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The 5 Lessons Of Zappruption

Through its intelligent application of automation, ZappiStore has potentially changed the role of MR in business. This is just the leading edge of a significant movement in this direction and will continue to be a major disruptive force in our industry by ZappiStore.



By Jeff Resnick

This installment of Transform represents the beginning of a shift in focus for the blog.   Over the past 18 months, I shared conversations with transformative CEOs meeting the challenge of a disruptive market by understanding and adapting to those disruptions.   This blog post begins an exploration of the firms causing disruption in the market.  We will explore the catalysts for starting these firms, the vision of their founders and their potential future impact on our industry.

Stephen_Phillips_458Let’s begin by sharing a conversation with Steve Philips, CEO and founder of ZappiStore.  George R.R. Martin aptly stated “wine makes all things possible” – and so begins the story of ZappiStore, a firm poised to be a major disruptor in the market research space.   It was over a glass (or several) of wine in May 2010 that Steve decided to pivot from the business he was attempting to launch – a better methodology for advertising testing.  Realizing that although clients were positive about his ideas, they were really excited about opportunities to conduct their advertising testing more quickly and cheaply.   Simply stated, Steve’s breakthrough moment came when he realized modest improvements to an existing system that worked fine were insufficient catalysts to prompt clients to change their current practices.  Disruptive rule 1:  For disruption to occur, the solution must be more than a “little different”.  

Steve looked for inspiration from other industries – “looking from the outside in” as I’ve referred to the process before.   He realized that the biggest disruptor in other industries was automation – increasing speed and taking cost out of current processes.   So became the focus of what was to become ZappiStore – automating advertising testing and through the process, increasing speed while simultaneously reducing cost.  Lest you think this occurred overnight, it didn’t.  First, he had no money with which to launch the business so he and a number of impassioned colleagues worked nights and weekends for two years to create the engine that would ultimately drive ZappiStore.   Disruptive rule 2:  More minds, more intelligent progress.

ZappiStore’s first clients and website were launched in March of 2013.   The concept, now fully developed, was to take accepted methodologies with successful track records, automate the process and make it available through an online store front.  The resulting value proposition is enormously faster speed in execution, a focus on insight rather than process and far greater cost efficiency.  Simple in concept, difficult to execute.  Firms that now offer products and services through the ZappiStore storefront include:  Millward Brown, MMR, PointLogic, BrainJuicer and others.   Additionally, there is a growing list of corporations which have “Zappitized” their current in-house insights programs and processes to achieve the same effect.  Disruptive rule 3:  Technology will be at the core of any major disruptive influence today.

ZappiStore’s technology meshes well with two clear trends in our industry – the value of proprietary intellectual property (IP) and the move toward agile research.  As the need for traditional process infrastructure rapidly disappears from the landscape of market research, the criteria by which firms will be valued by clients will be the unique solutions they bring to business issues, the speed in which these solutions can be delivered and the expertise of the people delivering the solutions.    Imagine an environment where you have a question about product design in the morning, answer it by lunch, decide you need a refinement, test that and finalize the product by the end of day.   Not only is this possible with the ZappiStore approach, it will increasingly become the expectation for delivery of insights according to Steve.   Disruptive rule 4:  Enabling agile research solutions at a lower cost for common business issues yields high value to clients.

From Steve’s point of view, in three to five years, this approach may account for as much as 50% of research conducted.  He suspects automation, by ZappiStore and others, will fully enable agile test environments.  “I suspect your budget will still be the same, but you are now doing five projects instead of one.   There is now only one person from the agency needed to help you navigate the process.  It is a different world – it is a bigger world for consumer insights – insights will have a bigger impact on products and there is more room for high-end consulting”.  Disruptive rule 5:  Cannibalize yourself before others do it for you.

Market researchers have long decried their lack of a seat “at the table”.   At the table, executives routinely say research available to them is “too slow, too expensive” to be an integral part of decisions about common product and advertising issues they face.   Through its intelligent application of automation, ZappiStore has potentially changed this dynamic.  I have no doubt, this is just the leading edge of a significant movement in this direction and will continue to be a major disruptive force in our industry by ZappiStore and others.  Let’s see how the future unfolds.


ZappiStore generates insight through automation. Using technology to make industry-leading market research faster and more cost-effective. Enabling clients to get insights fuelling their business decisions in a matter of hours. Bringing consumers into the business process earlier and more often. 

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3 responses to “The 5 Lessons Of Zappruption

  1. I long for the day that “disruption” is a word that is removed from the market research bloggers catalogue. Everyone claims this when at the heart of everything is online access and panels. Are these really disruptive due to some “wow” technology or just an extension of the movement online which has been in train for a decade and just gets easier because of better panels and providers. I would argue the latter. Just because someone creates an ad test module that is online hardly signifies disruption. I recall that Milward Brown have been doing this for years with Link Test Light. Where is the disruption there?

    Agile? Well what research using online doesn’t offer that agility. Does it mean because I can do 100 interviews in Nebraska with farmers in a 6 hour period that I have disrupted the market research industry. If anyone can do it, its hardly disruptive. And moving a few tools that have been around for years on to some centralized access site as a disruption? I think not. As they say in England “this is a load of cobblers”, disruptive ones not.

  2. When we are talking about disruption that has not happened yet, there always has to be a probabilistic element. If the commentary waited until it had happened, it would hardly be very interesting. If we look backwards then I would say the shift to online was certainly disruptive in the sense of hundreds of thousands of jobs being lost globally and a shift from representative samples to panel members. The rise of DIY to the point where more surveys are conducted by non-researchers than researchers I would describe as disruptive, even though it may not seem it to those conducting their surveys inside the MR enclave.

    What is potentially disruptive about the ZappiStore model lies in the second part of their name. They are a shop, people with a business problem go along and buy a solution that has been produced by any one of a range of companies, for example Millward Brown, BrainJuicer, MMR or Added Value. These products have three things in common (when purchased from the store), they are relatively cheap (e.g. a Link test for $3000), they are fast (hours not days), and they do not require any market research skill to configure (because they are preconfigured).

    I am writing a paper on automation at the moment and this morning I was interviewing a major research buyer who was talking about when he uses this sort of service and when he uses the full-service route of going directly to the agency. For him the lower price of automation is a nice to have, but the speed is the thing that is making the difference. His colleagues are including him in the discussion because he can provide results in hours, which fits their speed of decision making.

    Automation is going to dramatically reduce the headcount in MR over the next 5 years and automation is going to give benefits to the winners and will really hurt those who do not get it right (which will lead to closures/acquisitions etc). That will be pretty disruptive. Automation may also increase the use of market research, because it is faster, cheaper and less flexible (why less flexible is often good is another post). That change, if it happens, will also be disruptive.

    What do I mean by disruptive? Probably any or all of the following: 1) lots of people lose their job or have to work harder for less money; 2) new companies appear on the scene and become established (which often means jobs and power shifts from the old order to the new order), 3) new uses or customers appear (so when Millward and Brown invented Ad Tracking in the 1980s, that was pretty disruptive – and saw a growth in employment in MR).

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