Focus groups in the modern era are tricky. Social media is an important way for brands to understand how fans like and engage with the company on a large scale, but they don’t afford the ability to drill down product by product.
To help brands gauge sentiment around product, mobile research company dscout, which has worked with companies like ModCloth and Yahoo, an iPhone (s aapl) app launched in invite-only beta on Wednesday designed to help brands gauge sentiment around products by combining brand communications with a fully-functional social network. The free app, dscovr, is part photo-based social network, part testing-ground for brands to show new products.
Dscout CEO Michael Winnick, who has led the platform since its creation in 2011, says the key to the system is reaching early adopters, those who jump on new networks early and make content. The company has found that brands are very interested in finding out how that specific subset of users discovers new products and places — and they will naturally populate dscovr.
“We expect within the year, companies will be able to share pre-release products and have people effectively review them…and give companies a sense of momentum.”
The clever thing about dscovr is that it aims to promote discovery and recommendations without being intrusive like a Pinterest brand page. The dscovr experience encourages users to recommend places and products in their immediate area, mark down what the product is and also include geolocation data. As a result, users won’t just see tons of products in their feeds — you can see restaurants, local hangouts, and also search nearby for posts. Winnick says that in the long run, users with high influence would receive products relevant to their interests, and help judge them over time.
However, dscovr is only as sustainable as long as those early adopters actually sign up. Winnick seems confident that there will be enough of a committed niche group for brands to ultimately gain value from dscovr, but early adopters are only that way for so long. As a product continues to run, it needs to rely on a steady stream of newer, later users, rather than the boost of enthusiasm from its initial core users. Otherwise, the app risks losing its value and its utility for both users and brands.