Software giant IBM is launching a mobile app that offers retailers and brands insight into why some promotions work and some don’t.

The app is ostensibly being launched to let shoppers see detailed information about supermarket products by simply panning their smartphone camera along the shelf. Using augmented reality, the app can display the ingredients, issue coupons - or even tell you if your friends liked it.

“When you focus on a product area, the requested data will flash up - nutritional info, for example,” said IBM European smarter commerce solution consultant James Lovell. “A shopper could even see what their friends have said on Facebook about a product and make a purchasing decision based on that.”

However, the app would also provide valuable information to retailers and brands as to why the shopper chose one product over another, he said. “In a store environment, it’s easy to see what sells, but difficult to monitor what products are being looked at.

“This app will allow retailers to accurately see inside the decision-making process. Knowing the products people look at but don’t buy is just as important as knowing the ones they do. Retailers can evaluate whether there is something wrong with its pricing structure, or store placement. It gives them advanced analytics pre-purchase.”

The success of promotions was often determined by sales rather than pre-purchase decision-making, he added. “Brands will be interested in the analytics this app will generate to understand the effectiveness of a promotion.”

A spokeswoman for IBM said the release date and price for the worldwide app, which has the working title of Augmented Reality Mobile Shopping App, is still being finalised.