Technical agility

Digsite invites targeted participants to get involved in the research-and-development process.

From the pages of In Business magazine.

Digsite exists, as its name suggests, to dig deeper into product development, allowing companies to solicit feedback from potential end users as an idea or concept is being developed, rather than after it’s too late.

As Monika Wingate, co-founder and CEO explains, “There’s a huge movement in the software and technology industry toward agile, meaning taking big projects and breaking them into small pieces and then getting feedback as you build rather than spending months and months building something, launching it, finding out that everyone hates it, and now you can’t afford to change it.”

Digsite marries its automation technology with expert-developed community activities to recruit a qualitative online community — and get research results — more quickly than any other method. It moves research beyond the focus group, which can be expensive and time consuming, and reduces what could be a four- to six-week process down to about one week, Wingate explains.

“We’re replacing focus groups and surveys in some cases because we make it easier for people to actually learn in context and iterate as they’re learning,” she says. Participants — micro-targeted entirely through Facebook based on brands they like on social media or activities they enjoy — are invited to participate.

“Usually we pay [participants] through Amazon gift cards which legally seals the [confidentiality] deal,” she adds. “Not only are they agreeing to provide feedback, but they’re getting paid to do so.”

Clients such as Sub-Zero Wolf and Palermo’s have paid for two-way conversations during the product-development process. The company’s portal allows participants to comment, mark up images, or upload photos or videos as they interact with a product or problem in real time.

More importantly, companies can resolve issues long before a project hits the market. “That’s a vast improvement as opposed to getting unsatisfying survey results back that clients don’t even know how to respond to,” Wingate remarks.

“What does a ‘seven on a scale of 10’ even mean?” she muses, “and what is a client supposed to do with that information?”

Digsite focuses on the “now what?” It does so by helping companies improve products or concepts throughout development, rather than after the fact, or frankly, after the budget is blown.

The business model has proven especially useful in the consumer products and packaging categories, insurance and financial services, and durable goods (appliances or large-ticket items).

Wingate, 49, the former director at UW–Madison’s A.C. Nielsen Center for Marketing Research, worked on the concept for years, fascinated with how people engaged with social media and wondering if there was a way to convert that enthusiasm into qualitative research.

After running parallel tests comparing focus groups and social survey results, a clear winner emerged. “On Facebook, people were volunteering a lot more information than we asked them for, and we were getting way, way better information,” Wingate says.

The company primarily works with mid- to large-size clients, and “digs” can cost significantly less than traditional focus groups, she notes. A 24-hour “sprint,” for example, may cost $5,000, which is a bargain compared to the standard focus group model, which can run $20,000 or more. “We can do 10 Digsites for that amount,” Wingate notes. “This is not a once- or twice-a-year engagement.”



The company has about 100 customers now and provides access to case studies on its website.

Meanwhile, Wingate continues to adapt to behavioral changes, one of which is email versus text.

When Digsite was first developed, its platform invited participants through social media and then emailed them. “Now we recognize that only 20 percent of Gen-Zs and millennials even open their mails,” she reports.

“Now we’re focused on text first, which is very different in terms of response rates, and we know that if people don’t respond in 10 to 15 minutes, they probably won’t, and that changes how fast things get done and how the platform works.”

The company now allows participants to select how they want to communicate — text first, email first, or both.

Thanks in part to this approach to problem-solving, Digsite has raised $1.4 million since its launch in 2014, and Wingate believes the company will eventually merge or be acquired. “We’re going to have to,” she says. “The industry keeps changing. Could we IPO? I don’t think that’s the path we’re thinking about.”

Digsite Inc.
(844) 344-7483 x700

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