Ahead of the release of this year’s Digital Retail Innovation Report from Retail Insider in partnership with Webloyalty, we look back at some of the stars of the 2018’s edition to remind ourselves of some of the digital tools changing the face of retail.
We spoke to Co-Founder of Streetbees Oliver May to understand how traditional market research is being turned on its head through the application of machine learning and natural language processing to understand customer opinions.
Streetbees is a consumer intelligence start-up like no other. Long gone are the days of retail focus groups and long, laborious surveys. Combining cutting-edge technology, including machine learning and data analytics, and a network of over one million “bees” worldwide, Streetbees has become the consumer behaviour phenomenon of the future.
Bring in the Bees
For as long as there have been retailers, there have been attempts to gauge consumers’ reactions towards the products on sale. Whenever a product is brought to market, retailers have attempted to gain insights into these reactions in order to tailor their products to the desires of customers.
But London-based start-up Streetbees has taken these insights up a notch. Employing a real-time chat-style mobile app, Streetbees takes a fundamentally different approach to other market research companies.
According to Oliver May, the company’s co-founder and CCO, the innovation that Streetbees provides is
“qualitative insight and quantitative scale”.
So how is this achieved and what does it mean for retailers?
Streetbees consumer insights are gleaned from the app’s wide-open response structure. The chat-style interface allows the bees to answer questions and offer feedback in almost any way they choose, including photo and video responses. These qualitative responses are then analysed by the company’s powerful machine learning software which can pick up phrases and words to group answers together. In this way, the bee’s qualitative responses are translated into quantitative data to provide both hard data and nuanced insight for retailers. Streetbees’ far richer data set offers retailers actionable data from which they can make positive, informed changes.
Founder Tugce Bulut believes this approach offers a far more truthful approach to human behaviour than traditional static market research techniques. Streetbees’ approach allows for the irrationality that consumers, as people, often demonstrate. Consumers’ wants and desires change on a daily basis. They are influenced by context and location and do not always make sense.
“We are conflicted individual beings. We are not always consistent and we are not always rational. We have conflict and contradicting demands in our brain. The first way to find out why they do something is to ask them”. She says.
Streetbees’ real-time feature approach brings this human reality to life and makes use of the way we communicate – through a chat-style app – to overcome the formulaic responses that the classic market research multiple-choice questionnaires generate. Not only are the “bees” active in real-time, they are also paid their country’s living wage.
As clients of Streetbees, retailers receive constantly updating and evolving responses to the questions they may have. The company’s AI software interprets responses and can offer answers within hours. The use of a mobile app means the company can carry-out geographically-specific research to generate further added value for their clients. All of this, while, users retain control over the information they want to share.
Technology Drives Transformation
The global market research industry is worth 76 billion dollars and technology has allowed market research to be carried out anywhere in the world. Streetbees has leveraged this to develop a comprehensive consumer behaviour service that can, as their website states, “Access anyone and everyone. East or West. Urban or Rural. Online of Offline.”
Clearly this approach has paid off. The company was founded in 2015 yet is already present in 87 countries and has worked with major companies including Pepsi and Unilever.
The next step for Streetbees is to continue growing. To that end, the company has some very lofty goals in mind.
Streetbees’ CTO, Sam Lowe, said that the company aims to build the world’s largest data store on human behaviour that will “hold even more information about how we behave than Facebook or Google.”
The scale of this data set would be game-changing for retailers, who would be able to receive real life insight market in the world in real-time. Only time will tell whether the company achieves their ambitions, but judging by what the company has already achieved, few will bet against it.
Technology’s impact on retail continues to be huge. Retail Insider in partnership with Webloyalty is tracking the digital retail disruptors for 2019 and will be publishing its 2019 Digital Retail Innovations Report soon.
Watch this space!