Quri Assembles Mobile Army Of In-Store Auditors

Smartphone-ShiftsMuch of the discussion about the role of smartphones at retail involves tales of “showrooming” or customer poaching as consumers arm themselves with a new class of mobile shopping weaponry. But what if those hordes of smartphone-wielding deal-hunters were also doing market intelligence on behalf of the major brands? The mobile startup Quri is attempting to change the polarity of mobile media at retail by leveraging all of those shoppers as potential auditors of whether -- and how -- brands are being promoted at the retail level.

In its new program that just emerged from beta this week, Quri is promising consumers cold, hard cash for delivering the right in-store intelligence, and it is promising brands a way to audit their promotions in real-time.

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Consumers can download the free EasyShift iPhone app and take on assignments at local retail outlets. “You can monetize those everyday experiences,” explains co-founder John Mecklenburg. For two-minute assignments we will remunerate them from $1 to $20 for answering some questions, recording a price or snapping a photo.” The location-aware app finds the retailers in your area from which brands want data.

The assignments can be quite involved. We were offered $2 to do an “Ebergy Drink Audit” at the nearby Walgreens. The assignment involved taking five photos of specific brands of drinks on the shelf, rating the stock level and declaring which brands were displayed best and worst in a case.

The payback for consumers is quick, Mecklenburg says. “Every night we run payroll through PayPal, so the consumer is rewarded on a daily basis.”

For the brands, which have already run hundreds of intelligence campaigns when Quri was in beta, they get real-world data from major markets on how their products are being priced and positioned at retail. For the Nestle’s Dreyer ice cream brand, Quri helped them monitor the launch of a new product line on the day and hour it started. Mecklenburg explains that the ad campaign and point-of-sale promotion was considerable, including couponing and freezer cling signage. The product was shipped to go on sale on a Wednesday morning, at which point the field force of EasyShift users was offered the assignment to visit the stores and report back that morning on the product’s availability and price. “What Dreyer could do with that information is react in real-time to address inconsistencies or errors that had occurred,” he says.

The beta test involved 15 metro areas, but with the opening of the program to all, Quri is expecting to have coverage in 35 of the top 50 markets within the next ten days. They control the size and quality of the auditor base by only allowing remuneration for perfectly completed surveys and by promoting the best “EasyShifters” to the more advanced and lucrative assignments. Local and national leaderboards for points accrued by the best auditors add a gaming element as well.

While all of the dozen or so clients Quri has on board are brands, Mecklenburg says he is talking to retailers about how having armies of customer auditors is not a threat. “The discussion among consumer brands and retailers that needs to be had is something that Quri facilitates. It is how to improve the consumer experience.”

The 8-person startup is a year and a half old and has raised $4.2 million in funding from Catamount Ventures and Simon Equity Partners. 

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