data visualisation_S

Consumer research goes granular

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

Co-founder and CEO of Vase, Julie Ng had said, “We launched the platform in March 2020, and throughout this pandemic, we’ve seen significant increases in inquiries for the Vase.ai platform. This is because understanding consumer behaviour is especially valuable when the market is dynamic and uncertain.”

Enterprise IT News chats with Julie about what the Vase platform is.

EITN: You wanted to make a point that consumer shift in behaviour cannot be simply categorised into pre- and post- pandemic, that there is a state of flux one needs to take into consideration. Is it accurate to say your proposal to overcome this is a 24-hour turn around time platform to verify predicted consumer behaviour? Please explain exactly how to validate consumer insights, and the time frames to use.

The pandemic is a watershed, however, not every consumer behaviour has changed completely between pre-pandemic and post-pandemic. It is important to have a multi-dimensional perspective when analysing data. Jumping into a conclusion based on a single data point is always risky. 

Let me share a data point: Research back in March 2019, which is considered as pre-pandemic, suggested that 87% eat out weekly. Fast-forwarding to July 2020 last year, we found that only 12% of Malaysians ate out during the height of uncovering Covid at the early ending of MCO1.0. And 6 months later in December 2020: 39% have eaten out. 

The key here is not to focus on just 1 dimension of pre- and post-pandemic but looking deeper into the data point will reveal that other dimensions at play including government restrictions during a different phase of post-pandemic, consumer sentiment of whether or not it’s safe to go out and the consumer psychological changes after being indoor for a period of time. 

Imagine for a F&B or FMCG company, the company would make vastly different decisions if they have all 3 data points versus just a pre- and post-pandemic data point. Companies who have seen the 12% eat out data point would likely have a more pessimistic outlook while the one seeing the 39% data would have a more optimistic view and come to a different solution for their business.

Due to the constant influx of change from government restrictions to consumer sentiment, it becomes essential to have continuous data streaming in for businesses to have a multi-dimensional perspective instead of just a snapshot of the event which may lead to a wrong conclusion. 

Our solution is built around equipping decision-makers with the platform that enables them to have continuous data streaming & capture multi-dimensional data across time so it helps them to make a more informed decision. Some decision-makers need to make a decision within 1 week, some 1 month, and some may have more time on their hands. We’ve built the platform from the ground up to gather live data from real people in as fast as 24 hours so that they can look at that data and be able to confirm the behaviour at that specific time frame that they care about.  

EITN: When your report “The Next Normal” was released in July, how relevant will it be, since you say behaviour is in constant flux? Are there some factors that we can still reliably predict over a certain duration of time, and what might these factors be?

Julie: With behaviours changing drastically due to multiple factors, we believe it’s important to capture data across multiple timeframes in order to deliver a more accurate picture. 

COVID-19 brings a paradigm shift, consumers all over the world are forced to change their patterns. With that, past data from before the pandemic is now legacy data, and increasingly irrelevant. Which patterns stayed the same, and which new patterns emerged when looking across a statistically balanced representative group of ASEAN consumers?

There are several assumptions that we can safely make in terms of planning the future, whether it’s business or personal: (1) vaccination is going to be the prevailing agenda for governments to curb the pandemic in the short to mid-term and (2) in terms of economy, reflation will be the primary fiscal policy goal. These two are the major anchor point that we are looking at when we are planning ahead. 

For example, we help one of our F&B clients discover that due to COVID, there is an influx of 16% of new households cooks in the market.

This is a new and significant segment in the market that opens up new growth opportunities for our client to introduce products specifically for this segment.

Although the percentage of 16% new household cooks might shift once dining-in is allowed again, it’s worth looking deeper into how likely these 16% population would continue to cook as they have this new habit. 

This is a huge opportunity for those who are capable of analysing the relevant data, and using that to prepare their business ahead.

By capitalising on the updated data, businesses would be able to bring a positive impact and make informed and calculated risks in their decision making. 

EITN: Am I to understand that Vase.ai has customised their existing platform that predicts 1-2 months behaviours, into a platform that caters for shorter durations?

Julie: Ash (my co-founder) and I actually started out building a digital-first research consultancy. In the span of 3 years, we grew that consultancy business into one of Malaysia’s top digital-first consumer research agencies,with clients like Grab to Digi to policy think-tanks.

As we grew the consultancy, we constantly automated processes in the backend, from client servicing, to report generation, to data collection and analysis.

We built a whole bunch of internal tools that enabled our researchers to analyse and dive deep into reports. At same time continuously reduced the time it took for us to gather the data.

We also started noticing a trend. Because of our speed and reach, we were attracting clients who had a totally new use case. Not just the usual annual or quarterly brand reviews, but concept testing, product packaging design testing, storyboard and variation testing. The kind of use cases that typically can’t wait 2 months, but a week turnaround time makes it worthwhile to do.

Ash (my co-founder) and I actually started out building a digital-first research consultancy, and in the span of 3 years, we grew that consultancy business into one of Malaysia’s top digital-first consumer research agencies.

These clients inspired us to rethink research, to imagine, “what if we could make accurate, statistically-representative consumer research as easy as a Google search?” Clients were relying on their gut and Google because there was nothing nimble and fast enough for their needs.

So we set out to build that, and pour all our knowledge and experience from our over 500 successful research campaigns into it, and that is what the Vase.ai Platform is.

EITN: May I know where Vase.ai gathers their fresh sets of consumer data from?

Julie: We’re firmly opposed to the current trend of shady and extractive data practices and datasets being sold without the knowledge of the consumer.

The truth is, when you treat consumers fairly instead of trying to steal their data without them knowing, they are more willing to share honest opinions with you, and our internal benchmarks show this to be true.

As such, the only ethical way to get our data was to go directly to the consumer. We built our own respondents base from the ground up, and we make sure to reward them fairly for the data they share.

Respondents typically sign-up via our respondents portal at https://getvase.com and then they go through a couple of identity validation steps to ensure we have no bad actors creating duplicate accounts.

EITN: Please share about the significance and role of your platform and solutions, for businesses to be able to allocate resources moving forward.

Julie: Research is typically seen as something only those who have an extra budget are able to afford. And that is the case with traditional consumer research today, which is why you see consumer research being a staple only at larger corporates and MNCs.

We do see that this trend of companies being more data-driven will keep on growing as markets are more competitive than ever as we move the competition landscape to mainly online and within the screens of everyone’s devices.

That’s why we built the Vase.ai Platform to be pay-what-you-use from the ground up. No more one-size-fits-all package deals with RM30,000 (USD7100) minimum buy. You pay for the number of qualified responses you need, and the number of questions you ask. Smaller budgets are no longer a limitation to deeply understanding consumer behaviour so you can make the right business decision.   

What’s great to see is the validation that our model works. We launched the platform in March 2020, and throughout this pandemic, we’ve seen significant increases in inquiries for the Vase.ai platform. This is because understanding consumer behaviour is especially valuable when the market is dynamic and uncertain.

We do see that this trend of companies being more data-driven will keep on growing. As markets are more competitive than ever as we move the competition landscape to mainly online and within the screens of everyone’s devices. Marketers nowadays have to work very hard just to retain their current market share position. For eg. Using just promotion as a mechanism to deliver more growth to the company is limited and not sustainable.

As more companies understand that promotion shouldn’t be their primary toolbox to drive growth, more of them are tapping into other means such as building brand engagement, launching new product concepts that are more fitting the current consumer needs and all those require more consumer data to validate their new ideas. 

Consumers want to share feedback with businesses about the products they love, but they want to do it on their terms, and they don’t want to be exploited. With the Vase.ai platform, we’ve built a way for businesses of all sizes and governments to do just that.