Steve Phillips is the founder and CEO of consumer insights platform Zappi. I recently caught up with with Steve to find out about his day-to-day work. He explains Zappi’s B-corp status, its company culture, and the increased digitisation of the market research industry.
Tell us about your role – what does a typical day look like?
My focus is very much on vision and culture. I see my job as thinking through what the company looks like in two, three or even five years from now. That means thinking about how we will maintain our culture as we scale, ensuring we are all pointing in the right direction and everyone knows where we are going. Then, I leave it up to others to work on how we get there.
How do you see the market research industry evolving in the next 18 months? What areas of strategy should brands be focusing on?
Shockingly, 97% of the 100-year-old traditional market research industry is still made up of analogue practices, meaning that only 3% is digitised today, according to a PwC report. Modern businesses are increasingly looking to become more customer-centric and work in agile and iterative ways. This can only mean that traditional consumer insights techniques are utterly outdated and not fit for a technology-driven world.
The good news is that a new era of digital consumer insights is calling. Today’s brands are hungry for information to understand what consumers are looking for, what excites them and how they react to new ideas. They want that data to be available instantly — they need to ask questions and get answers fast — to iterate on their ideas daily and validate that they’re on the right track without slowing down their processes.
In the next 18 months and beyond, I see a more digitised industry. I see more and more brands using technology like Zappi to better understand consumers — far quicker, at a lower cost, with better quality data and more predictable outcomes than traditional techniques. To achieve this, businesses need to invest in automated digital consumer insights platforms that can help change how they create things and bring new innovations to the market. Digitised consumer insights data is starting to be seen as an investment with the potential to make organisations more successful, so I envision a very bright future for our industry.
Can you provide some inspiring examples of brands that have used consumer data or early insights to fuel success?
Providing brands with the data they need — feedback and insights from consumers that tell them what resonates and what doesn’t — before a business releases their creations out into the world and when there’s still time to iterate is how we help our clients increase their chances of in-market success.
Many Fortune 100 companies use the Zappi platform today, and there are fantastic stories that show the power of consumer insights in the pre-launch stage. For example, Gong used us to pre-test their Superbowl advertising and told us that it was their most successful campaign ever! Similarly, McDonald’s implemented early-stage testing to spot the McFlurry flavours that would appeal to consumers. Other great companies like PepsiCo and Colgate Palmolive also use the Zappi platform on a regular basis to make better new products and campaigns, significantly reducing their failure rates.
Zappi is now a B-Corp company – why was this a priority for you, and how much of a challenge was it to achieve (in the context of your industry)?
The thing I liked about the B-Corp idea when I heard about it two years ago was that it gives you a framework for covering multiple things. It is about balancing people, the planet and profit. It talks about how you treat people – not just employees, but also clients and suppliers. It talks about your relationship with the planet and what you are doing around net-zero and other sustainability issues. It also talks about things you do in your communities. It is a structure that allows you to balance all those things without becoming a social enterprise or a not-for-profit. We are highly ambitious as a business, but we feel that can go hand-in-hand with social good as well. Being a B-Corp company is a clear expression, particularly for employees, of the type of business we are and who we want to be.
I think getting the B-Corp accreditation for mid-sized companies like Zappi is much less tricky than for large conglomerates. We benefit from being a company that doesn’t have long, complicated supply chains. Naturally, it’s an arduous process, but it is not as complex as it is for other industries. While some big companies have passed certification – Ben & Jerry’s and Patagonia being two great examples – many of those successful are much smaller. For Zappi, it was a nice, natural fit, and we are proud to be one of the only companies that have received this recognition in our industry.
Talk to me about company culture – what are your priorities in this area?
At Zappi, our culture and people have always been one of our most valued and critical assets. We want to be a company that attracts brilliant people and enables them to do brilliant work. But we also want to be a place where teams work together effectively and have fun along the way; a place where people have the autonomy to make decisions and experiment. We think people do their best work somewhere where they feel energised and passionate but also safe enough to take risks.
What’s next for Zappi?
At Zappi, we believe that businesses’ demands for agility and customer-centricity will only grow. We are leading the way forward with our unique approach to helping companies stay closer and listen harder to their customers, and we are committed to continuing to deliver on our mission of digitising consumer insights to empower more companies to bring innovation to their businesses and to the world.
Our business has big ambitions, so we will continue adapting and enhancing our technology and data methodologies to help more and more brands become confident, knowing in advance if their creations are likely to succeed and reducing the number of failures because they’re continuously learning.