Nielsen National Consumer Panel is most famously known for their Nielsen Television Ratings. But this review has nothing to do with that. This is an overview of their consumer panel where you are rewarded with cash and prizes to scan the bar codes of the items you buy at the grocery store using the hand held scanner they sent you.
If you have been thinking about joining them, this NCP review will help you decide whether its worth your time or not.
Nielsen the Company
Nielsen, which also happens to be one of the most renowned names in market research, is the creator of this panel. The NCP (National Consumer Panel) is the result of collaboration between the IRI (known formerly as the Symphony IRI Group) and the Nielsen Company.
USA members of this joint venture have access to a unique barcode reader that they can use to scan the barcodes on all the products they buy.
This program was, before the joint venture formation and the merging of both the companies’ prevalent panels, known by the name HomeScan Consumer Panel.
The panel conducts research in the markets of the USA and Canada. In fact, the panel continues to be known as Nielsen HomeScan Consumer Panel in the Canadian market.
This National Consumer Panel represents people belonging to every part and demographics of America. When a member scans the barcode on his/her purchase and completes the subsequent surveys, he/she raises the impact of consumer voices in the market.
BBB Rating & Review
As you would expect from a company of this magnitude, Nielsen is a BBB Accredited Business (it has been since early 2010). It also gets an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.
As far as complaints against the company go, there are a total of 44 documented complaints, of which all have been dealt with according to the BBB.
How It Works?
The panel is open to residents of only the USA and Canada. Interested members have to first sign-up with the site, which although free may take a while owing to the so-called waiting list.
It turns out that there are many people out there wanting to get into the panel and get themselves those little barcode scanners, just the way I did when I started. But I don’t remember waiting before being let in, so, would advise interested readers to simply get in when the opening arises (I’ll make sure to update here whenever the sign-up link is active from their side).
Like other survey panels, here too you can take surveys for monetary compensation. However, the difference here is that this panel also sends you a handheld barcode scanner to scan (at home of course) all purchases you make from grocery stores.
Nielsen has been a known collector of consumer data and this seems to be yet another version of the same. I recollect the company monitoring the web surfing and TV viewing habits of consumers for certain programs (known as Nielsen ratings).
You can start off by first filling out the questionnaire made available and in case the information you provided fits, a handheld barcode scanner will be dispatched to you completely free of charge.
With this scanner, you are required to scan every purchase you make followed by uploading details of the same to Nielsen via your computer once every week.
For the products you buy, information that has to be entered by you manually includes the store, quantity, price, and special deals if any.
This weekly data that you and millions of others like you send to the company is used to get an accurate account of measures like market penetration, loyalty for manufacturing clients, and the average weight of your purchase. As compensation for this scanning service, members earn themselves “rewards points”.
How Does the Scanning Process Work?
All you need to do is use the scanner on the barcode information that all items you buy in a grocery contain. This might sound too simple but it actually isn’t.
For starters, the panel wants to know how much quantity you bought of a particular item and whether you used a discount coupon in the process.
For items bought from certain stores, the prices tend to show up automatically. But for stores where they don’t, you have to enter the prices by yourself. For this reason, you should ensure that the receipt for those items is within your reach when scanning.
For every item that you scan, your account with Nielsen gets credited points.
At the end of the week, all the data stored in that scanner has to be sent to Nielsen. This is to be done by connecting the scanner to your computer and pressing a couple of buttons on the former to enable the transmission of all information to Nielsen.
This entire exercise can be wrapped up in a matter of minutes.
Although the handheld barcode scanner is free, you are required to return it to the panel the day you are no longer interested in continuing your participation.
Once you decide to end the participation, the panel will post you some prepaid return shipping labels that you need to use to send back the scanner. This is why it’s a good idea to keep the scanner’s original box intact.
After you complete a transmission for the week, your account is credited with “points’ that you can later redeem for prizes from the NCP catalog.
This catalog has a variety of prizes to choose from (every 1000 points get you $1 so you are compensated around 15 cents for week’s scanning work).
The amount of points you earn is dependent on the duration of your membership with the panel. Also, members who are religious with their weekly submissions stand to earn bonuses.
Lastly, NCP conducts periodic sweepstakes, where a single week’s transmission equates to a single entry for a member.
The minimum cashing out balance for NCP is $20.
My Experience with the Panel
Initially, I thought the whole idea of getting your own little barcode scanner was really cool and it would be fun to use it to scan all the purchases I make while earning points for doing the same.
Sure, scanning all the groceries I bought was fun for quite a few weeks but then I got over the excitement to the point where the whole exercise started appearing like a tedious chore! I’d simply wish to stack my groceries where they belonged quickly without wasting time scanning each and every one of them.
Also, for all the time I was putting into scanning and transmitting my collected data, the compensation through the catalog was simply not good enough.
The catalog usually included basic stuff for the house, some toys, and things like that. Gift cards and similar stuff were nowhere to be seen.
After a while, I simply stopped with the whole thing. However, I know for a fact that the panel now also offers gift cards in return for the accumulated points.
Consequently, I also sent back the scanner. The process was quite easy as I simply pasted the return sticker (present in the package originally) on the box before FedEx picked it up from my home.
A week later, I received a letter from the panel thanking me for my time. However, there was also a very nice small gift for me. The entire manner in which the returns process was handled by NCP was quite pleasing.
This should act as good encouragement to all those wanting to try their hands with NCP as there really isn’t much to lose in case they don’t like it. But just remember to keep the original box with you as it ensures the returns process is as easy as possible.
For me personally, it wasn’t worth spending all that time for such a small reward, but for you it may be different. So, I would suggest, if you are interested, go ahead and join the Nielsen National Consumer Panel, get your handheld scanner, use it for a while and see how you feel about it. After all, there is no cost involved.
If you like it, continue on, if not simply return the scanner and move on with your life. As I mentioned earlier in this review, That is exactly what I did.