E-Ink LogoTake a glance around the bus or train on your way to work and chances are that a number of your fellow commuters will be viewing the latest bestseller or literary classic through an ink module display provided by E Ink.

One of the challenges the company faces is being able to gather accurate user feedback about their successful displays. Since consumers do not interact directly with the company, one of the best ways for them to find valuable feedback comes by monitoring news and social media.

E Ink’s senior marketing manager, Jenn Vail, explains: “We need to reach the end user to understand what they want from their eReaders, so our products can meet those requirements. This information also helps us to be proactive in providing informed recommendations to manufacturers about improvements that we can incorporate into our components for their products.”

Listening to social media is especially important for E Ink given the background of many of their customers. “Because users of eReaders tend to be tech-savvy, a high proportion will also have a presence on different social media sites. These are views from the man on the street about how our screens are regarded that we were missing out on before,” Jenn says.

Social Media Consumer Feedback Augments E Ink’s Product Development and Marketing

Jenn and her team decided that to effectively monitor news and social media to find relevant consumer feedback would take a more sophisticated strategy than they currently had in place.

“The main issue we needed to overcome was that a search of the web for eReaders throws up hundreds of results. But we are only interested in a specific proportion of these results – those that relate to user experience and how the screen is perceived by users rather than news about stock prices or sales figures,” Jenn explains.

E Ink decided to hire media intelligence company Meltwater to help them. By using their services, E Ink was able to start finding the proverbial needle in the haystack.

“A number of companies we approached couldn’t grasp the nuance of what we wanted. They simply approached us as manufacturers of the eReaders – like Kindle or Nook. Meltwater understood the subtleties of our requirements,” says Jenn.

Jenn and E Ink’s new online news and social media strategy paid off by improving product development and helping to shape marketing decisions as well.

“It has been invaluable in terms of making the process of finding user feedback and reviews significantly faster. We feed this information back to product development teams and use it to hone marketing campaigns to explain more about our technology or build on the momentum already out there.”

It has also been very valuable to hear feedback from international end users as E Ink’s parent company is based in Taiwan. Finding this information was very different before implementing their new online news and social media strategy.

“The Taiwanese team need to run searches looking for items written in Chinese and there are not that many media monitoring products on the market that offer this,” Jenn adds. “The ability to factor that in to the overall Meltwater portfolio has been invaluable to us as a global company.”

Social Media Insights Challenge Engineers’ Assumptions

Jenn and her team are also able to get a snapshot of how consumers are feeling about certain features or newly introduced upgrades by analyzing the sentiment of social media coverage. This ability was extremely helpful recently in settling a debate between E Ink engineers when discussing the merits of introducing a new technology that would help speed up page turning when reading a book on an eReader.

“The issue was that this technology requires more power to run. However, from Meltwater we have found that users particularly appreciate the low power consumption of devices. Meltwater gave us a consumer perspective and an idea of the trade-off users might be willing to live with compared with the viewpoint of our engineers,” Jenn explains.

About E Ink Corporation

Founded in 1997 as a spin-off from the MIT Media Lab, E Ink Corporation is the world’s largest supplier of electrophoretic displays (EPDs) to the eBook industry. Its high quality screens, paper-like in contrast and appearance are also ultra-power efficient, thin, and feather-light.

E Ink technology is found in many consumer and industrial applications, spanning watches, smartcards, electronic shelf labels, battery indicators, eNewspapers, eTextbooks, and public information and promotional signs.

The massive rise in sales of eBooks in recent times has provided a huge boost to E-Ink’s business. In this fast-growing sector, ongoing product development is key and feedback from users of the devices is vital in supporting decisions around how the technology should be improved.