Traditional customer analytics techniques are due for an update, according to HYKE Technologies CEO Sid Eskand, whose company promises to tap into consumers’ subconscious minds.
St. John’s-based HYKE has developed an app that offers users ever-changing discounts at retailers, restaurants and service providers as a way to study their preferences and biases.
The company is the brainchild of Eskand and his business partner, Trung Trinh, both of whom hold PhDs from Memorial University. Eskand’s doctorate is in process engineering, and Trinh’s is in computer engineering.
“Deep down, even for some random decision that you make, there is a reason behind that, which you can’t explain,” said Eskand in an interview. “But from putting you in different situations and positions, and tracking your behavior and response, we can have a good guess [about your personality] over time.”
Conventional “big data” approaches to customer analytics use information such as people's web browsing history and previous purchases to predict what other products they might be interested in. For example, Amazon recommends products based on users’ past searches and buying habits.
But Eskand said that the majority of human behavior is the result of either subconscious or completely unconscious mental processes -- a view buttressed by psychological research. So he and Trinh decided to develop a software suite that would build psychological profiles of users by running numerous, tiny experiments.
Users who download the HYKE app are offered a slate of ever-changing deals at businesses that have signed on to participate. They input their budget and what types of purchases they are looking to make, and the app shows them businesses that fit their criteria.
For example, a coffee shop may offer a $2 credit for users who already want to spend $2 on coffee. The app tracks metrics ranging from how long a user spends viewing an offer, to their finger movements, and then records what they spend the $2 credit on.
The next time the user buys coffee, they may be offered a $5 credit, with the app tracking how they respond to the additional spending power.
Over time, the information is used to build psychological profiles of individual users, as well as companies’ customer bases writ large.
Businesses that sign on with HYKE have access to a customizable dashboard capable of visualizing the data gathered by the software, using a combination of charts, graphs and heatmaps. They can also download the raw statistics.
Eskand said the businesses HYKE partners with "are not data analytics firms. Reports with text and a bunch of numbers are very time-consuming to read and understand. We want to get faster and more efficient to read, so visualization of the data was important for us.”
The participating companies can also control when they want to offer customers store credits and how much money they want the credits to be worth -- a feature that Eskand said could help them drive business during slow periods.
The company began beta-testing in April, using Shopify’s platform to facilitate in-person transactions, and Eskand said they had originally expected to launch the full version in the fall. With COVID-19 making brick-and-mortar shopping risky, that timeline has been pushed back.
“With the COVID situation, you can’t ask people to go outside and shop,” he said. “So that made us change our plans.”
Instead, an e-commerce version of HYKE that Eskand and Trinh had originally planned to launch in time for Christmas of 2021 is now slated for the coming holiday season.
HYKE has six full-time employees, including a staff member hired on Tuesday. Eskand expects that number to grow to eight full-time and four part-time workers by the end of the year.
Funding has come from the National Research Council, the Newfoundland and Labrador government and Eskand and Trinh’s personal finances.
Eskand said they are planning a funding round to coincide with their CDL participation, with a tentative goal of about $1 million, based on advice they have received from Volta and the Techstars Venture Deals course.