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The Great Conjunction: What the e-Rewards and Microsoft Acquisitions Mean



One of my favorite movies as a kid (well, really it still is!) is the classic Jim Henson fantasy “The Dark Crystal”. Filled with pseudo-mystical profundities of various sorts, one central element was the race to have certain players in the drama in place before the stars aligned in the “Great Conjunction”, when magical things would happen. Well, we’re seeing our own version of the Great Conjunction occur now, exemplified by the e-Rewards acquisition of Conversition Strategies and the Microsoft purchase of Skype.

I had the opportunity two years ago to work with both e-Rewards and Conversition in the development of the BrandScan concept and I know them both well. I can tell you that at that point e-Rewards saw the oncoming train of social media and mobile but did not have an effective strategy to deal with it. They were (kinda) working on one, but they considered it to be something that could be put off for a while while they focused on integrating their acquisitions. Obviously their sense of urgency was magnified recently.

The Conversition acquisition positions e-Rewards to converge social media data with traditional research to form a compelling offering based on integrating these two complementary data sources. I am certain that they are also working on a mobile offering, and when they announce that they will have three of the primary channels of consumer insight collection together: The Great Conjunction for market research.

Imagine the powerful products/services e-Rewards could offer if they converted their panels to communities, deployed the Conversition SM tools within their own communities and/or in a “lifestreaming” model for all panelist social networks, and then finally “mobilized” their members and began offering rewards for check-ins, product scanning, and various research studies. Wow.

THAT is the future my friends, and e-Rewards just took a big step in bringing that to life. Bravo!

By the way, the Conversition team has worked VERY hard over the past 2 years to get here; they are a shining example of entrepreneurial perseverance and deserve this success very much. Congratulation Jean, Tessie, and Annie!

How does Microsoft play into this theme? Well, they effectively just deployed a global telecommunications network in one fell swoop. By integrating Skype into their mobile platform (deployed via Nokia handsets), as well as their various OSs, software packages, search platforms, etc… they almost instantly rival Google and Apple in sheer numbers of users for telecommunications services.

If successful, Microsoft would become one of the largest telecommunications provideers in the world, and since they are VERY good at integrating software one could argue that all MS products become not just development/productivity/gaming systems but are de facto extensions of your communication channels as well. The Great Conjunction for IT.

By the way, did I mention that Skype is also a great research tool? You can do virtual groups, IDIs, chats, play serious games, use whiteboards, etc… Imagine the implications for ethnography and usability testing? And also imagine the sampling possibilities. As I write this there are 24,804,310 individuals logged into Skype. It would be pretty cool to sample for recruiting into research studies from that group, wouldn’t it?

Like the characters in the Dark Crystal, we’re on a quest to make sure all of the critical elements are in place so that the magic of The Great Conjunction can work. I think the news this weeks indicates that we’re well on the way to fulfilling our quest. There are still a lot of things that need to be done to capitalize on these opportunities but we’re headed in the right direction!


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