Market Insight Launches

A new marketing research firm slated to launch Monday gleans user preferences from its product recommendation site, then helps manufacturers design products using the aggregated information.

The idea has already helped the firm, called Market Insight, score a handful of top-tier clients, including General Motors. Personal connections haven’t hurt, either. Co-founder Vince Barabba, was general manager of corporate strategy for GM and also served as director of the U.S. Bureau of the Census for two terms.

So far, Market Insight’s product recommendation site, MyProductAdvisor.com, offers information on digital cameras and new car purchases. More product categories, including cell phones and home theaters, will be added over time.

The content the site provides is hardly unique; the Net abounds with product information sites. So the company will face a challenge in attracting consumers. It’s approach thus far is to advertise with Google and Overture via paid search, and run banner ads on America Online and CNN Money.

“Right now we’re feeling our way through the whole traffic generation strategy idea trying to decide what works best for us,” said Richard Smallwood, cofounder of Market Insight. Smallwood is the former president of Applied Decisions Analysis, a customer preference measurement and analysis firm acquired in 1998 by PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

Visitors to MyProductAdvisor can build a profile of exactly what they want — price, features, brand, and so on — using a slider bar that indicates how important the various elements are to them.

After the user indicates his or her preferences, a selection of items within the desired price range and with the specified mix of characteristics appears. The user can then click on the models to view specifications. In the case of digital cameras, reviews are available by clicking through to partner site Imaging Resource.

Users get help choosing from among a dizzying array of products, and Market Insight’s clients get anonymous data which helps them make decisions about product design.

“Say a camera manufacturer is thinking about a camera with improved resolution. Will it get a big or a little market share? We can find out how many people think good resolution is important,” said Smallwood. The firm is currently working with GM on various product scenarios. Market Insight will help GM estimate the size of the market and how price sensitive the market will be.

The site does not collect demographic information such as gender, income or geographic information. Smallwood said at some point the company might give users the option of sharing such information.

“We do have information about what you want, so we can segment the market by price range, budget, whatever. You told us how you would use the camera, so we can segment by that,” Smallwood said.

Although the approach is different, the company’s objective is similar to that of Intelliseek, a firm that uses the Internet to give manufacturers and retailers feedback and insight from their customers.

Market Insight charges clients a fixed amount for a specified time period, usually a year. The amount includes license fees, consulting fees, training fees and an optional exclusivity fee if a client wants exclusive access to data in a particular area.

Initial funding for Market Insight, which currently has nine employees, comes from its founders and one of its clients, Smallwood said. The site will not accept advertising. “We want to be a sort of Consumer Reports, with individualized recommendations based completely on what you want, unbiased and objective.”

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