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 a limited number of 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.
You can see how National Consumer Panel compares to other paid survey sites in our Paid Survey Site Review.
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 Tuse NCP to collect data on consumer purchasing behavior for their clients in the manufacturing and retail industries. NCP is a very reputable company that is registered with the BBB and affiliated with CASRO.
Membership to NCP's panel is free, but NCP doesn't accept all new members' applications to join. NCP maintains a panel that is a representative sample of the U.S. population as a whole, so only a limited number of panelists are invited to participate based on their household demographics. To apply, you just need to submit your name, contact information, date of birth and some additional demographic background. Once you submit your information, NCP will then review your household demographics against the current needs of their panel. Please keep in mind that it can take some time to be accepted (about 5 weeks for me), but NCP will contact you by email as soon as a space on the panel opens up to confirm your continued interest in joining.
If you still want to join, you will then receive an email that confirms the shipment of your scanner (or your access to NCPMobile) and that provides you with your member ID, so you can log on to the members' area of ncponline.com. NCP will also send an instruction manual and a barcode reference booklet. The scanner or app will already be programmed with stores specific to your area, but you'll also receive a reference booklet on store names and types for additional convenience.
All legal US residents are eligible to participate in NCP, but please keep in mind that members are required 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.
Panelists primarily earn rewards for submitting their purchases on a weekly basis. Besides regular price scanning, Nielsen/IRI may also use the information they have on your household demographics and shopping habits to send you relevant paid surveys for any online research they are conducting on behalf of their clients. Since NCP has carefully chosen each of its members, you will qualify for all of the earning opportunities you receive. NCP also offers panelists the opportunity to earn rewards by participating in "NCP Connect", in which software is installed onto your home computer to monitor how you use the computer, how you use the internet and what you buy. For your participation, you will receive one entry into a special quarterly sweepstakes that awards 10 NCP Connect members a $500 Visa® prepaid card.
NCP compensates its panelists for their participation with gift points and with entries into weekly, monthly and quarterly sweepstakes. 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.
The points system is set up so that 7,200 gift points is roughly equal to about $10. The sweepstakes include:
You'll receive 1,000 gift points as a bonus when you sign up, and you will also have the opportunity to take a short welcome survey about the website for another 500 points. After that, you'll start receiving 150 gift points and sweepstakes entries for each weekly transmission you submit. Your weekly gift points will gradually increase over time, and the more often you submit your weekly purchases, the more gift points you can potentially earn and the more entries you'll receive into the various sweepstakes. Each weekly transmission will earn you one entry into the "Lucky Weeks Sweepstakes", the "Monthly Sweepstakes", the "Random Surprise & Delight Sweepstakes" and the "Pay for Your Shopping" sweepstakes. If you submit all of your purchases each week for a month, you'll receive an additional 350 points as a Super Scanner bonus, and you will also receive one entry into the quarterly "Super Scanner Sweepstakes". If you submit your purchases every week for an entire quarter, you'll also receive one entry into the quarterly "Grand Prix" sweepstakes and the "Ultimate Shopping Spree" sweepstakes. Lastly, NCP will also give you 250 bonus points on your birthday, 1,500 bonus points on your 3-month anniversary, 1,000 bonus points on your 6-month anniversary and 1,000 bonus points on your 1-year anniversary (and each year after that).
You will primarily access opportunities with NCP using your computer and scanner (or NCPMobile app). Access to the free mobile app is by invitation only, and it is currently only compatible for the iPhone, iPod Touch (with camera), and iPad2 (or above).
The scanner and the mobile app essentially work in the exact same way. After a shopping trip, you'll answer very basic questions about who the primary shopper was on the trip, whether anyone accompanied them, where they went shopping and if they used double or triple coupons. Then, you'll scan the barcode of each item that you purchased individually and enter the quantity purchased, price paid and any deals used. When you are done scanning, you'll enter the total cost of the trip, whether you used a frequent shopper card and how you paid (cash, check, credit, debit or other). NCP stresses that it is equally important to scan larger purchases as it is smaller purchases. Complete and consistent participation is essential to the success of their research.
You can redeem your gift points using NCP's online catalog (starting at 8,000 points) for a variety of merchandise (ex. appliances, electronics, sporting equipment, etc.) or gift cards (ex. iTunes, Jiffy Lube, Facebook, etc.). Gift points are also redeemable for charitable donations. After you've placed your order, your gift will arrive in about 6 – 8 weeks. Please note that gifts can only be shipped to physical addresses and not to P.O. boxes.
National Consumer Panel 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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