile attributes.

Premium access will run in the thousands to tens of thousands of dollars per year and is primarily aimed at big consumer packaged good companies, with Procter & Gamble, Nestle, PepsiCo, General Mills, and Unilever already signed up. Subscriptions will also be marketed to retailers, marketing agencies, and financial institutions looking to better understand the CPG market.

InfoScout will need to find a way to adapt to electronic receipts, as they’re starting to replace paper ones. But its apps give it a good barrier to entry, and data sales could help InfoScout make good on the $5 million round it raised in May led by Bain Capital Ventures and joined by Founder Collective, dunnhumby Ventures and a major retailer.

All this info could have a big impact on CPG giants. What should their commercials look like if their customers are mostly teenage boys? Where should they place their products in stores if 30 percent of sales are impulse buys? How can they change their branding if people describe their goods as “cheap”?

On the Internet we’re used to getting oceans of statistics about our businesses, but InfoScout could bring this big data to meatspace commerce.

InfoScout’s Receipt Hog & Shoparoo apps are available for download