Online survey provider uSamp started its domestic business in the 2008 downturn. Now the company is hoping to mimic its recession-beating success in Europe – which is suffering deep economic woes.
As the Encino company gears up for more sales abroad, executives have promoted George Llorens, former vice president of North American sales, to executive vice president and global head of sales, a newly created position.
By naming Llorens to a position that oversees all global sales, uSamp is setting itself up for expansion into other regions in the future, said Gregg Lavin, the company’s president and co-founder.
“We know that there’s huge opportunity in Europe right now,” Lavin said. “Beyond Europe, we feel that there will be opportunities to expand to other continents. But Europe is our main focus at first.”
Lavin co-founded uSamp, short for United Sample, with Matthew Dusig, the company’s chief executive, in 2008. The longtime friends and business partners previously founded sample survey company goZing and sold it to Greenfield Online in 2005.
Since uSamp’s founding, it has grown to five offices and about 220 employees. It had annual revenue of $36.2 million last year, up from just $2 million in 2008, according to Inc. magazine.
The company provides the back-end technology for online surveys used by customers such as Agoura Hills market research firm J.D. Power and Associates. Car buyers, for example, might fill out uSamp-powered surveys that help J.D. Power make assessments about certain makes and models.
It has also amassed a panel of 9 million survey participants that its clients can tap when they want to conduct research on, say, the best way to design a toothpaste bottle. The company retains those survey takers by offering them incentives such as cash, airline miles or discounts at popular stores. The incentives can build up as respondents take more surveys.
USamp’s software-as-a-service business allows clients to create their own surveys and pick the types of people they want to poll with the click of a button. This so-called self-service platform has helped it stand out from competitors, said Tom Bernthal, chief executive of Culver City market research firm Kelton Research.
“They’ve made some smart moves to differentiate themselves,” said Bernthal, who often uses sample survey companies such as uSamp to conduct research. “They’ve created a more self-service platform in a world where relationships between companies who need the sample and the sample provider tends to be somewhat laborious.”
Last year uSamp opened an office in London and has grown its European team to about 20 employees. The company also recently hired a director of sales in Germany. Its aim is to grow in France, Germany and the United Kingdom.
According to Lavin, the privately owned company had 104 percent revenue growth in Europe last year.
Europe’s economic woes have not deterred uSamp, he said. Instead, the company is looking to take market share away from competitors such as Shelton, Conn.-headquartered Survey Sampling International and Dallas’ Research Now by being more aggressive during the down economy.
“It was the perfect opportunity to execute,” Lavin said of the downturn. “There’s market share in Europe being acquired by our company, probably at the expense of others.”
USamp started its European expansion by building a larger panel database in the region. The company also localized its products in its main European markets by translating websites into each country’s native language and providing panelists with incentives from local companies.
Laurence Gold, editor and publisher of Barrington, Ill. industry newsletter Inside Research, said that market research spending is about 40 percent higher in Europe than in the United States, which could bode well for uSamp as it looks to add European clients to its roster.
But uSamp could face new dilemmas as it expands in Europe. The region is known for having a more traditional market that relies on personal interviews through door-to-door surveys and telephone calls instead of the online and mobile surveys that uSamp uses, Gold said.
“There are other data collection methods that have been established there for a long time and it’s hard to dislodge them,” he said. “And Europe is in a very dire economic situation. All that combined together probably means they’re going to have a tough time in Europe for the next couple of years.”
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