features AnswerTap Editorial interviewed AnswerTap’s Jim Longo for an editorial published on 6 February, 2013.

AnswerTap is a crowdsourced consumer research platform that allows companies to conduct market research via webcams. It’s an interesting use of crowdsourcing, so we decided to reach out to the company’s founders via email with a few questions, which Jim Longo was kind enough to answer. For the latest on AnswerTap, make sure to follow the company on Twitter @AnswerTap.

Anton Root, Just briefly, what’s your background and how did the idea for AnswerTap come about?

Jim Longo, AnswerTap co-founder: I have just over 25 years experience in marketing research industry and was instrumental in growing the first global online qualitative research practice where we conducted over 1000 online focus groups sessions in the first 3 years.

While online marketing research has been around for over 15 years, online qualitative has not experienced the same rapid adoption rate as online surveys. In order to accomplish double or even triple digit adoption rates, and disrupt the marketplace, someone needed to come up with a faster more affordable way to conduct online focus groups and in-depth interviews (IDI’s). So with my fellow co-founder, Zach Simmons, we set out to develop the AnswerTap web service.

What problems does your platform aim to solve?

The average research budget is 20% less than it was in 2008, so brands and agencies are looking to stretch their research budget. Today business can’t wait weeks to get answers they need to make decisions quickly. The current companies that offer online focus groups and IDI’s have a workflow that is similar to the traditional face to face method, by that I mean it can take as much as 2 weeks to recruit participants before you can conduct focus groups or IDI’s. In addition, the current cost for hosting interviews or focus groups online or in-person are almost the same.

Many times companies need directional feedback all through the product development cycle and don’t have the time or budget to use traditional methods. AnswerTap dramatically shortens the time it takes to get answers. Projects are completed within 24-48 hours in most cases. We don’t charge for our webcam hosting technology, only for the recruiting of participants, so the overall cost to conduct focus groups or interviews has been reduced greatly.

Why is AnswerTap better than going to a traditional focus group?

Traditional qualitative studies are expensive or time consuming. AnswerTap provides real clear benefits to our clients. Here are just a few:

Speed: Studies can be deployed and completed in a matter of days, with transcripts instantly available for review.

Cost: Savings in both time and cost can be significant, because moderators and clients do not need to travel to far-flung facilities.

Geography: Diverse and wide-ranging groups of participants can be assembled for a single project easily and without requiring travel. Hard-to-recruit or low-incidence groups are less of a challenge as well.

Candor: Because the online setting affords participants a degree of privacy, they are often much more comfortable discussing sensitive topics and sharing unpopular opinions than they would be in a traditional face-to-face setting.

Access: Clients are able to view sessions in real time, interact with the moderator and provide feedback.

Relevance: Many respondents are comfortable with interactive communication and may embrace the opportunity to participate in research using online techniques that seem less intrusive than traditional methods.

Your site shows two products that you offer: Image Evaluation and Webcam Interviews. Can you explain how these services can help your customers? Aside from the above two, do you offer any other products?

AnswerTap harnesses the combined power of crowdsourcing and teleconferencing technology to reach participants anytime, anywhere in the world. AnswerTap streamlines the panelist recruitment process, shortening it from weeks to minutes. Marketers and researchers can participate in real-time webcam interviews with participants targeted within a pool of over 9 million people. Clients simply define their desired demographics, and a respondent matching the specified criteria appears within minutes. Companies can go directly to the actual research with unprecedented speed instead of expending time and money searching for candidates.

Collaboration can easily take place using our virtual white board, which allows participants to mark up concepts, package designs and web pages.

Every AnswerTap session is recorded and accessible for playback within your secure online account. All video is automatically transcribed and keyword searchable so you can find relevant clips easily. Video clips can be stitched together into a sequence to make clips and reels for client presentations.

How did you build a community of 9 million users? How did you find out their demographics and how are they compensated for their work?

We have partnerships with trusted panel providers where each panelist has gone through a double opt-in process. Our panel partners conduct extensive profiling for hundreds of data points to ensure precise targeting of everyone we invite. All participants are tested for technical compatibility prior to the sessions. Rewards can vary in the form of charitable contributions, virtual currency, gift cards or reward points.

Is there an ideal customer for AnswerTap, or can your site be useful to a number of people of various professional backgrounds in numerous industries?

Researchers, marketing agencies, and brands come to us when they want to vet a business or packaging concept, idea, or other initiatives and need quality, private, secure feedback. We have seen some interest by startups who need quick feedback while developing their business plans.

Speaking of your customers, can you name some of the people and companies you’ve worked with, as well as share some of the more general numbers (how many clients have you worked with, how many people they usually interview, etc.)?

Our customers prefer to be private due to the competitive landscape in which they operate. As a best practice we recommend a minimum of two focus groups or 20-30 interviews per target segment.

What are some problems that you’ve run into since you launched the beta? How have you or do you plan to overcome them?

Our goal is to truly give our customers a best in class experience with easy access to their target customers. We realized early on the importance of respondent quality and onboarding quickly. In the coming weeks that will launching some new features which will address these requirements.

Any other thoughts?

We plan to make getting feedback from your targeted customers so simple and affordable a business of any size will want to take advantage of our web service.


Source:  Root, Anton. “Crowdsourcing the Focus Group.”, 06 Feb. 2013. Web. 11 Feb. 2013.