A simple question may produce a valuable answer, but a thoughtful question can lead to a gold mine. Companies continuously look for golden insights that help them better understand the needs of their customers. Each nugget can give them a different perspective: who are their customers? What are their pain points? And how do they need help? Customer-focused market research helps businesses learn more about their customers and how they are using their products. Yet going deeper can source further insights that may truly inform a company’s strategic direction. It all starts with asking the right questions.
For over fifteen years, Conifer Research has been asking thoughtful questions of customers across a broad spectrum of products and industries. They not only help Fortune 500 companies better understand their target customers, but their research can also identify the richest business opportunities and help grow business strategies that can differentiate their clients in the marketplace. The firm is dedicated to driving innovation by gathering data that’s hard to get, identifying patterns, creating frameworks, testing prototypes and pioneering ways to generate long-term value from ethnographic research.
Moving the Gold Mine to the Cloud
Conifer had been using a number of internal legacy tools hosted in their office that helped them more efficiently process, tag, and code research data. They’d also been maintaining a custom client-facing application on behalf of one of their largest clients that provided access to data from multiple research projects. This application was hosted onsite at the client’s offices, and required in-person visits from consultants to maintain the system and input new data. All were manually intensive, static systems that required VPN access.
Conifer engaged software development studio LaunchPad Lab to help them design and build a better solution. Together, their goal was to improve efficiency and usability for internal staff, as well as empower clients with greater access to their ever-growing set of research data.
Taking the cloud approach, LaunchPad Lab proceeded to overhaul Conifer’s entire data management system. They started with a single interface for internal staff to efficiently input and manage large amounts of research data. They then designed a new, scalable customer portal that could provide any of Conifer’s clients with easy, self-service access to rich data. Through an immersive experience, the portal would allow clients to uncover themes and connections found in the research. Conifer was even able to customize the portal for clients with additional requirements and specific needs.
High-Performance Processing on Heroku
Our development team recommended the Heroku platform to power our apps’ complex search functionality and intensive video processing needs. Ben Jacobson, Owner, Conifer Research
Due to the large number of records per project and per client, building a fast, smooth search experience was critical. Conifer wanted to provide clients with the ability to search across numerous projects, using multiple filters, all from within the browser. This required a different architecture that leveraged data stored in Heroku Postgres and smaller cached data stores, as well as integrating both Memcache and Elasticsearch functionality. To enhance speed and efficiency, the development team created search indexes that queried smaller subsets of data whenever possible. Heroku’s pre-integrated Add-ons Memcachier and Bonsai allowed them to quickly and easily plug in these powerful search-enabling technologies. The team also used Tinfoil Security for periodic security scans and New Relic APM for performance monitoring.
With large production data sets and high traffic, we understand that monitoring app performance in real-time is critical... Heroku Add-on New Relic APM makes it easy for us to pinpoint bottlenecks in the production environment. Brendan Hennessy, Co-Founder & CTO, LaunchPad Lab
Because Conifer takes an in-depth, user-centered approach to gathering research data, they capture a significant amount of video and high-resolution photographs for each project. Their internal-facing app was designed to create and manage research records, but the Conifer team also needed the app to help them easily process, compress, transcribe, and tag large media files, and allow them to clip segments for sharing through the client portal. Heroku’s performance dynos provided additional support for high-performance video processing.
Leveraging worker dynos and Heroku’s powerful background processing capabilities allows Conifer to efficiently slice and dice their media files and provide curated content to their clients. Brendan Hennessy, Co-Founder & CTO, LaunchPad Lab
With the new system, not only can Conifer now provide even more value to their clients, but it also gives them bandwidth to take on more projects and grow their own business.
When Conifer’s clients log into the portal, they are presented with a clean, highly visual interface that offers a variety of ways to explore research data. Clients can perform a free-text search of video transcripts or filter based on criteria, such as project title, city, or country in which the research was conducted. Filter criteria changes dynamically based on selection (e.g. choosing a city narrows the choices to only the participants who live in that city). The Elasticsearch functionality allows users to search across projects and view their search history. In addition to search, clients can browse data tagged with key themes that Conifer uncovers during analysis
When clients view a particular video clip or photo, they can read a transcript or description and easily navigate to the previous or next clip/photo in an interview. Additional information in the sidebar provides related tags and related records, to encourage browsing and exploration of the data. They can print or download a particular video clip/photo, or build a personal collection that is of interest to them. The app facilitates collaboration among team members by allowing users to share collections with others within their company.
With Conifer’s new apps, clients can now easily mine their research for gold by digging smarter.