Market research has been going through some changes lately where many research agencies have been going through mergers and acquisitions. The primary aim behind this is to hedge against the possible commoditization of research and maintain margins through scale. But is that the right approach? And if yes what else do they need to do. Let us examine it by understanding the three main stakeholder groups in research.
Large clients want complete solution but that at competitive prices. The marketing budgets are the first ones to get affected during slow growth/recessionary periods. But as the same time it becomes more and more important to retain and satisfy customers where every competitor is fighting for a “smaller consumer wallet”. While global agencies might be able to deliver on the complete solutions it becomes hard to control costs as there are a lot of people feeding of the same plate. The structural hierarchies have to be more comprehensive and in turn the overheads fail to deliver as low cost high value solutions.
Complete service agencies have to be just that “complete service”. Although there differential competence may lie in certain areas of research but they are bound to deliver complete solutions and have to maintain infrastructure and human resources that has to complement their promise of full solutions. Clients have become more astute in demanding certain services from agencies while rejecting others. This introduces many dead weights in a research organization.
Usually during projects, freshly recruited in-experienced research executives are given the responsibility of designing research instruments which instead of asking “fewer, more important” questions, ask a lot of questions to satisfy the client, the client services manager and their own managers. By designing a lengthier, boring survey the respondent response rates and the statistical representation of actual respondents are affected. And those respondents who do respond are observed to compromise on the quality of tail end responses just to get done with a long instrument.
So what is the solution to all this. The key words are simplicity and collaboration. Clients are quite content if they are delivered quality and easy to use, useful information then “complete solutions”. So to bring value in the research process a research organization has to be an information boutique where smaller yet more focused teams work in non-hierarchical structure, banking on the experience and know how of local senior management and fresh ideas of research executives. The personal involvement of experienced professionals ensures the instruments are as meaningful as possible. This helps save a lot of time for agencies.
Smaller organizations also have inherently low overheads which help them deliver better valued and customized solutions. And rather than being the jack of all trades, companies can utilize international and local collaborations to complement each other’s core competencies and deliver high value solutions.
Doing Research in Pakistan
(Dubai) The MENAP region is experiencing exceptional changes across countries providing great challenges for marketers in capturing new trends. At the same time the region boosts markets with a vibrant economy that offer a beacon of stability. On both accounts the insight industry is well positioned to help clients understanding how to connect with their customers and how to formulate the right strategy for success.
Mr. Mohsin Muslim CEO, International Field & Tab was one of the speakers at ESOMAR conference, held in Dubai in March 2014.
Speaking on the occasion, he highlighted some unique characteristics of the Pakistani consumers, and presented some innovative solutions addressing the local challenges related to “Design”, “Language” and “Cultural values”. His paper was in the context of large, complex and heterogeneous population like Pakistan. For more details, you may write to firstname.lastname@example.org
As per the last economic census* conducted in Pakistan, there are 3.25 million establishments doing business in Pakistan. There is marked difference in the number of establishments per province with Punjab having the highest number of establishments (64%) in Pakistan, to Baluchistan which has only 2% of the total establishments in Pakistan.
Only 5.6% of all establishments were household establishments. Meanwhile the three top establishments by industry division were wholesale retail trade hotels & restaurants followed by community services & personal services like education health government departments etc and manufacturing with 53%, 22.3% and 19.72% share respectively.
An important thing to note is that a large majority (96%) of total establishments have employment size from 1-5 employees while only ~1% have 11 or more employees**.
The unique characteristics of the economic actors as well as the ever changing landscape of these establishments, makes it essential yet challenging to study and track them. It is also equally important to make sure that the information is current, reliable and decision ready.
Some of the challenges and difficulties for collecting information of or from these establishments include:
- The names of the businesses (especially retail outlets) keep on changing. Sometimes even the ownership and nature of the establishment also changes and it becomes difficult to track information from these establishments.
- Government database for these establishments is outdated and not accessible due to some regulations.
- There is minimal documentation at the establishments due to fear of tax and inspections. There is also a general mistrust and caution observed by the establishments due to the prevalent security situation in the country.
IFT understands these challenges and has developed innovative approaches while conducting business & establishment studies, from Retail Audits to B2B Customer Satisfaction Surveys to B2B Product Usage Studies to Skill Assessment Studies for industries such as telecom, dairy, beverages, education and government organizations. Some of the innovative approaches to collect reliable and accurate information are as follows.
- Use GPS devices to keep track of establishments for longitudinal studies even if the shop/institution changes its name the enumerators are still able to identify the outlet and collect necessary data. The GPS coordinates are often complemented with hand drawn maps to assist in back checks and revisits.
- Due to the absence of available listing and rapidly changing ownership and telephone numbers, it is best to conduct face to face interviews as they deliver better value with better participation and more accurate information.
- During retail audits, it is often very difficult to get accurate information with the absence of receipts or the reluctance to show them. Monthly diaries are also not that reliable due to the forgetfulness of the retail shop owners. So it often makes sense to increase the frequency of visit to the retail establishments (with very minimal increase in cost) which helps in building relations with the retailers and getting more accurate information. It is also important that cash incentives are often considered bribes and should be avoided in the Pakistan market. Therefore, it is better to build social relationships with the retailers to get better information especially for tracking studies.
So next time if you plan to do B2B research in Pakistan, using these approaches will help you get better value and more reliable information.
This post is part of a series on B2B market in Pakistan and aims to inform and educate the reader on the various aspects of B2B research and market dynamics.
*The last economic census in Pakistan was published in 2005.
**The results maybe a bit skewed as some large organizations and some government organizations did not provide employment data.
More often than ever it is important for global organizations & global researchers to connect with the local consumers to understand local attitudes and behaviors. However, there are two challenges to this
- Real time access to local consumers
- Local Context Interpretation
Internet platforms or forums enable real time access which is both time and cost efficient for the client, the research team & consumer.
For this purpose, it is important that the target population has internet access as well as the trust & willingness to contribute on social forums. available estimates, Pakistan have internet access among 5% households while 20% HHs own a computer.
There is a silver lining to this and most of the online respondents in Pakistan can only communicate by using the local language “Urdu” in latin alphabets which can only be translated and interpreted by experienced local researchers who understand the local context as well as the hybrid nature of the text language.
Therefore, there is a clear importance for careful real time collaboration of global organizations, global researchers as well as local interpreters in actually deriving value from the real time access to the consumers via the internet