The programme costs $2500 per company which sounds a lot but when sunglass maker Maui Jim undertook a solus research programme, the end-users pointed out some major weaknesses in the company’s homepage. Target customers revealed that the Hawaii homepage backdrop was “tacky” and that with no glasses shown up front the company appeared not to believe in its own product.
This kind of feedback can be used to modify a website’s up-front appearance and with so many sales and brand allegiances won or lost in the first few seconds of viewing a site, it’s critical for first impressions to be positive ones. Competitor sites are just a click away.
The Maui Jim research revealed that men and women preferred different website entrances so, using this kind of feedback, a canny operator could design optimum front ends for each target audience, or if aiming for just one demographic, could make sure its site pleased mainly the target visitors.
First Impressions Research has trawled bicycle consumer bulletin boards to generate an email list of likely participants in its research programme. These BBS posters – keenies by definition – were emailed with an invitation to take part in the research programme where there’s a chance to win a $5000 top prize and twenty spot prizes of $1000.
The winnings have to be spent on bikes or bits from one or more of the twenty sites in the research programme.
The $25,000 Bike Site Survey Week will take place at the start of October. 1000 cycling enthusiasts from around the world – but, so far, mostly from America - will be given five days to visit twenty sites and answer fifteen questions about the products, the companies and the sites. Once they've completed this task, twenty of the participants will be randomly selected to receive $1000 each to spend as they please on any of the participating sites.
Each participant will also be asked to answer five comparative questions. One of those who completes this task will receive $5000 to spend as they please.
The bicycle sites will receive reports on how the 1000 cyclists answered the questions.
First Impressions Research has done similar research programmes for golf and gardening websites.
Eight cycle sites have signed up so far, originally at a rate of $3500. This was later reduced to $2500 as it became clear twenty companies may not be found who would stump up the full rate.
“[Our] vertical category event type of research is a concept we developed to help companies that normally couldn't afford a [standalone] survey,” Paul Spreadbury, president of First Impressions Research, told bikebiz.co.uk.
“As a result, our pricing is hit and miss and we learn as we go along.”
First Impressions – operating from ImpressOne.com, headquartered in New Hampshire - employees eight people full-time with an extra four freelance researchers. It is wholly web-based.
The revenue from twenty participating companies would be $50 000. Half of this goes to the prize winners, with First Impressions pocketing the offer half. Not a bad yield. But Spreadbury deflects criticism that his company is raking it in:
“To get 1000+ cycling enthusiasts to not only visit your site but to view it from the perspective of having to answer fifteen questions - at a rate of $2.50 per visitor – is, we think, very fair. And to then be provided with a full report on all the answers by gender, age, type of rider, etc. is something that would cost them individually tens of thousands [of dollars].”
“While we do earn a profit for providing the event there are costs involved which don't appear on the surface.”
Costs such as, say, shipping bikes from US bike sites to UK prize-winning consumers, said Spreadbury.
And with winners’ cash being redistributed back to some of the sites taking part in the survey one of the sites may actually make enough in sales to pay for the research fee twice over. And the rest gain access to the 1000 consumers via a post-programme mail-out from ImpressOne.com. None of the email addresses of the consumers are revealed to the twenty cycle sites.
Bikebiz.co.uk has been shown the list of 780 consumers signed up to date (but not their contact details) and they are clearly high-calibre individuals, with most of them owning multiple bikes. A high percentage are pure bike junkies, owning pedigree Italian road bikes, top-end Cannondale’s and other high-status marques. One participant has three Moultons as well as a stable of other premium bikes.
“The intention is for this to be a global event and - even though we are Yanks - we would love to have as many companies from as many different countries involved,” said Spreadbury.
He wouldn’t reveal the names of the first eight participating companies (surely Airborne.net has got to be on the list?) but Spreadbury did say they were so far all US companies. All are ‘manufacturers’, not retail ecommerce sites.
“Any company with a web site that caters to the bicycle riding public can participate, regardless of location,” said Spreadbury.
“We are Americans but - unlike many of my countrymen - we certainly don't believe that the world begins and ends on our two coasts. Our goal is to make First Impressions Research a global source for consumer opinions.”
“Cycling is more of an international activity than an American one and to make this a truly legitimate survey we need more from those places where cycling is king.”
Consumers sign up at http://www.impressone.com/bsignup.asp
Cycle suppliers sign up at http://www.impressone.com/csignup.asp
The $3500 fee listed on this site has now been reduced to $2500.
The First Impressions technique of scouring consumer bulletin boards for hot prospect emails could be done by any bike company with a bit of time and effort. Email the prospects with genuinely good offers and it may not be seen as spam...
However, such scouring is considered 'bad form' by many BBS moderators, a fact acknowledged by First Impressions. In an email to the $25 000 Bike Site Week participants a spokesman for First Impressions says: "During the recruitment process we encountered some negative reactions from a few cyclist board administrators. We understand and respect the wishes of public bulletin boards to maintain integrity and keep their boards free of commercialism. In these instances we mistakenly assumed that our event, since it asked for no financial consideration, would be at least tolerated. To those who belong to these boards and to their administrators we sincerely apologize."