Innovating the market research industry – a startup perspective

March 24th, 2014 by Ben Claxton

Anyone who has tried to get traction for an innovation – whether startup or internal initiative – will recognise the challenge. You have a view of a better future for your customers, if only you can convince them. Sticking doggedly to your grand vision on the one hand may not bring along enough people to achieve market success, while being too customer-centric limits your potential and fail to deliver the game-changer.

The trick of course if navigating a third way of market-driven innovation that meets people’s unarticulated and unmet needs – giving them the thing they didn’t even know they wanted but from which there’s no going back.

The following are some personal experiences from the last 3 years of launching and growing a mobile research platform – a tool that seeks to transform the market research industry. The examples are specific but hopefully the lessons are relevant to anyone trying to get their innovation off the ground.


Mobile – the next frontier in market research

When asked at the recent Insight Innovation Exchange in Amsterdam when the time of mobile market research is coming, Ray Pointer of Vision Critical replied, “About 18 months ago”.

This anecdote gives you some insight as to a market that has been hotly tipped for a while now but is still waiting to catch fire. (that said Survey Monkey recently reported that they had seen x14 increase in their mobile traffic in the last 3 years).

The case for mobile is various but includes: massive smartphone penetration and usage, an intimate and ‘in the moment’ channel,  the richer data made possible by smartphones’ communication, multimedia and location functions. This all adds up to a new way of engaging and learning from customers. At nativeye we talk about doing research that doesn’t feel like research.


Predicting real need is hard but vital

Prior to coding a single line we put together a clickable prototype and received strong encouragement to proceed. However those nodding heads we had initially were not necessarily our first customers. In fact, some are only starting to buy now, 3 years on. Possibly there was more we could have done to validate need, but there are a whole host of other factors beyond your control that dictate when people are ready to buy.

A clue to validating real current need is to look at whether people are already trying to solve the problem right now. They might be using other products, hiring people or inventing workarounds to try and do the thing that your product does.


Find your tribe

Some people resist just change (including new technology). This is certainly the case in the market research industry. Either because it requires effort to learn new techniques or because people feel threatened by it (which is probably justified if you are an Amazon warehouse picker). David A. Aaker advises innovators to ‘beware the pessimist’ that will attempt to derail innovation projects based solely of their irrational fear of the new (interesting to note that he also mentions to be aware of the over-optimist).

Some people you’re just not going to win over. The best you can hope for is to quickly identify them and move on. For others to try something new the Benefit must > Pain. Pain comes in many forms – the mental effort to work out where your product fits, the risk of an untried approach, bugs in a new product.

However, some people are much more inclined to give something new a whirl – the benefit to them being the potential transformation of their day-to-day. These people are like gold and will be your champions. I think Seth Godin provides the best advice here which is, “find your tribe and grow out from there.”


Learn to explain innovations in terms people currently understand

Of those that do embrace technology, many initially consider it in old frames of reference. Initially nativeye was seen as a mobile survey tool. Common questions included, “How will I get all the survey questions I want on a screen that size?” This made our spirit sink somewhat as we didn’t see nativeye this way – we saw it as a two-way customer channel that captured people’s experience in unprecedented richness and timeliness.

It’s sometimes frustrating when trying to push things forward only to be pulled back into old frames. But if your product is truly transformational and you can get people to try you out, then this should bubble to the surface and they will tell others of their great experience. In the MR world a tool has to deliver on old measures such as ‘response rate’ before people will countenance the new stuff. It’s a reality that you have to navigate this while still not losing track of the larger potential.


Don’t sell features, solve jobs

Clay Christensen talks about innovating by solving the jobs people want to do. Selling in these terms also makes your proposition much more compelling whereas only talking about features leads you to sell yourself short. This is why about 18 months in we started selling “relevance”. This is the bigger benefit that helps bring people on board by speaking language they can understand. As a customer, I don’t know if I want a ‘mobile research platform’ or to ‘open up a channel to my customers’ but I certainly want my brand to stay relevant to its customers.


Ben Claxton is the founder of nativeye, a mobile research platform that helps your business stay relevant.

Video capture – now live!

January 19th, 2014 by Ben Claxton

A video about video capture and social features from nativeye

Our video capture task is live and already capturing 30-second clips of people’s experiences, thoughts and raw, unfettered emotions.

In the Internet age of YouTube, Vine and Instagram, video is a natural part of people’s cultural language. It’s great to see the nativeye community taking to it so well.

If you haven’t already, you can try nativeye today

Forget iOS7, the first 2D revolution happened 200 years ago

October 13th, 2013 by Ben Claxton


Proving once again that everything comes back around, BBC4′s series The Fabric of Britain threw up a nice little historical parallel to modern trends in tech design.

Back in early Victorian-era Britain, design powers-that-be were concerned about wallpaper and its unedifying effects on the British public. Considering the naturalistic and trompe l’oeil images of  the day to be troubling, Parliament appointed Gothic-revivalist Augustus Pugin to spearhead a re-introduction of flat patterns, more suitable to walled surfaces, and more befitting of a household of the Empire.

How long until 3D makes a come back again?

Hints and tips for doing mobile research – nativeye

October 6th, 2013 by Ben Claxton

This post aims to cover the basics for conducting successful mobile research with nativeye (links to more advanced topics will be added in due course).

So let’s get started. First up, what to research?



Mobile research is a flexible tool – it’s ideally suited to capturing data in the moment or immediately following an experience. The nativeye app will also work offline, so people can truly post whenever, wherever they are.

You can use nativeye for a variety of research. Here are some examples:

  • Ethnography – ask people to report back on their daily lives and activities
  • Customer journey and experience mapping – ask people to record their experiences of a particular brand or category
  • Feedback in the moment (e.g. at events)
  • Crowdsourcing ideas
  • Co-creation projects: set people a creative challenge, as a group or individually



Here are some examples:

  • Mobile diary studies (ask people to post every time they do, think or experience something relevant to your study)
  • Other “answer many” assignments (e.g. crowdsourcing, scouting and observation assignments)
  • Group assignments - encourage people to like and comment on each others’ posts (tick the “Posts visible to everyone on the assignment option in the Edit assignment > Details tab)
  • One-off surveys (tick the “Answer once” option in the Edit assignment > Details tab)



When designing mobile research studies, the best thing to start with is the “mobile” aspect. This means that you should think about when and where you’d like people to post and what you want them to tell you. It also means that you should think about how much time people have to post when they are out and about (less is sometimes more!).

Some pro tips:

  • Use as few tasks as possible to capture the data you need (short and sweet works best on mobile and “answer many” assignments)
  • Always include a Photo task (this brings a post to life and helps you ‘see what your participants see’
  • Use a mix ‘open tasks’ like Open text and prompted tasks (like Multi-choice and Slider)
  • Balance the number of required and optional tasks (only make tasks required if you absolutely need that data)
  • Use the Comments feature to delve deeper into what people post
  • Use “Group assignments” if you want to encourage group discussion



  1. Make sure you invite people in good time. Ensure your participants are set up on the app in advance of your project start. Use the Overview page to check their progress. You can use the “Re-invite” button in the Edit Assignment > Invite tab to help get people started.
  2. Use the Prompt feature on the Overview page to remind people to keep posting
  3. Use nativeye Social Features to like and comment on participants’ posts – we all like to be acknowledged for our efforts, giving participants feedback will keep them engaged in your project

What research is and what it isn’t

September 13th, 2013 by Ben Claxton

Some choice quotes from this great article by Erica Hall in Wired on why the ‘fail fast’ startup culture can actually just be an excuse for avoiding doing any research – which hell, i don’t know, might actually help your business succeed.

At the heart of this is being the most informed you can be. Not to restrict your imagination to what customers tell you what they want, but to make sure you are able to “design and build for the real world”. In other words, direct your imagination in the right direction.

“a common concern and excuse for not doing research is that it will limit creative possibilities to only those articulated by the target users, leaving designers devising a faster horse (lame) rather than a flying car (rad).

Worse than being limited by potential customers’ imaginations is being limited by one’s own — especially if most business leaders admit they’re not going to be the next Steve Jobs. But why should they have to imagine how the world works, when it’s possible to find out through research? Their imagination is then better spent on designing the solution.”

As an entrepreneur one of the hardest challenges is to really ask yourself “am I designing a solution for a real problem?”. Ideas are temptresses, especially if they are your own. But doing everything you can to validate your idea before you embark on a long and choppy journey of development is doing yourself a massive favour. And this again is where research can help.

Research is…

  • A tool to help create for the real world
  • Creative fuel
  • A way to validate your ideas and kill your darlings
  • Increase the success rate of innovation

Research isn’t…

  • A substitute for imagination
  • A limit to the possible

What job are people trying to do?

August 28th, 2013 by Ben Claxton

Clay Christensen asks whether understanding our customers actually helps us innovate? Knowing about the characteristics of people may only help you get to a correlation between people and the things they buy. Whereas understanding the job they need to do gets you closer to the causation of why people buy something or not.

Understanding the job people need to do (e.g. furnish their home in a day, keep busy on a dull commute) helps companies understand which dimensions of their product/service they should be innovating on. It’s pointless spending time innovating on a dimension that makes no difference to whether people actually buy or not.

This understanding also helps you know what your competitive set really is (it might not just be made up of direct competitors with the same product as yours).

Clay illustrates this in characteristic dry fashion in the first 15 mins of this Boxworks keynote (whole thing worth a watch if you have time).


I think you should be more explicit here in step two

August 28th, 2013 by Ben Claxton

Social features allow you to continue the conversation

August 22nd, 2013 by Ben Claxton

nativeye’s social features enable a new type of mobile research. Letting you delve deeper into what’s being said and allowing people to build on each other’s ideas.

Comments and likes also give participants a reason to come back – making research assignments more engaging.


nativeye app - social features

Left screen: Recent activity

Right screen: Post screen with likes and comment thread


The screen on the left shows the Recent activity screen for a research assignment – helping the project to feel alive and inviting. The second screen to the right shows a Post screen with likes and a comment thread below. The user experience is one that participants will be familiar with and therefore will be able to use intuitively.

As a researcher you will be able to comment on someone’s post – either to probe further or to get clarity. In group assignments, participants can like and comment on each other’s posts and the app will notify them, keeping them informed and engaged.

Find out more on our website >

In the next post we’ll look at social features in the researcher dashboard.

Hack day 2 – Getting social

July 2nd, 2013 by Ben Claxton

nativeye’s second hack day is rapidly approaching. The theme this time is “Getting social” and it covers a few specific areas to be hacked:

  1. Phase 1 of nativeye’s community research offering (comments and likes on posts)
  2. Social context
  3. Social profiling

The first is exactly what it sounds like: the ability for both researchers and respondents to comment on and express approval for posts. This serves as a way to keep the conversation going and to allow researchers and participants to ask for clarification.

For the next two we are going to look at connecting respondents’ social accounts to nativeye as a way of pulling in their social data to 1) better understand and recruit them and 2) better understand the context of the posts they make to nativeye.

The idea is to create a “best of both worlds” approach – keeping research projects private within nativeye’s platform, but taking advantage of the mass of social data out there by using it to triangulate nativeye data.

For progress – watch this space!

Mobile research makes you awesome

May 24th, 2013 by Ben Claxton

Here are the slides from my talk at Digital Shoreditch.