New tech company targets online mass market research opportunity while Google is reportedly held back by European cookie laws
Today sees the launch of new UK technology startup, Usurv, which uses the power of the web to conduct quick, accurate, low cost market research for businesses while earning additional revenues for site publishers. It exploits the opportunity left untapped while Google’s online survey product remains unavailable in the UK and Europe – reportedly because the search giant’s cookie based tracking system may fall foul of stringent European privacy rules.
Usurv, a self-service online survey platform founded by internet entrepreneur, Martin Bysh, and experienced market research industry executive, Guy Potter, lets the mass of small businesses, as well as major brands and marketers, run rapid turn-around online surveys at a fraction of the price of traditional online market research offerings.
Initially available in the UK, its partner network of online publishers and web sites share the revenue by hosting Usurv’s short online polls, while protecting user privacy.
“We’re targeting a similar market to Google Consumer Surveys (GCS) which launched in the US in March, but we’ve got a more rounded, richer offering with more features such as the ability to ask open ended questions, schedule surveys and continuously track opinion. And we don’t rely on cookies to infer demographic information about survey respondents in the same way as Google, which might contravene European regulations and explain why GCS is not in Europe yet. There’s a big market opportunity in the sector, signalled by the effort and publicity that Google’s already put behind GCS and we’re perfectly placed to target this,” explained Usurv’s Chairman, Bysh, whose career includes launching Hitwise TopTen sites such as Smooch.com.
Like GCS, Usurv differs from traditional survey offerings in the way it delivers questions to respondents (using a similar sampling methodology to GCS) by displaying them to people who are surfing on partner sites. By contrast most traditional online research, such as omnibus surveys, relies on emailed questionnaires served to paid panels of respondents that complete surveys for cash.
This cost saving, married with Usurv’s very high 30 per cent survey completion rate - compared to an industry average which is well under 10 per cent - allows the company to turn around results of surveys of 1000 respondents in an as little as an hour. Surveys can be launched for as little as £10 and results start rolling in immediately. Larger surveys of 1000 respondents can be run for a price of £200.
A crucial difference from GCS is that Usurv does not deduce demographic information such as sex, age, region etc about survey participants through their online behaviour. Usurv relies on anonymous subscription data from its partner sites, and occasional supplementary demographic questions asked at the start of a survey in the event that specific data is missing. No identifiable personal data is collected by Usurv, protecting respondent privacy.
“Building up a demographic profile from online behaviour in the way GCS does can sometimes be hit and miss. By contrast, we’re very sure of our data – which comes directly from the respondents, and with their permission,” said Potter, Usurv’s marketing director, who is a member of the Market Research Society and whose two decades of industry experience span the UK, Italy and Asia Pacific, including heading up Asia Market Intelligence’s online research division as well as setting up a research agency in Manila.
Potter says Usurv’s high completion rates are partly because its short surveys typically take under 30 seconds to complete and they are displayed so that participants never have to leave the web page they are on to complete them.
“Our partners have also generated a strong level of trust from their subscribers which means visitors are more willing to look at our surveys,” he adds.
“Even though clients create their own questions on our self-service online platform, we’re committed to making sure they’re meaningful and don’t waste time for participants and customers alike and we do this by getting market researchers to check each survey before it goes live.”
Maintaining trust is also one of the main reasons why the system is configured so no one person can be shown more than a single survey a week.
To set up their questions, businesses use a self-service wizard which also lets them specify the size and demographics of the target sample. They can ask up to five questions - including open questions - and surveys can run immediately or be scheduled for a specific date and time.
By contrast GCS is currently restricted to single question polls that run immediately, with currently no open question option.
Usurv is self-funded and at launch its partner network gives it access to 200,000 respondents capable of delivering 1 million responses per month. This can be easily scaled up according to Bysh.
The company is advised by Gavin Potter, Guy’s brother, an Oxford psychology MSc and ex head of IBM’s Centre for Business Optimisation in Europe who achieved widespread acclaim for his work in developing a movie recommendation algorithm in Netflix’s high profile crowdsourcing contest. Gavin advises on the strategic direction of Usurv and exploiting large scale opportunities.