11 Aug 2023

Meet the Founder: A Q&A With Dr Kelvin Goh, Founder & CEO of Vodus Research

In this exclusive interview, we spoke with Dr Kelvin Goh, the brilliant mind driving Vodus Research. Join us as we delve into Kelvin's captivating vision, uncover the fascinating journey behind the creation of Vodus Research, and get a sneak peek into the exciting prospects that lie ahead for this groundbreaking market research venture. 

Tell us a bit about yourself. You pursued a Ph.D. in Physics before launching Vodus Research in 2017. How did this transition occur, and at what point did you realise that you wanted to pursue a career in market research?

In 2016, the world was captivated by major political events like Brexit and the US presidential election. Like everyone else, I found myself closely following the polls and predictions. To my surprise, the pollsters were confident that the UK would remain in the EU, and Hillary Clinton would emerge victorious. However, reality had a different plan, and the actual outcomes diverged significantly from the poll results. 

As a research scientist, I couldn't help but be curious about this discrepancy. I delved deep into the problem and soon realized that people's attention spans had shrunk drastically due to the widespread use of mobile phones and the internet. This shift in behaviour meant that fewer people were willing to participate in surveys, resulting in biased and non-representative data. 

To combat this issue, I knew we had to find a way to encourage more people to participate in surveys willingly. I conceptualized the OMTOS (One-question Media Tracking Online Survey) solution. The idea was simple yet innovative – instead of bombarding respondents with lengthy surveys, we divided the questionnaire into individual question and served them across various online platforms through ad spaces. By doing so, we harnessed the extensive reach of online platforms, ensuring a significantly higher survey response rate from a diverse population. 

As I continued my research, I discovered that the market research industry also uses similar survey methods as election polls. In fact, according to the ESOMAR report, it had grown into a staggering US$119 million global industry by 2021. This realization sparked something within me, and I made a life-changing decision. I chose to step away from my academic career and return to Malaysia, determined to create something extraordinary. 

And so, Vodus was born. It became my passion project, my endeavour to revolutionize market research and provide businesses with accurate and insightful data. With OMTOS as its foundation. Vodus aimed to bridge the gap between traditional surveys and the modern, digitally connected world. It was time to reshape the way we gathered information, ensuring that our clients made decisions based on reliable, representative, and actionable data. 

What led you to believe that the market research industry was ripe for disruption? Why did you perceive it as inadequate for its intended purpose? 

The limitations and inaccuracy of conventional survey methods have been extensively documented, particularly evident in their failures to accurately predict many high-profile elections since 2015. As a result, numerous clients across various industries have become increasingly aware of these shortcomings and are actively seeking alternative solutions. 

Over the past few years, we have demonstrated the efficacy of our OMTOS survey method on multiple occasions by successfully predicting election results with a higher level of accuracy compared to conventional survey methods. A recent notable example of this was during the 2022 Malaysian 15th General election, where our OMTOS survey method outperformed traditional approaches in predicting the election outcome. This achievement highlights the reliability and effectiveness of our innovative survey methodology in providing more precise insights and forecasting for our clients. 

As businesses face an increasingly crowded market, they are relying more on consumer and market insights to gain a competitive edge. In this context, the accuracy of the data becomes a pivotal factor in determining the success of their brands. 

The market research industry is highly competitive. How do you deal with this? 

The market research industry may be competitive, but there has not been any ground breaking innovation to resolve the most critical challenges that the industry is facing, which is the reliability and low accuracy issue of the traditional online panel survey methods.  To stand us out against the competition, we innovated by reinventing the online panel as we know by creating the OMTOS survey methods to solve this reliability and low accuracy issue.   

Through our OMTOS technology, we are able to revolutionize market research by providing clients with more accurate and reliable insights at a lower cost and faster speed than the conventional online panels.  

What are you the most excited about coming up in the next 6 months? 

To enhance the representativeness of the survey data that we collect, we are introducing another set of innovation in market research, which is our ecommerce-survey platform. Our ecommerce-survey platform is an online marketplace where our survey respondents can exchange each of their VPoint’s for a 1% discount on purchases. For instance, answering 10 questions earns them 10 VPoint’s, translating into a 10% discount on anything they buy from our marketplace. 

By implementing this platform, we can now offer variable incentives to our respondents, addressing the survey incentive bias problem that often plagues traditional market research methods. In the conventional approach, fixed incentives are given for survey participation, disregarding the fact that individuals have different valuations of their time. This leads to a response bias, where lower-income individuals are more likely to be incentivized by certain rewards compared to higher-income counterparts, whose time is considered more valuable. 

Our innovative variable incentive method tackles this issue head-on. We tailor incentives based on our respondents' spending power, which is directly proportional to their income. This effectively eliminates the response bias among lower-income individuals. For example, a high-income person purchasing Kiehl’s will receive a higher discount/reward value from answering a set of questions than a lower-income person purchasing Garnier. 

What is the top career tip you would give to someone starting out in market research? 

If you're someone who is intrigued by acquiring precise insights and unravelling the truth about the market and consumers, then quantitative market research might be your calling. Quantitative market research revolves around numbers and the analysis of extensive datasets. As a quantitative market researcher, you will play a crucial role in sifting through vast amounts of survey data to identify significant trends. Your expertise will be essential in converting these trends into actionable market insights that can effectively address various business challenges. 

In this dynamic field, you'll need to be comfortable working with data, employing statistical tools, and employing analytical methods. Your ability to draw meaningful conclusions from the data will be paramount in guiding businesses to make informed decisions and seize opportunities in the ever-changing market landscape. So, if you enjoy diving into numbers and are passionate about deciphering the market's complexities, quantitative market research might just be the perfect fit for you. 

Vodus Research is an innovative market research company that specialises in uncovering reliable and accurate insights into the local Malaysian market. We employ a unique One-question Media Tracking Online Survey (OMTOS) method that surveys 17 million Malaysian consumers instantly. With our extensive experience in research and expertise in the Malaysian market, we are able to provide clients with detailed strategies and market insights necessary for success.  Find out more at www.vodus.com

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