Isabel Alexandre

Meet CODE_n finalist Science Rockstars

For the Dutch startup Science Rockstars, good science is the key to great business. That’s why they created PersuasionAPI, an SaaS-based API for e-commerce marketing teams. The software acts on powerful insights into the actual behavior of individuals, helping companies increase customer loyalty and conversion.

Maurits Kaptein

Maurits Kaptein is Chief Science Officer of Science Rockstars

The startup is a pioneer in persuasion profiling. And what is this? According to an article about the technique and its creators in Wired magazine, persuasion profiling doesn’t just find content your customers might enjoy, it figures out how they think. The chief science officer at Science Rockstars, Maurits Kaptein, was one of the doctoral students in communications who conducted the research about persuasion profiling at Stanford University. In today’s interview he talks about these studies, the foundation of the startup and their first product, the PersuasionAPI.

Could you briefly explain what persuasion profiling is and the main conclusions of your research on the technique?

A persuasion profile is a collection of estimates on the effect of persuasive strategies and the associated uncertainty. At least, that’s the scientific definition. Basically a persuasion profile captures the sales arguments that a customer is susceptible to. The profile is updated continuously as the customer interacts with a website. By using persuasion profiling you can make sure you select the right sales pitch for the right customer.

What led to the setting up of Science Rockstars?

Science Rockstars initially grew out of my PhD work (at Eindhoven University and Stanford University). We were gradually shifting towards a first viable product in 2012, only in our spare time, and we launched the company in August 2012 when we went live with our first Beta customer Booking.com. We started pulling together to form this great team to grow beyond research into an actual product. And finally, it’s ready!

The product is marketed directly through www.persuasionapi.com so now it’s available to everyone. By working with Science Rockstars, the aim is to maintain strong ties with the scientific community. We’re trying to add innovations to our products to create next-generation marketing solutions and use big data, intelligent algorithms and behavioral science as a basis for our work. So our tagline is “SCIENCE ROCKSTARS: DATA-DRIVEN, HUMAN-OBSESSED”.

What role does big data technology play in closing the gap between what science knows and what business does?

Science knows a lot, but translating this knowledge into practice in today’s data-rich web environments requires knowledge about data processing. I think knowing how to deal with extremely large datasets in (near) real-time will be a key asset of future e-commerce and marketing. Through data processing and intelligence we can endow computers with the same skills that good salespeople have. Social scientists have formalized these skills, and now data scientists are on board we can actually implement them. So, dealing with data is key.

On the Science Rockstars website you say that less than a year after launching, over 25 million people are affected by your persuasion profiling technology. Could you give us an example of how the PersuasionAPI is used by a client?

There are a number of examples actually: ING, UPC, Booking.com, Rituals.com. Basically, for each of these clients, we improve the effectiveness of their online communications. There are a few simple steps: First, we create content. Then, we implement sales strategies. Usually these can be very simple graphical labels that state (for example) ‘Bestseller’ or ‘Almost out of stock’. Second, we hook up persuasionAPI. The API monitors the behavior of customers, creates a persuasion profile for each customer, and selects the best product pitch. This process continuously optimizes the pages for the current customer. We have seen improvements in click-through rates of over 15% for many customers, which results immediately in increased revenues. Simple, but well thought out and very effective.

What are your expectations for CODE_n and the future of Science Rockstars?

CODE_n will give us a platform to pitch the product, meet talent, and gain exposure all over the world. We are ready to get PersuasionAPI up and running for any e-commerce platform that would like to sell more. And through CODE_n, we hope to reach out to them directly. To scale our business abroad we also wouldn’t mind talking to the occasional investor, although we have been profitable since inception. As for the future of Science Rockstars: we hope to keep expanding our collaborations with scientists and repeat the successes of PersuasionAP. We want to help move science into products.

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