Cathie Anderson

Davis’ Engage3 to expand app’s reach by enlisting users to track grocery prices

Tens of thousands of shoppers call upon the ShoppingScout app, launched by Davis-based Engage3 in May, to find the best retail price for their groceries, so when CEO Kenneth Ouimet wanted to extend the reach of the app, he thought about all the people already taking it into stores.

In the next month or two, Ouimet said, the Engage3 team will be enlisting ShoppingScout community to audit prices, allowing the company to more rapidly expand the stores it covers.

“We’ll give consumers a mission of prices to collect in different stores,” Ouimet explained, “and they’ll go in on like a treasure hunt for different items, and they’ll report the prices of those items, and we’ll pay them for doing that. It might be in the form of a retailer’s gift card that they get .... This will allow us to fill out our database faster, and our app then will be a make-money, save-money app.”

Right now, ShoppingScout reports prices at roughly 30,000 stores owned by 10 to 12 chains. Consumers create shopping lists, compare prices and choose stores where they will make a purchase. On the sellers’ side, manufacturers and retailers get advance notice of products they will sell and the supply they’ll need on hand. They are never given a shopper’s personal information, but they receive enough data to understand what price and product attributes will motivate each individual to buy.

What gluten-free products is a shopper buying? Is there a price point that motivates a shopper to purchase an organic apple? Did the retailer lose a sale because of price or product attribute?

Engage3 has created a whole new niche with the ShoppingScout app, according to IDC Retail Insight analyst Greg Girard, something that he calls “participatory commerce.” Ouimet describes the ShoppingScout app as Commerce 3.0 because it goes beyond sites such as Priceline where consumers help to set the price. It gives manufacturers and retailers insight into what consumers intend to buy, he said.

“We give the consumer an agent, and the manufacturers and retailers get agents, and then the agents negotiate,” Ouimet said. “A Raley’s agent, for example, could see the shopper is going to Costco to buy their monthly shopping, and then they’re going to Raley’s to fill in other items .... Raley’s can step in to make an offer to bring in all those items and save the consumer a trip to Costco.”

The app is free. Engage3 earns revenue by selling the data to retailers and manufacturers. Ouimet and his brother Timothy Ouimet seeded the company in 2008. Reared in Citrus Heights, they are tech entrepreneurs who became millionaires after selling their first company, KhiMetrics, to the German multinational SAP. To market ShoppingScout and expand nationally, the Ouimets are currently working to raise $10 million in the company’s first-ever round of venture financing. One investor is The McClatchy Co., owner of The Bee and 28 other newspapers.

Although Engage3 is trying to raise the profile of its app nationwide, it’s well-known in Davis where Mayor Dan Wolk will proclaim Wednesday to be ShoppingScout Day.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee