U.S. Market Researcher Buys Second UK Firm

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PRINCETON, NJ - Total Research, a 25-year-old market research firm, last month bought its second company in the UK, Romtec PLC, in a move to expand its Internet-based research program across Europe.


Romtec, which specializes in Information Technology and Telecommunications, had sales last year of $6.6 million. Four years ago Total Research bought British Marketing Services, which it renamed Total Research UK.


Together the two companies account for one-third of the parent company's revenues, so, CEO Al Angrisani said, "Europe is a pretty important market for us. We plan to service both US and European customers.


"Our clients absolutely want to know more about the European market, I have been CEO here for three years and every year we see a greater need to expand our overseas presence, and you need a higher Internet capability to meet those needs."


Over the last 18 months, as a result, Angrisani said "we had to reinvent ourselves and we will have to do it again in five years because the information structures are changing so rapidly around the world.


"For the next five years the Internet will drive how you collect and transmit data for and to clients. In our industry it used to be that you collected data face to face, then came the phone and now the Internet.


"A whole variety of Internet databases are forming out there that allow you to collect data. Sites are being made available to companies like ours to survey clients. ISPs are making their clients available to be surveyed."


Companies with their own Web sites are doing the same thing so that their customers are surveyed "and that helps them figure out where they stand in their own industry."


His company, Angrisani said, remains focused on market research for global Fortune 500 companies and goals haven't changed that greatly, even if methodologies have.


"We do predictive customized marketing research to provide our clients with a variety of services including research on brands, customer satisfaction, market segmentation and a variety of pricing issues."


Europe, he said, is "an emerging Internet market on which you must be able to operate with both traditional and Internet capabilities and that increasingly will become a requirement for doing business there over the next 5 years.


Romtec has direct access to continental markets as well, Angrisani said. "It has a joint venture with GFK, a German marketing research firm and that's one example of how Romtec can work across Europe, either on its own or through affiliates."


The new acquisition has 70 full-time employees and a variety of part-time people who man the company call center. "We have our own call center in the UK and we will now have a second there and one in Tampa, FL."


In all, Total Research has 300 to 400 stations manned by people hired from the retail environment. "They are trained to get basic information from customers which our researchers then evaluate."


Total Research is looking at possibilities of setting up directly on the continent, either through startups or acquisitions. "We have the revenues to consider expanding."


But Angrisani's plans are not limited to Europe. He is actively looking for an acquisition in Asia but has not had much luck over the last year. "As soon as the right opportunity shows up we'll move."

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