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Observa CEO Hugh Holman using the company's app in a grocery store. Image via Observa.
Observa CEO Hugh Holman using the company’s app in a grocery store. Image via Observa.

Grocery stores don’t just place items on the shelf randomly. Food producers negotiate for prime placement, working with stores to get the box of cereal or can of soup right at eye level so it’s the first thing you see when walking down the aisle.

But representatives from Kellogg’s and Campbell’s can’t check every store to make sure those placement deals are being honored. Seattle-based startup Observa uses local shoppers to help brands ensure stores are properly displaying their products — and the company just raised $575,000 to help spread the word.

Here’s how it works: Brands like the Craft Brew Alliance and Raven’s Brew Coffee request a report from Observa, who then alert everyday shoppers of the opportunity through a smartphone app. Those users then take pictures of store displays and answer a few questions about what they see, and then get paid for their work, as much as $15 per in-store check.

observa app“The value of precise, real-time data is new and exciting,” said Observa founder and CEO Hugh Holman, “as most brands only receive stale and very basic sales data that does not allow them to rapidly grow sales in the current period. Knowing that a product is not on the shelf or that a promotion is not in place is empowering.”

He said there’s value for both companies and users. While brands get a quick turnaround for in-store analysis, users also get paid quickly for their work.

“Our app users, or ‘Observers,’ love Observa because, unlike some companies in the social economy, Observa pays within 24 hours for each submitted and validated observation,” Holman said.

The startup was founded in 2015. This round of funding, which is coming from undisclosed investors, will be used to get more observers into the app and more companies using the platform to gain in-store feedback.

Users can sign up to be observers through the app, which is available on iOS and Android.

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