Vancouver-based community insight specialists Vision Critical announced today the release of an enhancement of Sparq, their cloud-based customer intelligence platform, as well as their first mobile application, called Engage.
Vision Critical’s platform is already in use by companies like Adobe, DEWALT, and Univision Communications, who can use the platform to gather customer intelligence in 14 languages, allowing users access to community metrics that focus on size, demographics and level of engagement.
“We’ve been able to get a unique perspective on the habits and traditions of the U.S. Hispanic community and culture,” said vice president of Corporate Research at Univision Belia Jimenez. “I’m especially excited that Vision Critical’s new mobile application, Engage, offers in-the-moment engagement opportunities since this will allow us to connect with our digital-savvy audience in new and creative ways.”
The Sparq platform has been updated with new features, including an enhanced user interface and tools designed to offer insight into customer behaviour regarding motivations, preferences and needs over time.
“We spend a great deal of time listening to our own customers,” said Vision Critical founder and president of corporate innovation Andrew Reid. “In response to what we heard, we have built the next generation of Sparq to enable our customers to engage their customers with a deep, flexible set of tools geared to today’s always-on, mobile-savvy customer. Through our platform, companies will be able to make sense of the disparate data that already exists in different pockets of their organization with ongoing insight from their customers.”
Sparq has also been updated to include both a Search feature and, interestingly, a feature called Stories, acknowledging that marketing, no matter how data driven it becomes, is ultimately a narrative form.
“We’ve been a Vision Critical customer for three years and have had a lot of success with our Insight Community,” said DEWALT Market Research Manager Shannon Chenoweth. “It’s helped us solve problems quickly and in a cost efficient way and we rely on it to drive key decisions in our business. Unlike traditional research, we have a relationship with our community members and we want them to feel good about contributing and sharing their opinions.”
Sparq allows the platform’s users to engage their insight communities by creating activities employing multimedia, survey templates and interactive highlighter techniques using drag-and-drop controls, allowing them to construct customer interactions quickly and intuitively.
The Stories feature is designed to allow customers to share insight-driven narratives cross-departmentally, boiling complex information down into actionable intelligence that can motivate more effectively than raw data.
Engage, initially available through the Google Play store for Android and the App Store for iOS, adds a layer of geo-targeting to its insight platform, along with iBeacons for gathering time-sensitive intelligence.
Engage is probably an appropriate name for the app, seeing as “engagement” has become a substantial buzzword among companies trying to capitalize on the new paradigm in marketing over the past decade, with Vision Critical being in that mix since the beginning.
Founded in 2000 by Andrew Reid, the company is now frequently discussed as one of the next candidates for IPO, following the recent set by Shopify. The idea has been neither confirmed or denied by either Reid or CEO Scott Miller as they continue to build out their core business, although rumour has it that they have engaged BMO to help initiate the process.
“With today’s launch of the next generation of Sparq, we are making our solutions absolutely indispensable to marketers, researchers, product developers, and executives who recognize that engaging a community of their customers for insight is critical to their success,” said Miller. “As Vision Critical continues its hyper-growth, we know that continuing to invest in our technology is essential, and are committed to delivering the capabilities our customers — and their customers — need to ensure their success.”
Moving from the old paradigm of Market Research, which tended to rely on focus groups and questionnaires, to a new form of engaged customer intelligence has been a specialty of Vision Critical, who have evolved their offering into what might be called Insight-as-a-Service.
As Vision Critical Chief Technology Officer Kobi Ofir wrote in a blog post that perhaps sums up Vision Critical’s overall marketing worldview, “we believe in the notion that behind every data point is a person.”