In 2009, the Nielsen Company and Information Resources, Inc. (IRI) announced they would be combining their Nielsen Homescan™ and IRI Consumer Network™ panels to form an operational joint venture known as the National Consumer Panel (NCP). Nielsen and IRI are two of the top market research companies in the US, and they use NCP to collect data on consumer purchasing behavior for their clients in the manufacturing and retail industries. NCP consists of 100,000 members, all of whom are selected based on their household demographics in order to create a representative sample of the US population as a whole. Therefore, it can sometimes take awhile to be accepted onto the panel because applicants have to wait until there is an opening for someone with their background.
Once accepted, NCP members are equipped with a scanning device (or mobile app) that they must use to record and transmit all of the purchases they make each week. Depending on how you shop, it could take between 10 - 20 minutes a week to scan items, and membership is contingent upon complete and consistent participation. If your logged purchases fall below normal for a household of your size and demographics, NCP reserves the right to cancel your membership and deny access to the mobile app or request that you return the scanner. Besides scanning everyday purchases, panelists may also be asked to participate in occasional online surveys or other types of studies/data collection.
For their participation, panelists are compensated with entries into sweepstakes and with gift points. Sweepstakes are run on a weekly, monthly and quarterly basis and give away prizes ranging from a $25 Visa® prepaid card to a brand-new car or a check for $20,000. In terms of gift points, you'll start by earning 150 points per transmission but can earn more points the longer you are on the panel and the more active you are. Gift points can be redeemed on NCP's website (once you have at least 8,000) for merchandise, gift cards or charitable donations. For the most part, you will access earning opportunities with NCP through your scanner or computer. Some panelists who have an iPhone (or other iOS device with a camera) may be invited to access NCPMobile, NCP's free downloadable mobile app, which they can use to scan purchases and participate in surveys.
We give National Consumer Panel an A-. NCP is a very reputable panel formed by two of the top market research companies in the US, and we would recommend it to anyone with extra time on their hands who wants to join a “voice of the consumer” panel. We had to deduct points because it is tedious and time-consuming to scan purchases (particularly if you shop at specialty stores or use a lot of coupons) and the number of gift points you earn for weekly transmissions is pretty pitiful. With that said, we’ve chosen to overlook the gift points and focus on the sweepstakes. Since NCP only has 100,000 members, your odds of winning one of the weekly, monthly or quarterly sweepstakes are significantly higher than they would be with most other panel companies. NCP gives away numerous prizes over the year ranging from $25 - $20,000, and we really like being a part of such an exclusive lotto.
NCP is a very reputable company that is registered with the BBB and affiliated with CASRO.It runs a professional, well-organized panel and offers reliable payouts, but it has received some mixed reviews online from panelists. While some people have really liked the program, others didn't think it was worth their time (or the wait). In my experience, it took about 5 weeks from the time I registered until I was selected to participate on the panel. My scanner arrived in perfect working order and was pretty straightforward to set up. The device itself is relatively small and unobtrusive, so I had hoped to keep it conveniently located in my kitchen, but, unfortunately, it isn't wireless and needs to be plugged into the wireless router in my office. At first, I found it difficult to remember to use it, but I eventually got into the routine of grabbing it before I started to unpack my groceries. The device is so easy to use that you almost don't even need the instruction manual, and the whole process becomes pretty mindless once you've figure out a scanning method that works for you. I personally like to unpack all of my groceries onto the countertop and then scan items as they appear on the receipt before putting them away. A few months into using the scanner, I was invited to try NCPMobile, which was free and easy to install on my phone. The app allows you to input your purchases by using your iPhone's camera to scan barcodes. Even though the functionality is essentially the same, I much prefer using my smartphone instead of the scanning device because the user interface is better and it makes inputting purchases significantly faster.
The bottom line, however, is that scanning all of the items you purchase each week is tedious and time-consuming. Most people complained that it just wasn't worth the effort, especially considering the pitiful number of gift points earned for each transmission. Spending 10 - 20 minutes a week for 150 points? Let's face it, you'd probably earn more money just by checking under your couch cushions. With that said, we still really like NCP and recommend it to anyone who is interested in participating in a "voice of the customer" panel so long as they have extra time they can devote to scanning their purchases each week. Even though you won't earn much in the way of gift points, your odds of winning one of their weekly, monthly or quarterly sweepstakes are significantly higher given the limited number of panelists. It's almost like being a part of an exclusive lotto with multiple chances to win prizes ranging from $25 to $20,000. If you don't have a very busy schedule, we would encourage you to try the scanner for a while to see how you like it. NCP includes a prepaid return label with the scanner in the original box, so you can easily return it if you decide that the panel just isn't for you.
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