As the evening darkens in the Flatiron District in Midtown Manhattan, Anna Konopacz is finally ready to send the product development survey she’s been working on for several days. As a senior consumer insights manager at online mattress company Helix Sleep, she’s trying to find out how people like to sleep, how soft or hard they enjoy their mattresses, or how warm or cool they want their pillows.
Anna has already reviewed the survey questions that will inform the company’s concept testing strategy. She selected the demographic profile of the people she expects to take the survey and she targeted the U.S. locations where she wants answers from.
Helix Sleep needs to understand the sleeping habits of New Yorkers and Los Angelenos, because that’s where many early adopters of ecommerce products live. But Anna also wants to reach a broader audience to avoid a common strategic mistake.
In New York we get really siloed into thinking the consumer is just the New York consumer. But Middle America is really different from the East Coast and West Coast.
To guarantee that her survey will reach Helix Sleep’s ideal target market across the U.S., Anna has decided to buy responses through the automated market research solution SurveyMonkey Audience. As soon as her payment goes through and the survey is sent, she closes her laptop and heads out into the New York dusk.
Hopefully, she thinks as she walks down the subway stairs, I’ll have hundreds of survey responses ready when I get back to the office tomorrow.
Her neighborhood, the Lower East Side, is only four subway stops away. But even before she gets there an email alert pops up on her phone:
Your SurveyMonkey Audience project has completed.
Just like that.
While Anna walked to the subway station and traveled underground, hundreds of Americans were filling out her survey, telling her about how hard or soft they like their mattresses and how warm or cool they want their pillows. In a matter of minutes, Helix Sleep received a trove of highly valuable Market Powered Data showing what consumers want, how they like to sleep, and why.
Anna can kick off her shoes and relax now. In the morning, she’ll sift through the data to present the main takeaways to the Product, Engineering, and Operations teams.
"SurveyMonkey Audience," Anna says, "helped a ton with product launches but also with changes to our business."
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The story of Helix Sleep started in August 2015, right after Jerry Lin, Adam Tishman, and Kristian von Rickenbach graduated from The Wharton School of business at the University of Pennsylvania. After Jerry (pictured below) had a bad experience when buying a mattress for business school, the classmates thought someone should revolutionize the customer experience in this market.
Why not them?
They raised venture capital, built a website, and moved to New York to launch Helix Sleep. Right from the start, Jerry (now the CEO) says, they started using SurveyMonkey Audience to refine their product ideas. The fast do-it-yourself consumer panel offered the right cohorts of consumers they needed to reach.
This was crucial because Helix Sleep bet everything on personalization. The founders had the strategic hunch that sleep should no longer be treated as a one-size-fits-all market. And their initial surveys confirmed this.
The biggest thing we learned from surveys is that sleep is so subjective. Everyone is really unique as to what is soft or what is firm. That validates our idea that off-the-shelf products don’t work.
The next question was, how do you develop and sell personalized products at scale?
Well, you start by listening to consumers at scale.
After the launch of their first mattress, Helix Sleep decided to develop additional products. That’s when they became heavy users of market research surveys on Audience, Jerry says.
Thanks to that their second product, the Helix Pillow, turned out to be strikingly different from the original concept.
As the product team developed the pillow, Anna, the consumer insights manager, fielded three consecutive consumer feedback surveys to test the concept. The results dramatically changed the startup’s plans:
The Helix Pillow was a hit.
“SurveyMonkey Audience essentially allowed us to launch the best product that we could,” Jerry says. “And in fact we sold out in the first month of our launch.”
If we didn’t have this data, we’d be developing prototypes and products blindly. We’d probably launch mediocre products, get negative feedback, and then have to iterate more.
The pillow product development process was so successful that Jerry and the team decided to embark in concept testing for a third product line: sheets. And the startup did all this with one dedicated market researcher, Anna, who says she trained herself in survey science.
Working as a one-woman-band, Anna says, SurveyMonkey’s features usually save her a lot of time:
Helix Sleep progressively expanded its use of surveys to other business needs beyond product development, like product feedback, customer satisfaction, and market research for potential future offerings.
From business plan to multiple product lines, surveys have been crucial in Helix Sleep’s attempt to revolutionize the sleep market.
Jerry credits SurveyMonkey Audience with helping the company land on a successful product development strategy.
“It’s been extremely huge,” he says.
We wouldn’t be able to launch the right products at the right price point and be able to grow our business and brand without SurveyMonkey Audience.
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