A customer revolution is happening.
“Customers have more power, more control, more ability to impact brands in a more significant way than ever before because of mobile, social, and the cloud,” explains Andrew Reid, Vision Critical’s founder.
Vision Critical’s cloud-based customer intelligence platform allows companies to create communities of engaged customers that can be tapped to gain continuous, real-time feedback and insight into a brand, product, or process across an enterprise. Through building meaningful ongoing relationships, customers essentially become advisors to a company.
Vision Critical created their first insight community for a running shoe company in 2002. A lot has changed since then, as customers in the information age have become more empowered and companies more customer-centric.
The company targets large enterprise clients across all verticals, from automotive to fashion to health care. The value of the platform transcends categories, as every type of company needs to have an affordable mechanism for getting feedback from their customers.
“We develop private communities, which are groups of customers that brands work with to have ongoing conversations so that they can help make better decisions,” Reid says.
There are now over 750 communities that being powered by Vision Critical’s software platform. Those communities have impressive engagement. On average, Reid claims, the participation rate is around 40%.
“High engagement, high levels of trust, and through that, you can really drive a lot of change,” Reid says.
In order to compete today, big brands need to collaborate with their customers on an ongoing basis in order to understand and meet their needs. Molson Coors provides an example. The company has created a community dubbed the BeerXchange, consisting of approximately 700 “loyal beer drinkers” that have been segmented according to the different Molson brands. The organic conversations surrounding beer provide emergent value, and access to advocates, or ‘true fans’, who provide insights that get acted upon.
“One of the biggest benefits of the BeerXchange is the ROI,” says Amber Hudson, member of the Consumer Insights team at Molson in a Vision Critical case study. “We actually pay a third of what we normally would pay if we were to go out and do each study individually.”
Another high profile Vision Critical customer is Boston Pizza, which has the BP Test Kitchen consisting of over 13,000 members. Launched in 2013, estimates from their case study put the number of responses they have gained from their numerous surveys at over 61,000.
When a company has hundreds of thousands of people giving feedback and ideas every day, it is difficult to decide what trade-offs to make in a product. These communities help to vet and prioritize that feedback. The communities allow product managers to work through a sea of data, make sense of it, and prioritize how they drive their products forward, or ensure that a message will resonate with their broader target audience.
“[Community members] want to participate because they’re intrinsically motivated, because they actually care about the brand, they want to impact the brand,” says Reid. “If we can give them an experience that matches the experience that you have every day when you’re on Facebook or you’re using other connectivity tools that actually feels intuitive and feels friendly and approachable, you can really create a great connection, and through that connection you can get those genuine, honest opinions and that feedback that you want to help drive great decisions,” says Reid.
In marketing automation and optimization, Vision Critical’s software has a unique place within a complete marketing tech stack, the set of software tools used to manage data of your business designed to automate and optimize your marketing efforts.
“I think there’s a great opportunity, and we’re seeing that, more and more, for Vision Critical and the insight community platform we have to sit right in the middle of that stack to help inform a lot of the outreach and a lot of the outgoing programs that marketers have going on, their activations, and also to be able to supplement the feedback mechanisms that are already existing in the organization, and to be able to really drive a lot deeper,” says Reid.
The next year is rumored to be an interesting one for the company. Just this week, news broke of Vision Critical hiring BMO in advance of a potential IPO.