Case Study

Research Provides Voice for the Deaf

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Purple Communications, Inc. revolutionized how the deaf community communicates by launching a new videophone called SmartVP. The device sits atop a television and allows deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals to communicate using video relay service (VRS) and ASL (American Sign Language) interpreters. SmartVP had grabbed national attention with a highly successful launch and the free-to-the-end-user devices blanketed the market. However, minute use—which is how Purple generates revenue— was dramatically lower than what Purple had anticipated. In other words, more than 12,000 deaf individuals had SmartVP in their homes, but they were not using it.

Purple Smart VP video screen for DVL Seigenthaler research project

Challenges / Objectives / Implementation

Purple engaged DVL Seigenthaler to help understand this disconnect. A comprehensive market research project was devised to uncover reasons for lack of SmartVP usage and to profile the ideal SmartVP user. DVL Seigenthaler’s challenge was to research a group that communicated in a completely different language—American Sign Language.

During a seven-month research campaign that included both quantitative and qualitative methods, DVL Seigenthaler uncovered key data and usage trends that not only impacted the company’s marketing and service approach, but also influenced product development for SmartVP 2.0.


DVL Seigenthaler provided Purple Communications with a wealth of data on its customers it never had before, including demographics, lifestyle choices, technology and VRS usage, and views on Purple, its competitors and their respective technologies. DVL Seigenthaler then recommended strategies for refining the screening processes and increasing usage by targeting those more likely to use SmartVP and VRS.

The research also profiled the top SmartVP users by both average monthly and lifetime minute usage. The data revealed that SmartVP users tend to be older (45+), use the videophone to complete personal tasks such as communicating with doctors, are not early technology adopters and have a dedicated television for their videophone, among other similarities.

Research also indicated that almost all SmartVP users prefer Facebook over any other social media platform—and by an enormous margin. As a result, Purple redirected marketing efforts to place greater emphasis on engaging with users over Facebook and pushing content and marketing materials through the social network.

Even more, participant responses helped inform the next version of Purple’s videophone—SmartVP 2.0—a device tailored to the needs of deaf individuals. SmartVP 2.0 now includes features such as keyboard text input, a text/chat box and an enhanced VRS network for even greater clarity and HD video—all of which were uncovered in the focus group sessions.