First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Erinn Taylor: Besides some challenges for remote schooling with my children, my family is well. Thank you for asking.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you joined Canvs?
Erinn Taylor: I have long had a fascination with surveys and how they’re used to better understand consumer insight.
In my first job after college, at a company called Decipher, I worked in data processing, cleaning and re-coding data, and creating long-form reports such as banners and crosstabs. I then worked my way up to become VP of Software Support until FocusVision acquired decipher.
After some time in that role, I felt the calling to work at a startup again. I became the Chief Product Officer for Critical Mix, where I established and managed a global department that developed and supported an enterprise data collection and insights platform, as well as an API that supported research for companies including Wendy’s, Disney, JD Power, NRG, and more.
The platform was included in the 2019 acquisition of Dynata. There, I played an essential role in integrating the Critical Mix platform into Dynata. Additionally, I sat on the product leadership team, managing the development of the data collection and insights platform.
Once again, I yearned for startup life and wanted to work with a new company that was building cutting-edge technologies for human sentiment analysis. So I joined Canvs as EVP of Product and Platform.
How does Canvs innovate?
Erinn Taylor: To innovate, we start with an identified problem; generally, a micro problem that we believe can be solved. Initially, we started with the problem of language changes and how people feel and discuss their emotional changes. We have iterated and resolved using NLP and machine learning to create a platform that understands all the ways people unnaturally speak, including emojis, slang, and shorthand like ‘lol’ or ‘fml.’
Short-form comments on social media and open-ended text in surveys are valuable sources of information that add nuance to how consumers are thinking and reacting.
The added detail in the unstructured data can often be transformed into action. Insight is the closest point between data and action and is why we consider Canvs an Insights Company. We can sift through piles of noise to identify trends in the data that are most often overlooked.
Canvs is the industry standard in understanding how audiences think and feel.
Our platform is data agnostic. Every major data collection or survey platform can easily load their unstructured data into Canvs to gain insight. Canvs reduces the time to value and time to the insight that creates better outcomes for our users and more empathic and informed customers.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Erinn Taylor: Fortunately, the Canvs product can be used across industries, so we have seen continued adoption. Additionally, as fewer consumers go to stores and continue to buy more online, competition for their attention continues to increase. As a result, more and more brands want to have a better understanding of how they feel about their products. They’re leveraging Canvs to get that understanding, which I think will ultimately benefit both consumers and brands.
More specifically, in response to COVID, we worked on a joint study with Toluna to understand the effects on employees transitioning to work from home. Utilizing Canvs nuanced emotional analysis, the joint research identified actions that employers could take to encourage their employees and empower their well being and productivity from home. These points, taken directly from surveyed employees, included:
● Provide communications to staff, communicate regularly, and stress the importance of safety.
● Don’t worry (as much) about overcompensating for those working from home – people are adapting and working harder than ever.
● While it’s impossible to ‘make people busy,’ consider underutilized employees and ways to engage.
It also identified messages for Brands and how to relate to consumers:
● Pivot from messages that focus on the impact of COVID-19 into messages about health and recognition of stress.
● Consider the positives that relate to family time and time spent at home.
The Canvs mission is to enable deeper levels of empathy for every organization by illuminating how people are thinking and feeling.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Erinn Taylor: COVID had its hand in several difficult decisions. As a startup, we faced a bleak outlook for 2020. We were forced to look at every cost and cut back whenever possible. For the company, perhaps the toughest was choosing to end our lease and go fully distributed. While I have worked remotely for the better part of 10 years, for the company, it was a new endeavor. Six months later, a silver lining emerged. Not only have we maintained productivity, I believe we have improved it. Our cost messages, combined with doubling down on our customer love and focus on retention, and a focus on our staff’s empathy, we are accelerating our trajectory into the market. New development, new relationships, and hunger to show the innovation and insight Canvs is bringing to life.
How do you deal with the stress and anxiety, and how do you project yourself and Canvs in the future?
Erinn Taylor: Through the simple proverb, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Stress can be managed by organizing what we know and what is solved, so we can step back and theorize what could be possible.
Canvs is only as good as its people, and we have great people. Due to our ability to logically but constructively discuss, collaborate, and improvise. Because we trust one another, Canvs will continue to excel in understanding how people emote their emotions in text.
Who are your competitors, and how do you plan to stay in the game?
Erinn Taylor: Our competitors include companies like Ascribe, Luminoso, Qualtrics XM, etc. However, we’re confident that no one understands language as well as we do or the audience that brands are trying to reach. We’ve spent the better part of a decade developing a one-of-a-kind unnatural language processing engine, which recognizes trillions of words and expressions, including slang, acronyms, misspellings, emojis, and subtle nuances such as sarcasm and “shade.”
We understand millennials and Gen Z emotions and their buying power better than anyone. We’re focused on making the market researcher a hero at their craft by using AI to unlock marketing opportunities, deliver greater insights, reduce time and cost to decode, and improve product and brand experience.
Your final thoughts?
Erinn Taylor: Canvs’ mission is to empower a more empathic world. The team at Canvs believes that feelings have an enormous, unseen influence on the world, which may hold the secret to many of our biggest challenges. Canvs enables people to understand each other better and communicate more effectively. It has also allowed companies to understand human emotions’ complexity, which translates into more pleasurable experiences for consumers.
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