My guest today is Laura Beavin-Yates, SVP of Customer Success at Immersion.
Immersion is a technology platform that measures people’s unconscious neurological connection to an experience or piece of content in real-time using their existing smartwatch.
Prior to joining Immersion, Laura was the Manager of Research & Development of the Neuro & Behavioral Science Centre at Ipsos.
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Jamin Brazil: Hi everybody, I’m Jamin. You are listening to the Happy Market Research podcast. My guest today is Laura Beavin Yates, SVP of customer success at Immersion. Immersion is a technology platform that measures people’s unconscious neurological connection to an experience, or piece of content in real-time using their existing smartwatch. Prior to joining Immersion, Laura was the manager of research and development of the neuro and behavioral science center at Ipsos. Laura, welcome to the Happy Market Research podcast.
Laura Beavin-Yates: Thank you so much. Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here with you today.
Jamin Brazil: As you know I’ve done hundreds of interviews with today’s top minds in marketing research. Many of them trace their roots to Michigan State’s marketing research program. Are you looking for higher pay to expand your professional network and to achieve your full potential in the world of market research? The program has tracks for both full-time students and working professionals. They also provide career support assisting students to win today’s most sought after jobs. In fact, over 80 percent of Michigan State’s marketing research students have accepted job offers six months prior to graduating. The program has three formats. The first, full-time 100 percent online program taught over 12 months and it starts this January. The second is a part-time 100 percent online program that’s spread over 20 months. This one starts in May and is specifically designed for working professionals. And of course they have their full-time 12 month in person experience that starts September 2022. All programs include real world experience and full-time job placement support. If you are looking to achieve your full potential, check out MSU’s program at B-R-O-A-D, that’s broad.msu.edu/marketing. That’s B-R-O-A-D. msu. edu/marketing. It costs nothing to get more details. Take the time, invest in yourself. You are worth it. And your future self will thank you. Class sizes are limited, so please check them out today. This episode is brought to you by Momentive. You may have heard that SurveyMonkey’s parent company recently rebranded as Momentive, a leader in agile insights and experience management. The Momentive AI powered insights platform is built for the pace of modern business so you can deeply understand your market, elevate your brand, and build winning products faster. Momentive offers 22 purpose built market research solutions that incorporate an AI engine, built in expertise, sophisticated methodologies, and an integrated global panel of over 144 million people to deliver meaningful insights and hours not months. Momentive also has a team of market research consultants that can take on anything from research design to custom reporting as needed, so you can spend more time shaping what’s next for your organization. To learn more, visit momentive. ai. That’s M-O-M-E-N-T-I-V-E. ai. We like to create some context. Tell us about your parents. What did they do and how did that inform what you do today?
Laura Beavin-Yates: I love talking about my parents that I could probably talk about them for the whole time but I will not. So my mom was a self-starter. She was a young mom actually and she didn’t let that hold her back. She learned to fly planes and helicopters. She was in sales, she owned many of her own. She was a really strong and confident woman and really she always believed that she could do anything that men could do, and that inspired me. She I feel was kind of a behavioral feminist. She didn’t go out and preach about feminism but just acted around it. And so she really inspired me to be a leader where I can not only share my ideas that will make an impact, but she inspired me to change lives in positive ways. And she also inspired me to say yes to pretty much anything, and really led me to this failure isn’t really an option attitude. My dad he was a handyman, he worked on furniture for years. He did upholstery repair but he was also a musician. And really I would define him as an aspiring psychologist. He was a huge hippie, he was really compassionate. He was always an ear for me and a voice of reason, and he always told me that I could accomplish anything. He really is what inspired me to want to make the world better through care and connection, which is a big mission at Immersion actually. And he also motivated my passion for mentorship which plays a big role in what I’m doing today.
Jamin Brazil: Talk to me more about mentorship. Are you specifically talking about mentoring new entrants into the consumer insight space, or is it in a different area?
Laura Beavin-Yates: That’s a great question. I view mentorship as being really broad actually. I taught formerly, so I used to teach psychology and would love to also continue doing that in the future when I have a little bit more time. But right now the ways in which I mentor include people who are new to the field of market search, neuroscience. But also we have a very strong intern program at Immersion and so I find a lot of opportunity to do mentorship through there as well. I always try to say yes anytime anyone wants to have an informational interview. I don’t know if I should put that out there so broadly but it’s absolutely true. When I was growing up and breaking into the industry, and even into, trying to figure out what I wanted to do, we didn’t have the benefit of LinkedIn. LinkedIn wasn’t what it is today. And so I always encourage people to utilize that avenue to get in touch with people where they can actually learn from them and get some guidance on what they might wanna do.
Jamin Brazil: It’s super interesting how LinkedIn has completely democratized access to anyone. I’m constantly amazed at who I’m able to get access to. It’s like there’s no barrier. There’s no gatekeeper to that individual.
Laura Beavin-Yates: It’s a beautiful thing. I always again anytime anyone reaches out, I try to let them know that I’m a resource. And I actually have really an interesting story. Not long ago on another podcast that I was listening to Hidden Brain. And they were talking about how the woman who he was interviewing had broken into the White House by just sending a cold message on LinkedIn.
Jamin Brazil: Oh my god.
Laura Beavin-Yates: All power to her.
Jamin Brazil: That is super interesting. So the other thing I wanted to ask about, it sounds like you’re getting direct experience with the next generation, Gen Z as they’re entering into the workforce?
Laura Beavin-Yates: Yeah, absolutely. And again we are so lucky we partner with a lot of different organizations and educational institutions to bring in interns. But we work, our co-founder actually teaches right now at USC. We work with UCLA undergraduate institutions. And so for me it’s really important that we be able to share knowledge. We at Immersion we’re a startup, and it’s a very unique business but also very fast-paced. So much to learn, so much opportunity to really be in the thick of things. And so it’s been great. We get people from all different spaces and it’s been great to try to help extend success and make connections for people who are very deserving.
Jamin Brazil: And the other part, and this episode is obviously not about Gen Z. But the other part that I’m finding really interesting is they have a very different cultural reference point because they are the first digital first generation. Growing up completely differently really than most of any other generation, maybe half of millennials. But in that framework, I think there’s a lot for us to learn and make sure that we’re paying attention to as quite literally their framework and view of the world is so different.
Laura Beavin-Yates: Absolutely. And honestly when we, every time that I have conversations with our interns I tell them we want their ideas as well. I’ve worked in, I’ve had interns and managed interns in many of my past positions and there were varying opportunities to get involved in things. And in every company that I was at, we always tried to get them heavily involved. But I really, I can’t reiterate enough to that, the interns that we have who join us at Immersion that again because we’re a startup, we want their unique ideas about how to talk to people, about ways that, finding value in things that are unique. Utilizing our technology for unique things that they can apply in their own lives for example. So absolutely, you’re absolutely right. They’ve got a unique view and bring a lot of great insight I think into the way that we look at things at Immersion.
Jamin Brazil: So what did you learn from your time sheltering in place that you will carry forward if things are opening up?
Laura Beavin-Yates: So many things. I think that it’s really interesting. There are things definitely that I learned about how to function. So Immersion was a remote company before the pandemic began, but we also were really when it came to trying to meet in person. The interns I would always meet with them at least once a week in person. And I realized I think even more than ever in the pandemic when we didn’t have those opportunities the importance of both communicating and also connecting. So when you don’t have the opportunity to go and meet at a coffee shop, or you don’t have an office that has that water cooler spot where you can chat with your coworkers, or you can’t pop over to their desk. The value of being able to connect with your coworkers more deeply is so important. So communicating to make sure that they’re doing OK. Asking them how their weekend went. Getting not overly personal, but also personal enough so that you feel like you’re really forging a deeper relationship with them. That’s something that I think is really important that we do naturally when we’re in person. And I think that as we continue to even go in person or be hybrid, the importance of that is really gonna be at the forefront of my mind. The other thing that I think has really become, and I know you’ve probably heard this before, is the time management. So obviously working at home full-time without having that flexibility of going to in person meetings etcetera, it’s hard to switch off sometimes. And so for me, I’ve really had to work hard to try to set some guidelines to really make sure that the time also that I’m spending at work, I’m doing it effectively. I’m blocking time so I make sure that I’m getting the work done that I need to which may not always involve being on phone calls or Zoom calls or etcetera. I actually read a really interesting quote the other day from so Melinda Gates book. I’m a little bit behind the ball on reading that. But her mom used to say you should plan your schedule or someone else will. And that really resonated with me because it’s so important to have an open schedule and to be able to meet with people especially in a customer success space which is my arm of the business. But at the same time, you need the time to think deeply. And if you don’t set that time out, then it will escape you regularly.
Jamin Brazil: I think that’s really true. I wanna talk a little bit about the first point that you made which is funny. I’ve never seen it play out like this or even recognized that it was happening until quite literally two weeks ago. It used to be the case when we were meeting in person, we just naturally built connection and it sort of happened almost subconsciously. But then when we moved to shelter in place, there was this immense intentionality around making sure that we were exercising this muscle of empathy. And that extended not just to our peers and employees etcetera, but even into our customers lives, and then into ours. And now coming back into it, I’m actually really excited and I’m bullish on our industry because I do feel like we are more connected today than we were two years ago.
Laura Beavin-Yates: I think you’re right. I think we think more deeply about it. So I think your point about, before I think it was something that was somewhat inherent. But at the same time, I think there was an assumption of empathy and an assumption of deep connection just happening. And I think that when it comes to the pandemic, I think we’ve all realized A that we need that deeper connection, and B that it takes a little bit of work to empathize and to try to put yourself in other people’s shoes. But at the same time we see it every day. At the beginning of the pandemic, one of my favorite things is actually to see my clients when I’m on a Zoom call have their kids come in the room. I love that because it’s humanizing and it helps I think level set for all of us. It’s really, the pandemic we’re all going through something together and so we have that deeper connection because it’s a shared experience, that oftentimes pre-pandemic we didn’t really recognize. It just happened innately.
Jamin Brazil: We’ve definitely had the benefit of getting a small window into the lives of the people that we’ve been zooming or whatever platform. Let’s talk about data joints, they’re on the rise. This has been something I’ve been talking a lot about because I’m hearing it a lot. Microsoft other, quite literally every corporate researcher that I’ve been interviewing has said that it’s no longer acceptable to just provide a single primary data set as the foundation of the work, that obviously is foundational. But there’s a lot of context that is being created. So every market research report is now referencing more than primary data. It’s, again it’s just this triangulation even though that denotes three of truth. How are you guys measuring and reporting unconscious neurological connections especially in context of real-time?
Laura Beavin-Yates: So you’re absolutely right. We are seeing, when it comes to data joints, we’re seeing more and more people also look for multiple inputs to really have confidence in the insights that they’re getting. And at Immersion, what we offer actually is a complement to a lot of those more traditional data streams whether it be quantitative, qualitative, or other types of large scale data that might be gathered from behavioral observations etcetera. At Immersion what we’re doing is we are offering our customers a platform that enables them to measure using a smartwatch that consumers already own, to passively measure whether or not their consumers are emotionally connecting with an experience or a piece of content. We have customers who are using us to measure messaging, advertisements, websites, shopping experiences. Basically any opportunity where they want a deeper understanding of how their consumers are emotionally connecting to an experience, there’s an opportunity for us to help provide them with that deeper level of information. And as you mentioned, we’re collecting this data second by second and it’s output in real-time. So our platform when respondents or when consumers are participating in a study, basically they’ve downloaded an app to their phone, they’ve given the OK on their smartwatch to have data passively collected. And then they go through the experience in a natural way while we are passively capturing that reaction. The benefit of that is that we don’t have to ask them how they felt about something that they experienced ten minutes ago, 15 minutes ago. We don’t have to interrupt the experience in the moment to ask them how it’s connecting with them. But again instead we have a passive way to capture that. And again, we have so many people who are using this as a complement to the rich data that they’re already getting for more traditional techniques.
Jamin Brazil: Does it have application in mental health?
Laura Beavin-Yates: So we have absolutely had conversations in the space of mental health. In addition to measuring whether or not an emotional connection is happening, we are also measuring psychological safety. And psychological safety is really that extent to which you feel comfortable and confident in the scenario that you’re in. And so there are a lot of opportunities in the mental health space. The primary place where we’re having those conversations right now is in the partnerships arm of our organization. So we’re talking to a number of companies about the opportunity to embed Immersion and psychological safety into apps that they already own.
Jamin Brazil: That’s interesting. And then the data that you’re getting on the experience, so the reaction to the experience, is there a baseline at a per person level that’s established and then the reaction measured against that?
Laura Beavin-Yates: Yeah. That’s a really great question. We do. We collect a baseline for every person that we’re measuring. And actually the way that our platform works is that we provide an aggregate measure of reactions to an experience or to content. And we usually bucket things as either a live experience for example maybe you’re going to a concert or doing shopping or on a website. But basically we aggregate that data so that you can look at the trend for the group. You can understand how a group of people are responding so that you get those rich insights and can generalize those of course to your target consumers. And so in order to be able to aggregate that data, it’s important to collect that baseline from each individual, because of course everyone has differing levels of the extent to which they get very excited about something. They get very immersed in something. That’s actually the name of one of our outputs. One of my colleagues is a very laid-back guy who gets excited about some things but my level of enthusiasm is much higher. So ultimately you wanna make sure that you’re eliminating those individual differences that happen so that you really, that happen physiologically so that we’re really getting a brain read of the reaction to the experience.
Jamin Brazil: Normalizing that data is super valuable. And being able to create that is such a significant win. Can you give me a specific example? I know we only have a few minutes and we’ve talked a lot about this. But a specific example of a recent project.
Laura Beavin-Yates: Yeah, absolutely. So we’re actually working right now with a client who is working on some website optimization. And so in addition to their traditional testing where they’re looking at an A and B version of a website, they’re also using Immersion to understand, what about that experience is yielding a strong connection? And what’s potentially causing those consumers to disengage at certain points? So really we’re looking at connection but you can also think of it like we’re looking at the brain getting value from an experience versus not getting value, and then bailing out because the brain has better things to do. We’re constantly bombarded with things through the world and so it’s really important to be able to know that you’re breaking through and not gonna lose the consumer. So again in this case this customer is looking basically at Immersion, in conjunction with that behavioral data as the different consumers are going through different website experiences, to understand points of friction where people may be abandoning. But also to understand whether or not key messaging is connecting with their target audiences, and how they need to optimize that potentially to connect with different types of audiences.
Jamin Brazil: Let’s pull back. What do you see as common methodologies that are being used today? And why do you think they’re being used?
Laura Beavin-Yates: So we again partner with a lot of different types of methodologies we, that are more traditional market research approaches. So for example, quantitative style testing. And these can be in person the qualitative, virtual. We’ve had customers who are embedding us in their quantitative surveys and allowing people to view content asynchronously while their reactions are measured to the content whether it be movie trailers, or messages, or brand concepts, animatics. You name it. And then on the qualitative side of things, again this could be in focus groups, in one-on-one interviews that are done in person or virtually. We’ve had in person shopping experiences, online shopping experiences. It’s really exciting because my former life was in market research, so it always makes me really happy to be able to support those types of projects where again by pairing Immersion with those more traditional techniques, they get that additional layer to answer hard questions that might be harder to answer with those different approaches.
Jamin Brazil: Last question. What is your personal motto?
Laura Beavin-Yates: My goodness. That’s a hard one. My personal motto I would say, well I’m working on shifting it a little bit. So my personal motto used to be to always say yes. One of the other learnings that I’ve had coming out of the pandemic is that I want to always say yes. But as things get busier in a startup and the world is opening up and there are a lot of things to balance, I’m learning that sometimes I have to embrace no. So lately it’s been embrace no when appropriate. But I think beyond that it’s really just to help make the world a better place. And that sounds really cheesy but at the same time, our company mission is about fostering connection and helping people form deeper connections with their consumers. And anytime that, if I go back to the mentorship, any time I can help connect someone else or help someone else learn something that will help them have a better life, that is something that I find personal reward from. So if it’s not making someone else happy or working toward that, then it’s something that I try not to put my time toward.
Jamin Brazil: My guest today has been Laura Beavin Yates, SVP of customer success at Immersion. Laura thank you for joining me today.
Laura Beavin-Yates: Thank you so much again for having me. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.