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Sony to turn receipt photos into sales trend data

Service will track 400,000 goods at 200 stores and offer makers deeper analysis

Sony's new tech can turn a trove of receipt pictures into detailed information about what sells well where, when and to whom.

TOKYO -- Sony will scour a wealth of receipt images to analyze sales trends for a swath of products across a range of retailers, expanding into the growing field of digital marketing as part of a broader innovation strategy.

The Japanese conglomerate will debut the service in August, targeting manufacturers and research firms as clients. Smartphone pictures of receipts will be examined and a proprietary cloud-based database will be consulted to match the goods listed on the receipts with Japanese product codes. The collected data will be analyzed to draw conclusions, such as what percentage of a new snack flavor sold at a given supermarket in a certain city.

Tracking such data across various stores has been difficult because the shops may record the same items differently on receipts. But Sony's service makes cross-store analysis possible. Sony-owned FeliCa Networks, which operates Japan's Osaifu-Keitai mobile payment service, developed the receipt parsing technology jointly with Yokohama-based Information System Products.

The roughly 400,000 targeted goods include food and daily-use products, as well as private-brand goods and prepared dishes from leading convenience stores and supermarkets. The service's database covers receipt notation across 200 retailers, and the operators aim to add more stores and products gradually.

The analysis will draw on receipt photos from sources such as household accounting apps and research companies. Besides determining what sold well where and the characteristics of buyers, the service also can show correlations such as between temperature and sales.

In many cases, producers of foods and daily goods have little information on purchases beyond point of sales data. This new breadth of precise information would let them fine-tune their marketing.

The operators aim eventually to link up with FeliCa's payment services to add compatibility with digital receipts.

Sony's earnings have been on the upswing. The conglomerate aims to pursue open innovation in new operations together with other companies, President and CEO Kazuo Hirai said. This foray with FeliCa into digital marketing fits with that strategy.


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