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Thursday, 23 October 2014

'Our users are small businesses that can't afford MR'

DIY survey software companies are – for many people – the black sheep of the market research family. But there’s no denying that they are successful. Just look at SurveyMonkey if you want proof.

As much as research agencies might resent it, there is clearly a gap in the market for quick, affordable online surveys and these companies are looking to fill it. The latest among them is Usurv.

The Usurv service went live last week and is similar in many ways to Google’s own Consumer Surveys offering. Usurv has partnerships with website publishers and they serve up micro-polls as web users try to enter particular sites. Users are asked to take part in the survey as a quid pro quo for keeping the website free or to ensure that a charity receives a donation.

Guy Potter, Usurv’s marketing director, would not disclose the company’s partner sites, saying only that they were owned by one of the “UK’s largest publishers which runs hundreds of websites”. Usurv says its network touches over 200,000 respondents and answers from a test survey we fielded involving 50 respondents were returned in four minutes, with the results able to be broken down by sex, age, income, education and employment status (see below).

Click the image to enlarge

Click the image to enlarge

Unlike Google’s Consumer Surveys service, which relies on cookie data to work out the demographics of respondents, Usurv says it can source demographic information from anonymised registrant data held by partner sites before resorting to cookies.

Usurv limits the number of questions customers can ask in each survey to five or fewer. Answer options are also limited to single or multi-answer inputs. Compared to traditional agency-run research, it’s pretty basic stuff. But that is what Potter and Usurv are aiming for. Not all research has to be over-engineered, he says.

Potter is unusual in that, unlike many senior directors of DIY survey companies, he actually has a background in research rather than technology or software development. He spent 20 years in the industry, working in both the UK and Asia with the likes of Asia Business Intelligence and Synovate, latterly as a consultant.

Over the course of his career, Potter says he has worked for clients with “big pockets” such as Unilever and Shell, but he isn’t expecting them to start creating Usurv accounts. “Our users are small businesses that can’t afford MR or have been put off because its expensive if you’ve got to through an agency,” he says.

Live micro-polling might lack the sophistication of traditional research: “There are a lot of things you can’t do with it,” Potter says. However the company appears to be taking a bit more of a hands-on approach to ensure that the basics of survey design are adhered to.

A common criticism of DIY research, Potter says, is that there often isn’t a ‘none’ option given in answer lists. “We’ll be moderating surveys to make sure they comply with best practice,” he says.

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Readers' comments (3)

  • So last year...

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  • I am all for faster, quicker, cheaper, but we have to know what this sample is representative of. Where is it drawn from -what sources and what is the bias. What does this data actually say.... that almost 70% of people like the Olympics - which people?

    For a simple toe in the water / general gut feel, its OK (but would anyone's gut do?) - does this represent a general population? Probably not. We should ask to see the evidence of what the sample represents, otherwise as an industry we are open to releasing leading data, and de-valuing quality research

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  • @ S Phillips:

    Provided that for many SMEs the alternative is to make decision with even more approximative - or without any - data I would support the use of DIY tools provided their limitations are understood.

    I might be wrong but DIY results might even stimulate further curiosity and demand for more professional and qualified research, that is business opportunity for us...

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