Why Default Scanner Data Won’t Help You

Scanner data companies like Nielsen, IRI, and SPINS love to default to Year-over-Year (YOY) time comparisons. Against every possible metric they have.


Because this involves the smallest amount of data released to any paying client, and it’s the least valuable possible information. It’s like the trailer to your business performance.

And data companies tend to monetize either the amount of data they give you OR the complexity of that data.

Or both. 

So, this is why your broker generally only has access to this crude YOY information. They don’t want to pay for more depth. 

But you need more depth.

The market-leading brands in most categories do NOT rely on YoY comps to manage their business. They purchase weekly data from Nielsen or IRI. That’s 52 columns per metric, not one. If this seems overwhelming, trust me, it is. That’s why they have brand management teams to manipulate it. 

The next level of default data from scanner companies will be a standard set of measures or metrics, which may not be what you need. Instead, these default measures are usually the least sophisticated. In some cases, they are unnecessary mathematical results of combining data from other primary measures (e.g., Average Price is simply $/unit). This is designed to upsell you the more valuable metrics. 

As a founder newer to the industry, you need to learn to ask for more granular data or JWYN. You also need to know to ask for 8-10 primary metrics (not calculated ones) that will help you diagnose the performance of your business and compare it to your premium competitors.  

You need to avoid paying for metrics that don’t apply to your current playbook (e.g., features and display promo info) or aren’t strategically that valuable given the Phase you’re in (e.g., incremental $ on a $1M business whose sales are volatile and for which no reliable baseline can be calculated).  

Scanner data is expensive, so you want to get it right early. As early as possible to provide competitive insight into your business. This Friday, I’ll share my Top Tips for getting this right. It’s a preview of my on-demand POS analytics course, if you simply want to jump to the end! 

Dr. James Richardson

[email protected]