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Taking the Long View: Instacart Consumer Insights

In this article we look at the benefits of longitudinal analysis over snapshots, examine how the Instacart platform enables this kind of analysis, and cite some examples of insights pulled from the marketplace.

Traditionally, the vast majority of data available to manufacturers in the grocery industry came from third-parties who either aggregated Point-of-Sale (POS) and transaction log data, collected email receipts from consumers who had granted them permission, or supplied consumers with a scanner and incentivized them to scan the products they buy.

Manufacturers use this data to perform several functions, including tracking category and brand performance to understand issues, make collaborative decisions with their retail customers and align strategies, stack rank opportunities, and communicate their performance externally.

With transaction log (TLOG) data, a manufacturer can see where their products are selling, for how much, in what quantities, and what departments they’re being sold in. TLOG data from individual receipts also show what else the consumer bought on the same shopping trip, how much they spent, the average price point, how the consumer paid for their order, and the date and time of day they bought the items.

TLOG data offers brands insight into consumer preferences. A large shop with vegetarian alternatives and plant-based proteins points to a vegetarian consumer, dog food and treats points to a dog owner, all meat, fruit, and vegetables with no bread suggests a keto diet. Sometimes the receipt also holds valuable information about the shopping mission — large orders that hit many departments and include common staples could indicate a household shop, while a basket with hotdogs, burgers, buns, and charcoal could indicate a weekend BBQ.

Traditional TLOG data and receipts offer individual snapshots of one moment in a consumer’s shopping journey. Without knowing anything about the consumer, analysts cannot tie their receipts together, and lose a very valuable dimension to the data — time.

The Instacart Insight
Instacart has one of the most rich and diverse sources of aggregated POS and TLOG data in the country. This diverse and deep set of data comes from the panoply of retailers — from local favorites, to regional chains, to national grocers. We aggregate and anonymize that data in a comprehensive way so brands can understand the scale of their business across 45,000 stores in North America.

With aggregated data from millions of receipts, we can understand how things are bought, recognize different shopping missions, basket affinities, and basket penetration; we can measure how ‘leaky’ a brand’s bucket is — the percentage of consumers who repeat purchase their items versus those who buy once and never again; and we can see aggregate consumer trends.

With our data, we can perform longitudinal analysis to solve the problem of traditional TLOG data in isolation being just a snapshot. Because our analysts have insight into the full customer journey — from search through checkout on regular shopping trips — they can link receipts together to better understand consumer shopping habits over time.

With longitudinal analysis, our analysts can better understand shop frequency, restock frequency, how often items are purchased together, how often items are purchased on sale, and how often coupons are used. They can also more easily track long-term changes in consumer behavior.

For brands that partner with us, we provide insights and analysis on their products based on this rich, diverse data set. Unlike traditional third-party aggregators and data providers, where CPGs have to spend non-working dollars to get access, brands can leverage the working dollars they are spending to advertise on the Instacart marketplace to access a wealth of reports and insights.

Get started today and unlock your Instacart insights.

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Instacart is the leading grocery technology company in North America, partnering with more than 1,400 national, regional, and local retail banners to deliver from more than 80,000 stores across more than 14,000 cities in North America. To read more Instacart posts, you can browse the company blog or search by keyword using the search bar at the top of the page.

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