Epicenter Experience Brings the Coffee Shop Conversation to Companies and Consumers
If you buy a product from a particular eCommerce site, you might receive emails from them about other sales on products you may like. It’s their attempt to keep on connecting with their customers. In today’s day-and-age where instant and personal communication is more common, this seems like an outdated method of trying to connect with others.
Epicenter Experience has created a new software platform for companies in different industries to connect with their consumers long after the buying process has ended. The idea is to create a more personal connection between companies and consumers.
We had a chance to connect with Paul Krasinski, Epicenter’s Founder and CEO, to learn more about the software and what kinds of problems the company is looking to solve for marketers and consumers. Krasinski also discussed how he and his founding team came up with a rather unique name for the company.
Before we start talking about Epicenter Experience, let’s talk about your background. You’ve been involved in Boston tech your whole career, how did you get your start in it?
I grew up in Newton, MA and was always aware of the strength of the academic community in Boston. My interests were always in understanding people, how they make decisions, what influences these decisions and how do you measure the interactions between consumers and companies. This led me to an interest in consumer behavior, consumer insights, and audience measurement. Boston was a hotbed for big data, artificial intelligence, marketing technology, and consumer behavior.
Over the years, I immersed myself in the academic, entrepreneurial and business communities in Boston to find ways to leverage technology to enable meaningful connections between people and companies that are valuable for both sides. I have met many many great people in Boston and continue to be impressed and inspired by the number of ideas, innovations, and solutions coming out of Boston that is truly impacting the lives of people.
Now onto your newest venture. What was the "A-ha!" moment behind the company?
Consumer Spending in the US represents a $13 trillion economy, 70% of the US GDP. After 15 years in the consumer behavior, audience measurement and consumer intelligence space, I realized there still was not a great way for companies and consumers to interact directly, from any location, while interacting with products and services.
We believed if we were able to allow consumers and companies to share information, data, and experiences with products, services, and locations in an informal way, as if they were sitting across from each other at a coffee shop, we could redefine the lines in this market. Both the company and consumer would receive value from the interaction - company receiving real-time data and consumer receiving financial value for opting in to share their perspective. It would be a much easier way to have consumers and companies communicate without a third-party service in the middle of the conversation.
If successful, we knew that we would be able to improve both the experiences of consumers and immediacy and actionability for companies. This would represent at $1.5T market opportunity, but perhaps, more importantly, change the way value is distributed between consumer and company.
What are some of the largest problems that Epicenter Experience is solving in its respective field?
Companies spend $3.5T in technology each year to try to reach the consumer. However, there is still not a strong solution here. We are enabling a direct connection between company and consumer, in real time, without technology friction.
Consumers want to share their information and experience. However, it has been very difficult to gather this perspective while the consumer is in a location. The latest Microsoft Consumer Study states that 96% of people will share personal information for a cash reward. The People Platform allows consumers to share their feedback from any location and at the moment when they are engaging products and services. For their participation, they receive cash.
The People Platform is redistributing value to CONSUMERS. For a long time, social platforms/media connectors have owned the relationship with the user and have served as an intermediary between consumer and company. We are allowing consumers and companies to interact directly - both receive value from the exchange. Through a data as labor approach, we recognize that people should receive ‘real cash value’ for sharing their information, data, or perspective. Unlike loyalty membership, rewards programs or marketing automation, that rely on historical data to infer future consumer spend behavior, The People Platform delivers value to both consumer and company in real-time, at the time and place that the interaction takes place.
Our self-service toolset and automated process allow brands to define the conversation that they would like to have with consumers and can be interacting with them in near real-time.
Finally, the proprietary technology places specific parameters (device, time spent, location) to the edge and enables any platform to ping us and identify a device that may qualify. The People Platform then addresses that device and translates this anonymous device into a first party, opted in the relationship with the consumer and delivers the activity experience to them to participate in for cash value.
After taking a look at the website, it appears that Epicenter Experience offers a robust software platform. How does the software platform work? How long was the development process on it?
Our cloud-based software, The People Platform, enables a direct connection between consumer and company in an authentic way. Neither needs to be concerned with technology hurdles, just a conversation between two people who are looking to learn, share experiences and exchange information with one another.
The technology consists of three main components, that work together to orchestrate the authentic interaction outlined above:
1. The self-service toolset allows the brand to define, construct and deliver activity to millions of consumers at once. As consumers respond, this toolset, including The People Platform dashboard provides a real-time response, reaction, and reporting capabilities, that allows the company to react and respond to the consumer in a personalized fashion.
2. The proprietary interaction technology enables any platform, service or device to receive parameters from The People Platform and send devices that match our clients’ requirements. This innovative, open approach allows the consumer to be notified and encouraged to participate in the activity when, where, how they choose. We realized that expecting consumers to download an app, with the express purpose of providing feedback was not how consumer usage behavior happens. Rather, we wanted to build a technology component that would enable our technology to do all of the heavy lifting, not the consumer.
3. Finally, the Village is our data and reporting repository, where member profiles, responses, locations, financial balance and other declared consumer behavior information is housed. This robust structure enables our team to query for trends, correlations between data and across locations. This has become an asset in understanding current consumer spending and predicting future behavior with a much deeper understanding of the path to purchase and what influences a person’s decision to consider or purchase certain products and services.
What industries is Epicenter Experience targeting?
The People Platform really has a broad application and currently serves a diverse industry set, ranging from QSR to Automotive to Healthcare to Transporation. We have discovered a standard use case that can be scaled and repeated across industries. This includes: audience at scale, engaging in locations (home or out of the home), across various internet connected devices, receive notification of an activity the consumer can participate in, and value is delivered to the company via the dashboard and to the consumer via immediate financial value that the consumer can use right now.
Currently, we have successfully executed services in Consumer Retail, Restaurants, Automotive, Entertainment, Technology, Travel, Transportation, Sports, Healthcare, Music, Education. Each of these services is delivered as a cloud-based subscription to enable direct interaction with the consumer and a completed activity, including survey, photo, video or social.
Would you be able to share the names of the clients of Epicenter Experience? Have there been any use cases that have stood out to you?
We are about the release 12 case studies on our website. I am happy to share the data and results with you. I just completed this and they should be ready this week.
What is a piece of advice you can give to folks who are looking take the plunge and start their own company?
As Nike says, “Just Do It.”
There are so many reasons, factors, influences and pressures that will make it seem like a bad idea. If you have the passion and it is an idea that you are willing to refinance your home and take time away from your family in order to pursue, you have to embark on the journey.
Even after you have launched your startup, it is unpredictable and your fate uncertain. However, by this time, you have already done the hard work...you have jumped and now, these uncertainties and unpredictable times seem much more manageable and less daunting.
Epicenter Experience is one of the more unique names I’ve heard for a startup. Where and how did you come up with the name?
We really wanted to create a company that recognized that PEOPLE are at the center of the economy and the starting point for any strategy. Therefore, we came up with Epicenter Experience, as PEOPLE are the epicenter of any strategy and the experience they have with your brand is a defining moment for the relationship you will forge with them going forward.
This vision has remained since our inception. As we look at the market, we continue to hold this conviction, as People as consumers spend $13T, 70% of GDP in this country. Therefore, People have to be the focus and an understanding, directly from People, will become the most valuable and coveted asset inside any company. And for sharing their experiences, information, data, and perspective with companies, consumers must be recognized with true value...cash, as this information, with higher quantity and more refined quality, will ultimately fuel the AI and machine learning models that currently, still await larger volumes of data to activate their value.
It is an exciting time for us! We feel as though we are the precursor to the marketing cloud technologies and an intermediary step to AI and machine learning models that will leverage our data to make informed decisions that impact a company’s ability to effectively address the consumer and influence their behavior in a more authentic, real and valuable way - for both the company and the consumer.