Marketers need to have the right skill sets and confidence to make informed decisions about their company’s business goals and targeted audience. However, most companies don’t have the resources to understand their target markets enough to make the right decisions.
Companies usually shun market research as it can cost more than traditional marketing. However, they shouldn’t underestimate the power of market research as it can take businesses to a whole new level in knowing their customers or target markets. Investing in and applying data and market research in strategic planning can bring a positive impact on business goals.
With that, Vase.ai was created on December 2015 to solve that problem of: “Do we know whether consumers want the product that we’re about to build?”
Star Studded Team
Vase.ai was founded by three co-founders; Julie is the CEO and is no stranger to the startup scene as she had previously run two startups before this. She was also the COO in one of Malaysia’s IT Hardware store chains.
Asyrique—who is the CTO—has past experience in scaling web apps to 10 million users while he was just an intern at a lab in New York. He also sits on the MDEC Digital Experts Panel, advising Malaysian universities on their computer science curriculum to better meet the needs of a Digital Malaysia.
Thirdly is Zhen, the COO who manages respondents operations, design, and analytics. Before Vase.ai, he had started his own profitable businesses when he was just 15. At age 17, he was selected to be one of the participants for a Stanford Graduate School of Business program focusing on business modeling. At age 19, he got into algorithmic trading and traded up to USD1 million monthly.
Although the founding team seems well qualified to lead the way, Vase.ai didn’t have an easy start as some might think. Zhen explained, “We started out wanting to empower all entrepreneurs to be able to validate their ideas affordably and quickly.”
They originally thought that they would be serving startups and SMEs but they didn’t get much positive feedback from them as SMEs did not have the budget to do consumer research and would rather prioritise spending on sales & marketing.
Within their first six months of operations, enterprises started knocking on their doors asking for the solution that they built, and that was when they began pivoting towards acquiring large enterprises as their main customers.
So far, they have worked with big brands such as Digi, Unilever, Prudential, Baskin Robbins and many more.
All About Numbers
Since its establishment, they have registered over 250,000 users on the platform, however they don’t count the active rate as a key metric as not all 250,000 users are invited to participate in the surveys they send out.
“But what we can say is that we’re able to collect thousands of survey responses from consumers in hours,” claimed Zhen.
As for their customer base, they have so far served over one hundred different customers over the years and most of them are repeat customers.
The numbers seem great, but it didn’t come easily as the team had to work hard to get brands to trust them especially when they didn’t have any connections to the industry when Vase.ai first started.
“Getting our first few big brands on board and trusting us required us to do a lot of convincing and deep discounting, but it’s worth it in the end as it snowballs and allows us to earn trust easily from new prospective customers,” he explained.
It was mainly because brands were still new to data collection through online medium compared to offline mediums and doubted its abilities. Zhen said, “They feel like they can’t touch, see and feel the people, and that makes them uneasy.”
Traditionally, researchers used to collect data with pen and paper and most of them still do. Other than that, they would also pay people to get down to the ground and ask people to answer surveys for them, which was how data was originally collected since the industry was born.
However, the traditional method had many problems associated with it as data had to be transferred from pen and paper to a spreadsheet or tabulation tool, where it’s hard to keep all the records consistent and is hard to be held accountable.
“Whereas in the digital environment, these problems are non-existent, and data quality is miles ahead of what the status quo is providing,” Zhen added.
As respondents get paid a small fee to participate, although there might be some respondents who try to cheat the system so that they can get more returns, Zhen mentioned that there is no way to manipulate the results.
“Sometimes, there are a small amount of respondents who do not take answering the surveys properly, and in this case we have identified certain patterns of answering based on multiple parameters such as time to complete, answering pattern, input text and others to remove these fraudulent responses from our analysis,” he explained.
However, to anyone reading this and thinking they can make bank by answering survey questions—most of the time, the returns for filling out the surveys are in the range of RM3 or below. It’s not a large amount, but for something that only takes about 5 to 10 minutes from the comforts of your own desk, it may be worth it to some.
Future Of Big Data
Personal data has become an issue of the latest scandals that happened with the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, where millions of users private information were exposed. Since, Vase.ai stores user data too, it could be a problem for privacy issues but Zhen mentioned that people shouldn’t be worried about how they operate.
“The differences are that FB is collecting information and sharing it with CA without users acknowledging it, whereas with our platform users are clearly providing us the data with them knowingly, exchanging their data in return for a reward,” he explained.
Users are actually getting paid for the data they knowingly provide, and opting out is as simple as choosing not to answer a survey.
“Looking at it from this perspective, we’re actually enabling our users to profit off the data they generate, which is much more honest and upfront than what happened in the FB/CA scandal,” added Zhen.
Zhen understands that being in this space there’s a lot of responsibility as they indirectly have a lot of power to influence the daily lives of people. Every single data that’s collected through the platform are used to make decisions that affect products, advertisements, brands and strategies.
Their current goal is to grow to become the leading digital consumer research and market measurement company in Southeast Asia. They’re hoping to hire the right people to join them on their mission to make human insights accessible instantly to everyone.
Image Credit: Vase.ai