Australia’s largest receipt panel company The U Group has launched uAsk, a surveying product that provides greater insights into the omnichannel consumer. It also gives smaller brands access to data insights they might otherwise not be able to afford, or larger scale surveys don’t pick up.

UAsk uses deep optical character recognition (OCR) technology to read data on shopping receipts. Consumers take a photo of their receipt and submit it. The U Group’s machine learning algorithms then categorises the data.

The use of store receipt barcodes is gaining ground on more traditional data gathering such as Nielsen’s Homescan because it can collect more information across richer data fields.

The U Group CEO Tyler Spooner told Food & Drink Business the company had been working with Nielson for around 18 months, to develop the product.

“We’ve had more than 70,000 consumers sign up and more than seven million receipts scanned. That has given us information on around seventy million items bought in both online and retail channels. It gives us a rich data pool to draw from,” Spooner said.

The major point of difference is instead of consumers being given a market tracker, uAsk is surveying the buyers.

“We extract the data from transactions, match it to the GS1 codes, and then allocate it to categories.

“A consumer signs up and we profile them across age, gender, income, state and household size. We protect their personal information and while we’re using mobile to capture the data, we are transparent about where that data is going. Everyone who signs up knows the information is being collected to help brands understand their market and subsequent product changes or developments,” he said.

One aspect of the project Spooner is most excited about is that it gives smaller mid-tier brands and businesses access to quality data insights normally reserved for larger companies. Being fully automated, companies can build consumer surveys directly form the website, without having to consult the agency.

“Historically, any brand can buy large data sets, but they don’t provide information on your product if you’re a smaller player. It is also a costly investment and often, these brands don’t require high levels of data analysis, they want to know what is going on with their consumer.

“You may want to launch into the supermarkets or find out how your product is selling on eBay. With uAsk you simply select your buyer, their category or product, then use our template to ask your own questions.”

Ultimately, uAsk is giving smaller brands cost-effective access to data-rich research.

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