Snap a photo of a receipt, get a rebate

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IT’S A NOVEL IDEA, taking a photo of one’s grocery receipt and uploading it to an app which will then give the user rebates ranging from a few centavos to P30. And it’s exactly this novel idea that Snapcart, a market analysis firm, quite a success in its current markets, Indonesia and the Philippines, boasting around half a million downloads.

Snap a photo of a receipt, get a rebate

“It’s very, very easy to see value. We’re one of the few apps which will actually give you money, most will ask you money,” Teresa Condicion, cofounder and chief data officer of Snapcart Asia, told BusinessWorld in a March 7 interview.

The idea for the app, which launched in August last year in the Philippines, stemmed from Ms. Condicion’s former work as a social director for market research at Procter & Gamble.

She described getting market data as a very manual process which entails data providers going to physical stores and counting inventory for a period and going back after a month or so and counting the remaining inventory once again.

“It takes two to three months to get to know the market,” she said.

In Snapcart, the company created a proprietary “advanced optical character recognition” technology which reads receipts automatically and inputs data in real-time to create shopper purchase data every week.

The technology is said to “extract every item on the receipt; collecting SKU names, prices, volumes, promotions, discounts, payment methods, branch location, store name, time of purchase and total value,” according to the company Web site.

The app accepts receipts from major supermarkets and grocery stores among others.

In Indonesia where Snapcart has been working since September 2015, most of the receipt-reading is done via its technology while the Philippines, at least half is still done manually because the technology is still learning.

Users are required to fill-up a demographic survey question which includes asking the number of family members and typical buying behavior — how often, and who often buys.

Ms. Condicion assured that users are afforded their privacy and none of their personal information beyond the survey questions is given to its clients.

Since the launch in August, she said Snapcart currently has “five paying clients” including Unilever, Nestlé, and L’Oreal.

Aside from the survey filled out once one registers for an account, the app regularly does other surveys such as “How do you react to promotions?” and “Why Shop?” to get more insights — in exchange for in-app currency (with no monetary value) to play more games within the app.

Currently, Snapcart has more than 20,000 active users in the Philippines. Active users, as defined by Ms. Condicion, are those who snap at least twice a month. Of course, those who snap at a more frequent pace are afforded “multipliers” depending on the number of receipts they capture.

Multipliers can increase the rebate as much as 1.5 times.

Unlike other apps where the more users they have the better, the company does not want a big user base as “beyond a point it doesn’t make it any more accurate.”

“Our business model is ensuring that we have enough or more than enough than what the current practice is,” she said adding that 20,000 users is a good number.

The app is not completely fraud-proof as Ms. Condicion acknowledged some users might be snapping other people’s receipts to get more rebates and they have put measures in place to ensure this does not skew the data.

Receipts that are more than a week old and those that appear at almost at the same time but are from different stores are some of the receipts rejected by the app.

Snapcart has set its sights not only on Asia but South America and Africa and is set to launch in another Southeast Asian country in the second half of the year though no date is set.

The aggressiveness of the company’s expansion will be determined by the success of the funding efforts — amount undisclosed — to occur in the middle of the year. — Zsarlene B. Chua