Invoke Raises $7 Million to Expand Web-based Market Research Platform

3/11/08Follow @wroush

When was the last time you had a spare 45 minutes to sit through a telephone survey or to take part in a focus group? Finding willing participants for traditional market research studies is getting increasingly difficult, but Invoke Solutions of Waltham, MA, gets around the problem by shifting market research to the platforms where people are focusing more and more of their attention: the Web and mobile phones. And today the company announced that it’s picked up $7 million in new venture funding to build out its technology and pursue new customers.

In January, the nine-year-old company rolled out a new family of products called Engage that allows real-time interaction and feedback between panels of consumers participating in Web-based surveys and marketing experts from the companies sponsoring the surveys. For example, clients using the Engage Live Web-based system can watch participants’ answers to multiple-choice or open-ended questions as they come in, add questions on the fly to drill deeper on specific issues, and open direct chat sessions with individual participants. All of the information survey participants provide is captured in Excel and PDF reports.

The company’s InvokePing service, meanwhile, hits volunteers with survey questions right on their mobile devices, while they’re still inside a store or restaurant. Customers opt in by texting a message to the short code displayed on an in-store sign. They’re then sent a few questions via text message; after about 5 minutes, they get a reward such as a discount code. Study results accumulate on a Web-based dashboard available to store managers.

The company partners with research firms like HarrisInteractive and the Gallup Organization to design its surveys, and has worked with a range of Fortune 1000 customers such as Microsoft, Washington Mutual, Conagra, Dell, and Nestle. North Atlantic Capital, an expansion-stage investor based in Portland, ME, led the new funding round, which also included existing investors Bain Capital and BEV Capital.

“Our new Engage Family of Solutions is being quickly embraced by our partners and customers, both in the U.S. and in Europe,” said Invoke president and CEO Ben Cesare in a company statement published today. “This funding from North Atlantic Capital and our existing investors enables us to keep growing across the entire organization in order to scale the business in 2008 and beyond.”

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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