When It Comes To Receipts, One Shopper’s Junk Is A Data Company’s Treasure

The slang phrase “I’ve got the receipts” has become a way to declare oneself the indisputable winner of an argument.

Mobile shopping and analytics companies are learning to love the term as well.

As image scanning and recognition software improves and the value of shopper data shoots up, a growing industry is devoted to accessing customer receipts before they end up in the garbage.

Clients tend to be CPG brands, which lack in-store sales visibility but still rely on retail foot traffic.

Receipts also expose stock-keeping unit (SKU) data, meaning sales are confirmed down to the specific inventory unit, whereas massive third-party retail data sources, such as Kantar Shopcom and Nielsen, tend to aggregate store sales at a category level. The difference between confirming sales for “Tropicana no-pulp orange juice with calcium” and “Tropicana” or “orange juice” is significant for brand managers.

AdExchanger examined the access points and monetization angles for companies building a business on direct receipt data.

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Nielsen Catalina Solutions (NCS)

As the receipt industry OG, NCS goes straight to the source by pulling anonymized shopping records from receipt printing machines, a hardware category dominated by Catalina, which co-owns NCS as a joint venture with Nielsen.

NCS started off in 2009 as a pure-play attribution company, but in the past couple of years has taken strides into the ad tech ecosystem. By matching first-party CPG data with its in-store sales stream, NCS assembles audiences segments it can push out programmatically via data onboarders like LiveRamp/Acxiom, Neustar and the Nielsen Marketing Cloud, as well as via direct integrations with The Trade Desk, AppNexus, Turn and WPP’s Xaxis.

NCS expects its burgeoning programmatic business to bring in $20 million to $25 million this year and accounts for almost 25% of the company’s overall revenue, Alec Rivera, its VP of programmatic strategy and enablement, told AdExchanger earlier this year.

Though measurement deals for new addressable channels – namely, NCS’ early TV measurement partners: Comcast, Charter, Altice USA, Dish and AT&T – represent a potentially higher growth opportunity than programmatic segmenting, according to NCS CRO Andrew Feigenson.

“Measurement is undervalued in data-driven marketing right now compared to, say, segmenting or ad serving,” he said, “in terms of the apportionment of every dollar spent on media.”


Ibotta is a mobile shopping app that offers cash back on purchases from its retail and brand partners in return for user receipts (either by linking a loyalty account or by scanning a receipt with the app).

Ibotta’s primary revenue source comes from its ability to promote deals or advertise to in-app shoppers.

In March, Ibotta debuted an attribution offering with its first advertising partner, the cross-device company Drawbridge, and the CPG company Del Monte. The data can be used probabilistically to measure in-store sales lift during a campaign, but Drawbridge can also match its CPG clients’ CRM data against Ibotta’s 20 million users to confirm when people it targeted bought a product in-store.

“As we build our media plan we consider a vendor’s capability to meet our objectives and all of our KPIs, which now often include sales measurement,” Jennifer Reiner, Del Monte’s director of marketing activation, told AdExchanger in March.

Ibotta’s add-on attribution service also underscores the value of capturing a receipt. While users upload a receipt to confirm purchases for products discounted by Ibotta, the app sees every item purchased and can offer attribution services to a broader set of CPG brands.

Slice Intelligence

Slice Intelligence was a startup incubated at Stanford that sought to gain access to receipts and shopper data primarily through email accounts. The Rakuten-owned company operates the Slice app, which pulls data from user inboxes to offer shopper management features like tracking packages, refunds on products if the price drops and consumer recall alerts.

Slice sells some inventory through its email management product and offers lookalike targeting profiles for Facebook advertising. But most of its revenue comes from market research reports, competing with Nielsen for consulting dollars.

The company gutted out the early growth stages, when it wasn’t scaled enough to offer analytics but had to build an app and acquire new users while pulling in limited ad revenue, said Slice marketing VP Jaimee Minney.

“It was always part of the plan,” she said. “Getting at sales data was very hard because you were reliant on retailers who may or may not have an incentive to share information, but almost everything shoppers do and buy is in their inbox now and we knew there was a trove of data there if we could get to it.”

The company has no in-store visibility and doesn’t accumulate any physical receipts, but Minney said its digital-only purchase data is more reliable because commercial image scanning technology is not 100% effective and many paper receipts have garbled or unreadable products.


MobiSave is a shopping app that offers cash back in return for receipts. The app’s CPG clients can target rebates to its users, whom it pays via PayPal after a purchase is confirmed by a scanned receipt.

“People like to save money,” said co-founder and CEO David Florence. “That’s why they would take out their scissors and clip coupons out of newspapers.”

Nowadays, instead of hunting print circulars for the right deals, people can outsource discounts to mobile data companies in return for access to their receipts.

Florence said camera quality and image-recognition software is good, but not perfect.

“Being able to read things in a receipt that you aren’t looking for isn’t trivial,” he said. “And there’s no universal dictionary for all the different ways individual retailers itemize receipts, which is a whole taxonomy of its own.”

MobiSave is testing an attribution product that would connect mobile ad audiences to purchases uploaded by its users.


Shopkick is a mobile app that gives consumers points, or “kicks,” in exchange for actions like entering a store, scanning items, linking a credit card or uploading a receipt. Kicks can be redeemed by users for prizes or gift certificates, and Shopkick monetizes the data through its ad tech business.

Uploading a receipt gets a user more kicks than any other action, and Shopkick CEO Bill Demas said the company has boosted the number of kicks offered in exchange for receipts several times in the past few months.

Since the beginning of the year, Shopkick has been working on a new business model, in which it reshapes into a “version of a DMP that has all this shopping data and can draw correlations between brand and retailers,” Demas said, “or between product affinities we see if a shopper who buys X tends to also buy Y.”

The eventual goal, Demas said, is to have a dashboard that brands or retailers can log into and see live sales lift for specific product SKUs or connect to a CRM to draw connections between their first-party data and Shopkick’s user data.

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