FEATURE4 March 2011

Valuable opinions

Features News

Dan Kurani is sitting on a potential goldmine. While research agencies struggle to convince people to take part in surveys, resorting to offers of points, prize draws and charity donations as incentives, Kurani has built a mobile phone app whose sole purpose is to facilitate the exchange of opinions, consumer to consumer, where taking part is its own reward.

The app, Opinionaided, is proving popular with users and has already built up a sizeable community, Kurani says – though we won’t know how popular it is until he releases data about downloads, user numbers and engagement levels. But the few stats he has shared – 500,000 questions asked, 40m responses, an average of 80 answers per question – are not to be scoffed at.

Kurani hit on the idea for the app after seeing a relative email other family members for advice on a piece of jewellery they wanted to buy but getting little in the way of response. “I thought there was a really interesting opportunity within mobile to send somebody a question about a product and get a real-time opinion to help them make a purchase decision,” Kurani says. From there it grew. “We thought we were just solving a shopping problem, but we ended up solving a problem that is much broader, that involves people asking for opinion and advice,” he says.

“We have the opportunity to build a taste profile around a user and take demographic slices of different user types and look at how they think about brands”

Logging on to the app for the first time, users are asked to give basic profile information – name, sex and date of birth. With permission, the app then searches your phone contacts, Facebook friends and Twitter followers in a bid to link you with other Opinionaided users. From there you move on into the vote stream, where you can specify which age groups and which topics you want to see questions on. Answers can be given as a yes/no, thumbs up/thumbs down, and there’s also a free text box to offer further comment and opinion and to begin conversations with other users. Asking a question is a straightforward process of writing it out, uploading a picture, defining the topic category and choosing whether to ask all users or just those on your friend list.

Kurani has won backing for the app worth $1.2m, and among his investors is former Greenfield Online and Harris Interactive CEO Al Angrisani. That money is earmarked for further development of the user experience and to port the app over to mobile operating systems other than Apple’s iOS – with Google’s Android a top priority.

After that comes monetisation – and it’s little surprise, given Angrisani’s involvement, that market research is top of the list. Kurani has previously floated the idea of allowing marketers to place paid-for questions within the app, but many user-generated questions are already focused on brands or products. “We are gathering a high volume of answers and responses per user,” says Kurani. “We have the opportunity to build a taste profile around a user and take demographic slices of different user types and look at how they think about brands.”

A second potential monetisation strategy is the creation of an ‘insight portal’. “A company would be able to log in and look at their trending insights in real-time: what questions people are asking about the brand and how they are responding, from hour to hour, day to day, to look at what impact something like press coverage is having on their brand,” Kurani says.

There are already plenty of companies out there with tools that scrape sentiment and opinion from the social web, but Kurani believes Opinionaided has an in-built advantage because the app and its community is built around sharing opinion and sentiment. “That’s our core value proposition,” he says. “That’s what people come to us to do, so essentially the data we have is a lot cleaner.” Scraping the social web, he argues, draws in a lot of unwanted noise.

Kurani and his team are also looking at opportunities for leveraging the app and its community in the “commodity” survey business, either as a standalone source of sample or as a tool to be used by panel owners to survey their own panellists and keep them engaged.

Some might struggle to decide which strategy to pursue with so many options in front of them. Kurani should be all right, though. He knows plenty of people more than willing to share their opinions.

1 Comment

13 years ago

Absolutely love this idea, hats off to you dan! Alison White www.facefactsresearch.com

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